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This website was established in May 2010 and has developed continuously since then. Our aim is to share information held in our museum collection and archive with a wider audience, encourage further research into the history of the industry, and provide a forum for the exchange of knowledge.

Although new content is added on a weekly basis, much of the information presented remains incomplete and doubtless contains errors, omissions or is based on false assumptions. We would be delighted to hear from anyone spotting inaccuracies in these pages or able to fill gaps in our knowledge.

We would also greatly welcome offers of volunteer assistance in the continuing development of this site, and associated programmes of research.

facebook Our Facebook page records the everyday progress of the project, and explores some oddities of shale history.



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A Recognised Collection of National Importance


The story of Scotland's shale oil industry


The Scottish shale oil industry has a remarkable and important history.

Bathgate Chemical Works, established in 1851, was perhaps the first site in the world where mineral oils were processed on an industrial scale. From this blossomed an extensive oil industry that competed successfully against cheaper imported petroleum for many years, and continued in operation until 1962. Such fierce competition bred innovation, progress, and a body of Scots know-how that contributed greatly towards the development of the oil industry throughout the world.

This website is being developed to celebrate, exchange knowledge, and encourage research into this special heritage. We hope that the resource will be of particular value to those researching family histories.


Research resources for family historians

Employment records

A database of surviving company documents.

Trades and occupations

Descriptions of working life in the industry.

Notable personalities

Inventors, entrepreneurs, and worthies.


Records of sites associated with the shale oil industry

Oil works and refineries

Covering all parts of Scotland.

Company housing & villages

In Scottish oil-shale districts.

Mines, pits and quarries

In Scottish oil-shale districts.

Beyond Scotland

Scottish influence throughout the world


Original papers offering an introduction to the industry

An introduction to shale oil

Its history, technology and geology.

Company histories

Information files on each oil company.

Your research & reminiscences

Contributions from independent authors.


Catalogue of objects and archives held here and elsewhere.

Museum collection

The Scottish shale oil industry collection.

BP archive

Company records now held by our museum.

Reference collection

Copy images and documents.

Collections survey

Other museum collections, surveyed 2009.

West Lothian in postcards

Local images plotted on maps.


Research resources available on-line

Pamphlets and publications

Archive publications as digital books.

Oral histories

Transcripts of interviews conducted 1983-90.

Transcripts and notes

Extracts from newspapers and magazines.

Learning and sharing

Resources for schools and research noticeboard

Schools pages

Become a Shale Oil Explorer.

Essays and exhibitions

Presentations on the shale oil story.

About us

Almond Valley is a family-friendly museum established in 1990 to preserve and interpret the history and environment of West Lothian. It also continues the work of an oil museum research project which, since 1983, had collected objects and archives associated with the shale industry. Download our collections development policy.

Much of the collection is now displayed in The Scottish Shale Oil Museum; one of a range of educational and leisure facilities at Almond Valley, close to Livingston, West Lothian.

For further information on a great day out at Almond Valley visit our main web site.

We are a member of Industrial Museums Scotland and Oil Museums in Europe.

Latest work to the site

May 2016...

  • A new section on West Lothian in old postcards provides picture postcard images of shale towns, and other areas of West Lothian, plotted on Ordnance Survey maps.
  • Visit the strange world of Dr. William Forbes-Leslie; "one of the world's greatest living experts in the petroleum world", or "a dangerous and plausible criminal"?
  • A new scrapbook has been added, which includes a list, by date, of strikes and other industrial action.

Latest digital resources

We've now added George Grant's process book. Grant was the senior chemist at Pumpherston Oil Company. It includes some weird and wonderful experiments, not all shale related. Some thoughts on Grant by one of his subordinates (starts on page 3).

Some of the shale companies owned companies many miles from their base which produced materials from the shale produced. One of these was the Birmingham Lamp Works, owned by Young's. We have two financial ledgers of the works. The first dates from 1921 to 1927 and the other from 1927 to 1932.


creative commons

We are happy to licence use of many images, extracts, and other resources of this website under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial licence (Scotland). See full copyright statement. Such material should be attributed to Almond Valley Heritage Trust and, where practical, a hyperlink provided to www.scottishshale.co.uk.