Scottish shale Scottish shale

Handaxwood (lands)

West Calder, Midlothian, Whitburn, Linlithgowshire
Local authority:
West Lothian
Current status of site:

The lands of Handaxwood consisted of the farms of Easter Handaxwood and Wester Handaxwood. Easter Handaxwood was good arable land, with fields on either side of the Breich Water, and included the Fala Mill and associated mill lands. Wester Handaxwood was mostly uncultivated moorland rising up to the summit of Levenseat. Although of limited agricultural value, it contained valuable seams of Limestone, Ironstone, Fireclay and Sandstone.

Perhaps in the 1790's, Handaxwood was acquired by the proprietors of the Wilsontown Iron Works, which had been established in 1779. It appears that the Wilsontown company worked the Curdly Ironstone at Handaxwood in numerous shallow pits, including many clustered on the north side of the Lanark Road. LImestone was also worked on a considerable scale, and substantial lime kilns were built in about.1805. The Company faced many financial difficulties, and in 1808, 1810 and 1821 Handaxwood, along with other lands held by the company, were offered up for sale.

By 1820 Handaxwood was owned by Dr. James Hare. On his death in 1831, the property passed to Stewart Bayley Hare of Calderhall (1808-1878). By the 1860's Hare had leased mineral rights to William Dixon Ltd. (presumably covering mining of ironstone) and to George Gray (mining and quarrying of limestone and oil shale). In about 1873, ownership of the Levenseat lime works and the Levenseat Oil works passed to Thomas and James Thornton

William Dixon Ltd operated No.1 to No.4 ironstone pits, probably during the 1860's and 70's, and No.5 pit which operated between 1896-1901



THE LANDS of CLEUGH EAST and MID FORTH, HAYWOOD, WESTER HANDAXWOOD, Half of EASTER HANDAXWOOD, and Mill. and Miln-lands of FALLHOUSE, lying in the parishes of Carnwath and Whitburn, and counties of Lanark, Linlithgow, and Edinburgh. These lands are very extensive, and capable of much improvement. A great part of them is in the natural possession of the proprietors. The rental of these parts possessed by tenants is upwards of 3001. Sterling. The are are good mansion-houses and offices upon the lands of Cleugh and Haywood, and there is a limestone quarry in the lands of Handaxwood, which may be worked to a great extent. The lands are all contiguous, and contain an inexhaustible quantity of coal, iron, and limestone, fire-clay, and every other material for carrying on the most extensive ironworks. ALSO, The IRONWORKS on the land Lands, called WILSONTOWN IRONWORKS, with the whole buildings and machinery, consisting of Blast and Air Furnaces, a capital Forge, all worked by steam engines of the best construction, Smith Shop. Warehouse, &c. &c. together with the whole utensils necessary for carrying on the work. There are 65 houses for the workmen, and a public house let at 3001. Sterling. In the colliery, which is drained by a fire-engine, there are five seams of coal. The main coal is 4 feet thick, and the others 15, 20, 24, and 26 inches. The day of sale and upset price will be afterwards advertised. In the meantime, application for further particulars may be made to William Andersone writer to the signet, and inspection of the premisses obtained by applying at Wilsontown.

Caledonian Mercury, 7th November 1795



To be LET, for such a number of years as may be agreed on, THE extensive LIME WORKS at HANDAXWOOD, situated between Wilsontown Iron Works and Whitburn. They consist of two very large drawer-kilns calculated to burn from 150 to 16 bolls of shells per day. The kilns were erected about five years ago, are in the best order, and at present working. The lime is well known to be of the first quality and there a has always been more demand than could be supplied. The rock is about seven feet thick, and at present wrought at one shilling and threepence per ton. There is a sufficient supply of coal at hand. Offers for the lease may be given to Messrs Wilson and Sons, at Wilsontown; or John Mowbray, W.S. No.7 How Street, Heriot Row, Edinburgh; either of whom will give information as to particulars. - Offers must be lodged by' 20th June next latest. .

Caledonian Mercury, 16th June 1810



On Saturday night last , about eleven o' clock, a frightful accident occurred at an ironstone pit on the farm of Handickswood, a few miles distant from Whitburn. Six of the workmen employed about the place were sitting in the engine-room of the works, when the boiler in the adjoining room exploded with a terrible crash bursting the walls of the building and burying the men beneath the ruins. Owing to the darkness and confusion which prevailed , about an hour and a half elapsed before the bodies could be dug out . One man was found in the bottom of the pit with his head shockingly mangled. Only one of the number got out alive, but so severely injured that his recovery is doubtful. Two of the deceased were brothers of the name of Russell another was named William Hindes and has left a wife and family - the names of the other two, one of them an Englishman, we have not learned . It is supposed that the accident arose from negligence, as the men were drinking together at the time. The explosion shattered the whole of the building, with the exception of the chimney-stalk, and such was its force that some of the bricks were thrown a distance of 150 yards.

The Scotsman 16th October 1839


INTIMATION IS HEREBY GIVEN, That STEUART BAYLEY HARE. Esquire, of Calderhall, in the County of Edinburgh, the party who, if the Lands and others aftermentioneu had been Entailed in terms of the Trust-Disposition and Settlement also aftermentioned, would now the Heir in possession of the said Lands and others.............................................. the West Half of the Lands of Easter Handaxwood, with the Houses, Pertinents, and Minerals: the Lands of Wester Handaxwood, with the Houses. Pertinents, and Minerals (but excepting from said Minerals those mentioned in the said Petition); the whole Limekilns erected on the said Lands of Wester with the Pertinents. and which Lands of Easter and Wester Handaxwood lie in the Barony of Calder, in that Parish thereof called West Calder. and said Shire of Edinburgh ; the Mill of Fallhouse, with the Mill Lands. Minerals, and Pertinents thereof, lying within the Bailiary of Torphichen. Parish of Whitburn, and Shire of Linlithgow

Edinburgh Evening Courant, 28th December 1861


ACCIDENT AT A BRICKWORK. A lad named David Gardiner, employed by Mr Thornton, brick, coal, and lime merchant, sustained serious injuries by an accident at his employer's works at Levenseat on Saturday. While he was engaged along with others unloading some waggons, one began to move backwards. In order to stop it, the lad endeavoured to put a piece of wood before the wheel, but, while stooping for that purpose, he was strunk and knocked down by the waggon. He had presence of mind to move his head off the rail, but before he could rise the wheel of the waggon ran over the whole length of his arm, lacerating it fearfully. He was brought to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where it was ascertained that amputation of the injured limb would be necessary.

North Briton, 29th August 1874


The report by the directors of the Shotts Iron Company to the annual meeting of shareholders to be held on 13th last just been published........The new pits at Morningside, Harthill, Handaxwood, and Loanhead are about completed.

Hamilton Advertiser, 9th September 1876


Reopening of a work.- Arrangements are being made by Messrs Wm. Dixon (Ltd) to have the working of the curly ironstone on the estate of Handaxwood, Leavenseat, resumed. Nothing has been done on this field now for about 60 years. This opening will go to help the mining trade in this district, work having fallen off considerably during the past ten years

West Lothian Courier, 25th April 1896


New Year Holidays - The various pits, quarries, etc., in this district stopped work for week Saturday last. The curly ironstone pit, Muldron, belonging to Messrs Dixon. and Son, will be closed for good this week. This will be a rather serious blow to the district as about 80 men are employed in it. This is the only pit now worked Messrs Dixon in the district

Linlithgowshire Gazette, 4th January 1901


Some of the crop workings are are very old, and probably go as far back as the early years of the nineteenth century. Of the workings near Breich Station and at West Handaxwood we know little, but the ore is said to have been of excellent quality. A mine was driven about the year 1870 from the right bank of the Breich Water, a little above Breich Bridge, presumably to catch the seam to the dip of the old workings, but, although it reached a bed of "Curdly ball ironstone," the workings only continued a few months.

Geological Survey; Special reports on the mineral resources of Great Britain Vol XI; The Iron Ores of Scotland, 1915


THE LEVENSEAT BRICK AND FIRECLAY COMPANY, FAULDHOUSE . ALL PERSONS HAVING CLAIMS against this COMPANY or to the late Mr. Robert THORNTON, Farmer, North Pitkinnie, Cardenden, Fife, the sole partner thereof, are requested to lodge same with the Subscribers within ten days from this date; and ALL PERSONS-INDEBTED to the Company are requested, to make payment of their accounts to the Subscribers within a like period. ROSS & CORNEL W.S., Guildhall Chambers Dunfermline. Agents for Mr Thornton's Executors, 15th April 1925.

The Scotman 15th April 1925



The General Refractories (Ltd.) Sheffield, have secured the sand and fireclay works at West Calder belonging to Messrs J. and T. Thornton, Hermand, West Calder. The works have been going for many years but there are large deposits of sand of a very high quality for glass making and other purposes. A combination of the sand and fireclay is also prepared and is used in the making of iron castings. The works are well equipped with railway facilities as the L.M.S. and L.N.E. Railways have branch lines connected to them.

West Lothian Courier, 11th December 1931