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Tarbrax Oil Works

Location 55.783943, -3.555835, show in map
Former parish and county Parish of Carnwath, Lanarkshire
Current local authority area South Lanarkshire
Construction history First constructed c.1866
Ownership history Ebeneezer Fernie,
Robert Galloway & Co.
John Thomson,
William Black,
British Oil & Candle Company Ltd,
Lanark Oil Company Ltd,
Caledonian Mineral Oil Company Ltd (Old),
Caledonian Mineral Oil Company Ltd (New),
Tarbrax Oil Company Ltd,
Pumpherston Oil Company Ltd
Demolition history Dismantled c.1926
Current status of site Waste ground and bing, with foundations of oil works buildings still evident

Redwood lists Tarbrax under "Cobbinshaw Oil Works" with Ebeneezer Fernie as first proprietor, operating between 1864 and 1873 with 41 horizontal retorts; sold to Black in 1873 and the Lanark Oil Company Ltd in 1883. He also notes

" Last - but not least as far as trouble goes - the Lanark Oil Company Ltd, that spent £80,000 on improvements at the old Lanark work of the North British Oil & Candle Company Ltd. The Company also acquired Fernie's tumbled-down Cobbinshaw Oil Work, at which latter work they produced crude oil, distilled it, sending the distilled oil to the Lanark work to be refined. After running for two years, the directors found it advisable to reduce the original capital of 10,000 shares at £10 each to 10,000 shares at £6 each !"......" In 1889, the Caledonian Mineral Oil Company Ltd was floated, and acquired mineral fields in Tarbrax, Greenfields and Cobbinshaw, together with the crude oil work at Cobbinshaw and refinery at Lanark, formerly the property of the Lanark Oil Company Ltd (then in liquidation). The purchase price was £45,000. This company paid one 5 per cent. dividend, but since then has kept quiet on the subject of dividend."

Following failure of the Caledonian Mineral Oil Company Ltd in 1897, a new Scottish company of the same name was floated, but this only survived until 1903. The following year William Fraser, managing director of the Pumpherston Oil Company Ltd, established the Tarbrax Oil Company Ltd, a company closely allied to Pumpherston and absorbed by that company in 1913.

Tarbrax and Cobbinshaw - key events

 

Valuation Records

Entries from 1866 to 1926. Download details

 

Maps

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

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References

CALEDONIAN RAILWAY - TENDER FOR WORKS.

TENDERS are asked for the Construction of a BRANCH RAILWAY from the CALEDONIAN LINE, near COBBINSHAW, to the LANDS of TARBRAX and SOUTH COBBINSHAW, about 2 Miles 65 Chains in length, consisting of Fencing, Excavations, Embankments, Permanent Way, and all other requisite Works, including the supplying Material, except Rails, Chairs, Pins, and Keys. Plans and Specifications will be seen with, and other information obtained from Mr GEORGE GRAHAM, 302 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, till 23d current, on which date offers are to be lodged with him. Attendance will be given at Carstairs Junction on Tuesday, 17th current, at Eleven oclock, to point out the site of the Works. The lowest, or any offer, not guaranteed to be accepted. C. JOHNSTONE, General Manager. General Manager's Office, Glasgow, July 10, 1866.

The Caledonian Mercury 12th July 1866

 

CALEDONIAN RAILWAY - (BRANCHES, DEVIATIONS & Co.) 1866

The Morning Post, 27th November 1866

 

CALEDONIAN RAILWAY – (ABANDONMENT OF CERTAIN RAILWAYS) 1868

To authorise and provide for the abandonment and relinquishment of the railways hereinafter described :

Morning Post 24th November 1868

 

SHALE OIL WORKS FOR SALE. To be sold, The Works at Tarbrax, near Auchengray, together with the present tenants interest in the lease of the Mineral Field adjoining. The Works comprise Bench of Forty Retorts, with Condensers &c., complete; Mall-Iron store tank – capacity; 100,000 gallons; Pit winding Engines and fittings; Managers house; Twelve workmen's cottages; wooden house, capable of lodging 30 workmen; stable, cooperage, Store, Smithy, and office; also, the whole plant and rolling stock. A branch of the Caledonian Railway is completed into the Works.

For further particulars, apply to Robert Galloway, 143 Prince's Street, Edinburgh. Edinburgh, December 23, 1867.

Glasgow Herald, 1st January 1868

 

A slight (and this slightest is anxiously watched) change for the better has taken place at some of the oil works, and at Haywood the retorts are in full operation, the orders being chiefly for the home trade.

Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser, 4th July 1868

 

In the parish of Carnwath, in the Upper Ward, Mr. Ronald Johnstone has just reached a very valuable seam of gas coal, after three years sinking, in the property of Lawhead, Tarbrax, belonging to Mr. Souter Robertson....... In consequence of the importance of the new colliery, and oil work has been started on the same estate by Mr. Ferrie.

The Scotsman, 4th January 1869

 

SHALE OIL WORKS FOR SALE – To be SOLD by Public Roup, within Dowell's Rooms. No.13 George Street, Edinburgh on Wednesday the 5th day of October 1870, at Two o'clock P.M., unless previously disposed of by Private Bargain. THE SHALE OIL WORKS AT TARBRAX, near Auchengray, belonging to the Trustees of the late E.W. Fernie. Esq., together with the Tenant's interest in the Lease of Minerals in the adjoining lands. The Works comprise Bench of Forty-One Retorts, with Condensers & c., complete, requiring fully Forty Tons a-day of Shale; malleable-iron Store Tank, capable of containing 100,000 gallons; Pit Winding Engine and Fittings, Manager's House, 12 Workman's Cottages, Wooden House capable of lodging 30 workman, Stable, Cooperage Store, Smithy, and Office. The whole Plant and Rolling Stock will be Sold within the Works. The Purchaser to have Entry at 1st January 1871; but an earlier term may be arranged for. The Works are connected with the Caledonian Railway by a Branch specially constructed for them. For further particulars apply to Messrs. HILL, REID, & DRUMMOND. W.S. 42 Fredrick Street , Edinburgh, who will give orders for seeing the Works, and will receive offers for a Private Sale. Edinburgh, 12th August 1870.

The Scotsman, 28th September 1870

 

Contractors wanted to put out shale at Tarbrax works, Auchengray. Open cast working. Apply to R. Galloway & Co. 23 Torphichen St.

The Scotsman, 23rd September 1871.

 

NAVVIES. - Wanted from 15 to 20 at Tarbrax Works, Auchengray. Good Wages,. Apply to Mr. Maxwell at the Works.

The Scotsman, 26th July 1872

 

AT TARBRAX STORE, AUCHENGRAY, NEAR CARNWATH. On MONDAY FIRST, the 3d NOVEMBER, at Eleven o'clock. GROCERY and DRAPERY STOCK, 25 Barrels Blasting Powder &c. Particulars in Handbills.

The Scotsman, 29th October 1873

 

R. GALLOWAY & COMPANY, Successors to E. W. Fernie, Paraffin Oil Manufacturers. Tarbrax Works, Auchengray, Lanarkshire. Our works are situated on the Glenfield Burn, a tributary of the Clyde. Employ 70 hands. Rateable value of works, 194/. The bed of the stream is not silted up. Our works are not affected by floods. The condition of the stream has not changed within our knowledge. The water is peaty coloured, and there have been plenty of trout in it ever since we have known it. It is not polluted by works above nor by mines. Obtain supply of water from springs, collected in reservoirs, but do not know the annual consumption at our works. Use yearly bituminous shale 13,000 tons, and vitriol 15 tons. Produce yearly, crude paraffin oil, 350,000 gallons ; sulphate of ammonia, 15 tons. The whole of the ammoniacal liquor, after being distilled, the ammonia extracted, and other liquid refuse produced, is conveyed on to the spent shale heap. Produce yearly, spent shale 20,000 tons, which is deposited in the heap on the premises. Use steam, 18 nominal horse-power. Consume yearly 3,500 tons of coal, the ashes from which are used for repairing roads and as ballast for the railway. The excrements of our workpeople are used for manure. Have no suggestions to offer.

From Report on the Pollution of Scotch Rivers to the Rivers Pollution Commissioners, 1873

 

The existing retorts at Tarbrax have been replaced by retorts of the most improved description, so as to obtain the greatest yield possible of oil and sulphate of ammonia from the shale. Contracts would be entered into for the erection of two additional benches of retorts as early in Spring as possible. Contracts had been entered into for the erection of thirty-six additional double houses for workmen, while a number of houses had been leased in the neighborhood, the whole affording accommodation for upwards of 100 extra miners.....From Cobbinshaw to Tarbrax there was a branch of the Caledonian railway, and the company had now almost completed a siding into the works, which would be great facility in working the company's business there.

First general meeting of the Lanark Oil Co. Ltd, reported in The Scotsman, 1st December 1883

 

OIL WORKS FOR SALE, BY SEALED TENDER 1. TARBRAX CRUDE OIL WORKS. The COMPANYS CRUDE OIL-WORKS and MINERAL FIELDS at TARBRAX, with MINES, PITS, and PLANT. The Crude oil works comprise two Iarge Benches of Retorts – Young & Bielby's Patent - and One -Small Experiment Bench, Retort Mains, Condensers, Pumps Scaffolding &c.; Ammonia Houses with Ammonia Stills, Cracker Boxes, Evaporating Boxes, Drying Stalls, &c: also Engineers' Shops and Smithies. There are also the necessary offices, Store, School, and Ninety-two Workman's Dwelling Houses. A Single Line of Rails runs from the Main Line of the Caldeonian Railway into the Works.

The Glasgow Herald, 2nd February 1887

 

THE CALEDONIAN MINERAL OIL CO.. LTD – Local Contractors wanted to Build Workmen's Houses at Tarbrax, Cobbinshaw. Apply Works, Tarbrax.

The Scotsman, 9th March 1891

 

BRICKLAYERS and RETORT BUILDERS WANTED.— Cheapest boat fares from London to Edinburgh, and trains thence to job, refunded to suitable men after working two months on producing proof of journey taken: long or short days can be worked.— Apply Downie Brown. Caledonian oilworks, Tarbrax. Cobbinshraw, or address Dennis, Dalkeith. Travelling expenses from other places may be arranged on application.

The Morning Post, 18th August 1891

 

The author has in his possession a block of shale, carved into the form of a book, of which the following particulars were supplied to him by Mr. Stewart S. Robertson: - "Some forty years ago, my father had one morning a visit from a notorious poacher, who undertook, on payment of one sovereign and the promise of fifty more, to show him something, and never again to poach on our property. The sovereign was paid, and I was deputed to accompany him. On arrival at a certain point where a burn runs between high steep banks, he began picking up bits of what he told me was shale, and showed me a part of the burn which flowed over the smooth black surface of shale. At this time everybody was going shale mad, as Young had just commenced his now well-known works at Addiewell, about 3 ½ or 4 miles, as the crow flies, from Tarbrax, the place of which I am writing. The poacher received his £50, and never troubled us again. The next day I returned to the spot with a man provided with the necessary tools, and we soon dug a hole 2 or 3 feet deep, and took out some pieces of shale, from one of which the "book" you have was made. We had numerous offers to lease the land, among them one from Young himself, but my father selected Mr. Fernie as his tenant for 719 acres. Mr Fernie at once commenced erecting works, but the difficulty of transporting machinery was very great, the site being on a wild moor, and before the works were quite completed, Mr. Fernie died. Operations were continued by the executors, the Caledonian Railway made a branch line 4 miles long on to the property, and eventually the Caledonian Oil Company, Limited, become, and now are, the tenants."

Petroleum: A Treatise, Boverton Redwood, Charles Griffin & Co.1896

 

TARBRAX OILWORKS CLOSED DOWN - ABOUT 500 MEN THROWN IDLE –

The dispute between the Caledonian Mineral Oil Company and their shale miners at Tarbrax has led to the closing down of all the mines and also the crude oil works, situated at Tarbrax. The company put up a notice that a reduction of 1s per day would take place on the wages of their shale miners, and gave the miners up to yesterday to consider it. Mr Wilson, the miners' agent, and the men suggested to the manager that a neutral committee should examine the pay sheet and ascertain if such a sweeping reduction would leave the men a living wage. The manager declined, and this led to the men taking steps to ascertain the average wage being made, and it was stated to be 6s a day. The company stood by their notice of 1s per day reduction. The miners were all idle yesterday, and a mass meeting was held to consider the position. A motion was made to accept no reduction seeing that the company would give no satisfactory reason for it. An amendment was also made that 6d be offered, but the motion was carried by a majority equal to 2 to 1. The miners are lifting their tools today. Two mines and a pit are being worked, employing fully 200 miners, and these will be stopped. The retorts and crude oil works, employing about 200 other men, will also be thrown idle, making a total of between 400 and 500 men. This will practically make the village of Tarbrax cease to exist. The refinery at Lanark is expected to be continued by purchasing crude oil.

Edinburgh Evening News, 28th February 1902

 

SCOTTISH OIL WORKS CLOSED DOWN - MINING VILLAGE WIPED OUT - ALL OVER A WAGES DISPUTE –

The dispute between the Caledonian Mineral Oil Company and their shale miners at Tarbrax has led to the closing down of all the mines, and also the crude oil works situated at Tarbrax. The Company put up a notice that the reduction of 1s per day would take place on the wages of their shale miners, and gave the miners up to yesterday to consider it. Mr Wilson, miners' agent, and the men suggested to the manager that a Neutral Committee should examine the pay-sheet and ascertain if such a sweeping reduction would leave the men a living wage. The manager declined, and this led to the men taking steps to ascertain the average wage being made, and it was stated to be 6s per day. The Company stood by their notice of 1s per day reduction. The miners were all idle yesterday, and a mass meeting was held to consider the position. A motion was made to accept no reduction seeing that the Company would give no satisfactory reason for it. An amendment was also made that 6d be offered, but the motion was carried by a majority equal to 2 to 1. The miners are lifting their tools to-day. The retorts and crude oil works, employing about other 200 men, will also be thrown idle, making a total of between 400 and 500 men. This will practically make the village of Tarbrax cease to exist, and will tell severely on Church and school. The refinery at Lanark is expected to be continued by purchasing crude oil.

The Evening Telegraph, 28th February 1902

 

DEVELOPMENTS AT TARBRAX AND PUMPHERSTON. It is now about three years since the shale and coal leases at Tarbrax were taken over by Mr. William Fraser, Managing Director of the Pumpherston Oil Company. Since then great strides have been made in their development. Three new pits and mines have been driven to the shale and an output of about 700 tons a day is being raised and converted into crude oil, crude naptha, and sulphate of ammonia by means of three benches of Pumpherston patent retorts and other accessory plant, including electric power machinery, at a capital outlay of over £130,000.

West Lothian Courier, 11th October 1907

 

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