An Old Map – John Yule’s Plan of the Lands of West Calder, 1808

Whilst we don’t have a maps and plans collection on the scale of that held by the National Library of Scotland, we do have a significant one in West Lothian terms. We’ve digitised it, along with the rest of our collection, available for you to browse free online. Our collection of maps is actually split into two – those that are part of the Shale Museum collection, and those that are within the BP Archive.

Most have a shale connection, whether that be architectural drawings of shale housing:

a blueprint depicting an oil refining plat at Assam in India:

or a map showing estates and mineral leaseholds in West Calder.

But every collection has its gems, and ours is no different. Added to the collection recently was this map, created by John Yule, an Edinburgh surveyor in 1808. Yule likely created the map at the behest of a local landowner.

One’s eye is immediately drawn to a body of water in the south-west – the Cobbinshaw Bog. The Bog, it appears, was extended and turned into a reservoir by James Jardine around 1822 to feed the Union Canal, but at the time of Yule’s survey it is a rather insignificant haggis-shaped feature. You can compare it with the maps on the National Library of Scotland’s website.

Cobbinshaw Bog
The Cobbinshaw Bog, extracted from John Yule’s map of West Calder area, 1808 (LVSAV2017.041)

Rivers, roads, farms, towns, and the names of landowners also predominate, and many of the place-names have survived the 200 years since Yule created his map – Polbeth, West Calder, Gavieside, and Addiewell to name but a handful. Most are just specks on the map, but within 100 years would dominate the landscape. Many smaller villages and farms have disappeared completely. How many can you find in Pont’s map of the late-16th and early-17th centuries?