Scottish shale Scottish shale

John Watson & Sons

Early 1860's ?
Sequestered 1874
Registered office:

130 West Nile St. Glasgow

Oil works:

John Watson was a Lanarkshire coalmaster who during the 1850's leased minerals at Bathville area, lying at the eastern edge of the Boghead coalfield. Here steam coal, ironstone, and clay shales were worked along with the Boghead gas coal. Watson purchased the Bathville estate in 1859.

John Watson died in 1864, by which time the firm was trading as John Watson & Sons. The same year saw the expiry of James Young's licence which had governed oil production from cannel coal, and the Watson brothers were quick to construct the Bathville oil works, where a range of oil products were produced which carried the kudos of being manufactured from the famous Boghead coal.

Edinburgh merchants W. & .H. Potts marketed Watson's oils throughout Scotland, and efforts were made to appoint sales agents in England. Oil production appears to have ceased in about 1871, although the industrial complex at Bathville continued to have developed with various pits, two brickworks (producing common and fire bricks), and an engineering workshop. The company failed in 1874 and the estate was put up for sale in 1875.


  • John Watson (died c.1864)
  • Thomas Watson
  • William Watson
  • David Watson

  • Newspaper references
    • Watson 1867.jpg

      Advertisement from Slater's trade directory, 1867

      We understand that the estate of Bathville, Linlithgowshire, has been purchased by John Watson, Esq., coalmaster, Glasgow, at the sum of £10,500. This estate, which has hitherto been held on a long lease by Mr. Watson, contains the celebrated Boghead gas coal, blackband ironstone, and other valuable minerals.

      Glasgow Herald, 1st July 1859



      To the Editor of the Glasgow Herald. 21 Bath Street, Glasgow, 30th Dec., 1859. Sir,-In your paper of Tuesday last I observe the following " ALLOA, Dec. 26.- Vessel Burnt in the Frith of Forth.- At an early hour this morning, while a London barque, the name of which we have been unable to ascertain, but which had sailed from Bo'ness for London yesterday, with a cargo of parrot coals, was passing down the Frith, a fire broke out in the hold, and, in consequence of the highly combustible nature co the cargo, it spread so rapidly that the crew were obliged to take to their boat with all speed and leave it to its fate. The ill-fated barque continued to burn away until about three o'clock p.m., when it sank at a point about mid-way between Culross and Charlestown. The cause of the fire is stated to have been spontaneous combustion" This vessel was the barque Tenemara, laden with Bathville gas coal for London. As the above report regarding the cause of the fire is calculated to mislead shipmasters, and prejudice them against these coals, I may mention that they have been shipped to almost every part of the world; and, on the longest voyages such a casualty has never taken place, while the Tenemara was only three days loaded when she took fire. Moreover, as this statement regarding the Tenemara is entirely without proof, it is as well that those interested should be cautioned against placing any confidence in it.

      Yours respectfully, JOHN WATSON.

      Glasgow Herald, 31st December 1859


      THE Trustees and Executors of the Deceased JOHN WATSON, Esq. of Bathville, Coalmaster in Glasgow, ceased to have any interest in the Company carried on under the Firm of JOHN WATSON & SONS, as Coalmasters at Glasgow, Bathville, Netherwood, and elsewhere, on the 1st day of August 1864. The Business of John Watson & Sons will be continued by the Subscribers, Thomas, William, and David Watson. August 31, 1864.

      JOHN WATSON Jnr, THOMAS WATSON, JAMES MAITLAND, ROBERT YOUNG, - Trustees and executors of John Watson of Bathville

      WILL. TOWERS-CLARK, Witness, WILLIAM STEVENSON, Witness - Witnesses to the subscription of the trustees and executors of John Watson.

      THOs. WATSON.

      JOHN A. M'CALLUM, Witness, ROBERT MACGREGOR, Witness - Witnesses to the subscription of Thomas, William, and David Watson.

      Edinburgh Gazette, 6th September 1864


      Bathville Oil Works, By Bathgate, 12th June 1865. THE SUBSCRIBERS beg to intimate to the OIL TRADE that they have this day appointed Messrs W. and H. POTTS, Port Hopetoun Warehouses, Edinburgh, as AGENTS for the Sale of their BATHVILLE PATENT PARAFFIN OIL in Edinburgh and South-East of Scotland. The Trade will supplied by them from their Stores in Edinburgh, or direct from the Works.

      Glasgow Herald, 17th June 1865


      Extract of Report by Dr. STEVENSON MACADAM:- "This Oil is a Cheaper and Better Illuminating or light-Giving Agent than the best Standard Pennsylvanian Petroleum. It does not char the which so much, and it continues to burn clearer for a longer time. The Bathville Oil is remarkably Safe, and will not give off any inflammable vapour under 120 Fahrenheit. Petroleum is generally below this standard." JOHN WATSON & SONS, MANUFACTURERS, BATHVILLE WORKS, BY BATHGATE. AGENTS – W. & H. POTTS, Edinburgh. This Oil is Sold in nearly Every Town in Scotland. Please see that You Get Bathville Oil.

      Scotsman, 16th January 1868


      WANTED, and oil merchant to purchase and cultivate the sale in Yorkshire of new and valuable lubricants just patented in Britain. Address Watson's Bathville, Bathgate, N.B.

      Leeds Mercury, 22nd March 1871


      NOTICE to OIL MANUFACTURERS and DEALERS. -BATHVILLE TRINIDAD OIL.- (Patents of 1869 and 1870.) - We beg to intimate, on behalf the Patentees this Oil for Currying Leather and other purposes, that Proceedings will be instituted against any person or persons Infringing their Rights, either false representations or use of their trade name or mark.

      Teale and Appleton Solicitors for the Patentees.


      THE Estates of JOHN WATSON & SONS, Coalmasters and Oil and Brick Manufacturers at Bathville, near Bathgate, and of Thomas Watson, William Watson, and David Watson, all Coalmasters and Oil and Brick Manufacturers at Bathville aforesaid, the Individual Partners of the said Company of John Watson & Sons, as such Partners, and as Individuals, were Sequestrated on the 24th day of November 1874, by the Court of Session.

      Edinburgh Gazette, 24th November 1874


      SEQUESTRATION of JOHN WATSON & SONS, Coalmasters and Oil and Brick Manufacturers at Bathville, near Bathgate, as a Company, and of Thomas Watson, William Watson, and David Watson, all Coalmasters and Oil and Brick Manufacturers at Bathville foresaid, the Individual Partners of said Company, as such Partners, and as Individuals. The Trustee hereby intimates that the Commissioners have audited his accounts made up as at 24th April 1877, and have postponed a Dividend until the recurrence of another statutory period. M'CLELLAND, MACKINNON, & BLYTH, For WM. MACKINNON, Trustee. Glasgow, 8th May 1877.

      Edinburgh Gazette 11th May 1877