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Home > Companies & Works > Scottish Oil Works > Addiewell Oil Works

Addiewell oil works

also known as Addiewell Chemical Works, or Addiewell Refinery

Location 55.847599,-3.595107 show in map
Former parish and county Parish of West Calder, Edinburghshire
Current local authority area West Lothian
Construction history Construction began 1866
Ownership history Young's Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Company Ltd
Demolition history Refinery closed c.1921, candle works closed c.1923, oil works closed c.1956.
Current status of site Waste ground, Her Majesty's Prison Addiewell

A substantial industrial complex, in its time one of the largest chemical works in Scotland. Redwood notes:

"The year 1863 brought forth.... the Addiewell Works. The fast approaching exhaustion of the Boghead Coal Mines about the year 1859 – 60, caused Young to look around elsewhere for a new supply of oil-yielding material. As burning oil was at that time in greater demand than lubricating oils or even wax, and as the Addiewell shales were known to yielded a larger percentage of burning oils than any other shales, Young took a lease of those shale-fields and concluded to build a new work in their vicinity. The corner stone of the oil refinery was laid by Young's intimate friend, Dr. Livingstone (the noted African explorer), and the works were completed about the latter end of 1865..... "

"1866 is noted as being the year in which the much-heard-of Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company came into existence. It was started with a capital stock of £600,000, of which £400,000 was paid to Young for his Bathgate and Addiewell Works, together with the leases of the shale-fields & c., while Young retained a large holding in the company, and acted on the board of directors. Although the company was fairly prosperous for some years, and had an output equal to about one-third of the total production of the Scotch works combined, it cannot be said to have been a financial success of late years; due, firstly, to it having been handicapped, as a large dividend payer, by the burden of carrying and excessively large capital, and secondly, being the first company of any importance, the works were necessarily fitted up with expensive apparatus and machinery that proved in a few years to be unsuitable for refining the oils so as to suit the more exacting requirements of the later-day trade."

Addiewell remained the centre of operations for Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Co. Ltd, but as local supplies of shale became exhausted, activities were increasingly focussed on shale-fields to the east at Hopetoun, Newliston and Ingliston whose output was retorted at Hopetoun or Uphall oil works.

The refinery at Addiewell closed c.1921, after Pumpherston had been developed as the central refinery for all output of Scottish Oils Ltd. Addiewell candleworks continued until c.1923. The crude oil works continued until c.1956 and the site remained derelict for many years, the final works buildings being cleared c.1986


Valuation Records

Listed between 1866 and 1986. Download details



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

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Evidence of Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company (Limited) Addiewell, near West Calder, Edinburghshire Our works are situated on the Breich River. Employ 700 hands. The bed of the river has not silted up. Our works are not affected by floods. The stream is very seriously polluted by mines above, and rendered quite useless. Obtain supply of water by pumping from pits of our own; consume yearly 526,000,000 gallons. Use yearly, bituminous shale, 134,000 tons; sulphuric acid, 2940 tons, and caustic soda, 628 tons. Produce naphtha, 120,000 gallons; crude paraffin, 1300 tons; lubricating oil, 172,000 gallons; illuminating oil, 2,285,400 gallons; and sulphate of ammonia, 585 tons. The whole of the waste liquid produced at our work is burned under our furnaces. Produce 11,000 tons of shale refuse, which are deposited in heaps on our premises. Use steam, 280 nominal horse-power. Consume yearly 73,210 tons of coal, the ashes from which are used to repair roads. The excrements of our work people are used on our own farm. Have no suggestions to offer as to the best means of avoiding pollution in future, or as to the conservancy of rivers and streams.

Report on the pollution of Scotch rivers to the Rivers Pollution Commissioners, as reported in The Falkirk Herald 28th August 1873.


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