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Pumpherston Oil Works

Location 55.910724, -3.484202, show in map
Former parish and county Parish of Midcalder, Edinburghshire
Current local authority area West Lothian
Construction history First construction c.1882
Ownership history Pumpherston Oil Company Ltd, latterly Irano Products Ltd, BP Detergents Ltd, Young's Detergents Ltd
Demolition history Crude Oil works closed c. 1926, refinery closed 1964, detergent plant closed c. 1993
Current status of site Golf course


A crude oil works and associated refinery established by the Pumpherston Oil Company in 1882, and fed by nearby mines in the rich, but steeply inclined, Pumpherston shales (Pumpherston No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 & No. 6 mines). The company subsequently developed or acquired crude oil works at Seafield, Deans, and Tarbrax, from where crude oil was transported by rail for refining at Pumpherston. Housing for the workforce was constructed in the nearby Pumpherston North and South villages

Following the formation of Scottish Oils Ltd, the crude oil works at Pumpherston were closed in c.1926 as local supplies of shale could no longer be worked economically. The refinery however became the heart of the Scottish shale operations, refining the output of all the remaining crude oil works. Cracking plant were construced in the refinery c.1929, greatly increasing the output of road fuels that enjoyed a government tax preference.

In the later 1930's, a brickworks were on the former site of Pumpherston Mains to produce Scottish Oils Ltd (SOL) shale bricks from spent shale quarried from the adjacent bing. A synthetic detergent plant, fed by shale oil products, were established within the refinery c.1947. As part of BP, Pumpherston Refinery processed crude oil from various parts of mainland Britain and continued as a refinery after closure of the Scottish shale oil industry, processing crude petroleum from oil wells in Nottinghamshire. On closure of the refinery in 1964, the site became devoted to detergent production, laterly (and confusingly) under the banner of "Young's Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Company Ltd".

The detergent plant remained in operation until c.1993. Following an extended period of site clearance and extensive land remediation works, a new golf course was opened on the site in 2002. The brickworks remained in production until c. 1993; although not laterly using spent shale in the manufacturing process. This site remains derelict (in 2013).

Valuation Records

Entries between 1882 and 1947 available. Download details


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

Archive Images

Plans & Drawings

Recent Images


OIL WORKS EXTENSION - Alterations and extensions have been the rule at the works of the Pumpherston Oil Company during the past few months, and when these are completed this company will be in a position to vindicate its claim to be the most progressive in the oil trade. While some of the neighbouring companies have always used oil or gas as illuminants, Pumpherston Company pinned its faith in electricity, and now they have had erected a plant embodying the most modern ideas about generating electricity. A large power station has been built, and in this building is housed the plant, which was erected by Messrs. Bruce, Peebles of Edinburgh. Linlithgowshire Gazette 8th December 1905

BATHS FOR OIL WORKERS - A set of baths provided by Scottish Oils Ltd., for workmen engaged at Pumpherston Oil Works have just been opened. The baths, of a most artistic design, are about 200 feet long and 47 feet wide. They are built with bricks produced at the local oil works. The baths have 572 lockers for the men's working clothes, and a similar number of clean clothes lockers, also 38 cubicles. There has also been provided an ambulance room, a mess room, a drying room, and a boot and shoe cleaning room, with electrically-driven brushes. The Scotsman, 22nd June 1939

Accident Records

Additional Resources

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.