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
A database of surviving company documents.
Descriptions of working life in the industry.
Inventors, entrepreneurs, and worthies.
Records of sites associated with the shale oil industry
Covering all parts of Scotland.
In Scottish oil-shale districts.
In Scottish oil-shale districts.
Scottish influence throughout the world
Original papers offering an introduction to the industry
Its history, technology and geology.
Information files on each oil company.
Contributions from independent authors.
Catalogue of objects and archives held here and elsewhere.
The Scottish shale oil industry collection.
Company records now held by our museum.
Copy images and documents.
Other museum collections, surveyed 2009.
Local images plotted on maps.
Research resources available on-line
Archive publications as digital books.
Transcripts of interviews conducted 1983-90.
Extracts from newspapers and magazines.
Learning and sharing
Resources for schools and research noticeboard
Become a Shale Oil Explorer.
Presentations on the shale oil story.
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
- After a lot of research we've revised our page on Leavenseat oil works and eliminated pages on oil works at Crofthead and Handaxwood (we now thing these all relate to the same site)
- We've added a new scrapbook section on crime and punishment in the shale communities.
- We continue to add content to the new section on West Lothian in old postcards which provides picture postcard images of shale towns, and other areas of West Lothian, plotted on Ordnance Survey maps.
The tenth of January, 2017, marks the 70th anniversary of the Burngrange disaster, in which fifteen shale miners lost their lives following an explosion and underground fire.
To commemorate this tragic event, our Museum, in partnership with the Calder History Group, West Lothian Council Museums and Local History Services, has created a touring exhibition, which can also be viewed on this website.
Local people and community groups will gather for a service of remembrance in West Calder on 14th January. Details of these and other commemorations can be found on their Burngrange70 website