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Shale Villages


A Recognised Collection of National Importance

Home > Companies & Works > Shale Villages > Gavieside


Location 55.861631, -3.565358; about a mile north east of West Calder, show in map
Former parish and county Parish of West Calder, Edinburghshire
Current local authority area West Lothian
Construction history Built from c.1866
Ownership history West Calder Oil Company Ltd, Young's Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Company Ltd, Scottish Oils Ltd
Demolition history Village demolished 1940's, School closed 1961
Current status of site Tree belt and pasture


Built to serve Gavieside Paraffin Oil Works, construction of which began in 1863, the village was also known as "Fells Rows" after the first proprietors of the West Calder Oil Company. On failure of that company in 1878, the works were put up for sale along with "school house, manager's house and workman's dwellings" (Scotsman 15-05-1878). The site and houses were bought by Young's Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Company. Reading rooms were opened in 1906 and a new school to the east of the village constructed in 1906.

Maps show blocks of various housing types, set end-to-end alongside the road. Two blocks appear to have external stairs typical of two storey buildings. The village was demolished in the 1940's, however the school continued to be used by primary children until 1948 and as a nursery school until 1961.


Ordnance Survey maps reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland.

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" There are 8 single and 84 double houses, 44 of which are back to back. Many of the houses are below the level of the road, and rents range from 1/- to 2/3 per week. There are no coal cellars, wash-houses or sculleries. A few stand-pipes supply the water. The refuse is removed weekly. Dry privies of a kind exist. These houses are of a very poor type, and ought to be condemned. Houses are scarce." Theodore K. Irvine, Report on the Housing Conditions in the Scottish Shale Field, 1914.

"The villagers at Gavieside Row, near West Calder, have received notice to quit. The row is to be demolished. Gavieside is stated to be Scotland's first shale village. It was built in 1863 by West Calder Oil Co. Ltd. The people of Gavieside are to e rehoused at the Polbeth Housing Scheme, West Calder". West Lothian Courier 31-03-1939.


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