Scottish shale Scottish shale

Burngrange No. 1 & 2 pits

West Calder, Midlothian
Local authority:
West Lothian
Seams worked:
Dunnet Shale
Current status of site:
The pit site is now used as a recycling centre; some original buildings remain


Vertical shaft, 468 feet deep

Serving Westwood Crude Oil Works, other works previously

Constructed on the site of Burngrange No. 39 Mine, which closed in 1912, Burngrange No. 1 & 2 Pit was one of a number of new pits sunk in the years leading up to World War Two. Whereas No. 39 Mine exploited Broxburn Shale that lay close to the surface, Burngrange No. 1 & 2 worked the Dunnet Shale lying deep beneath much of West Calder; the workings extending to those of Westwood Pit to the north and Polbeth No. 26 Mine to the north east.

Burngrange was a showcase pit, using the latest technology, and featured in the 1938 edition of Scottish Oils Ltd's "Brief description of the Scottish Shale Oil Industry. This publication (download here) provides a detailed account of the pit and its operation.

While Burngrange Pit might otherwise have been considered as a notable success, it's name will forever be associated with the shale oil industry's blackest hour: the Burngrange Disaster of 1947. On 10th of January 1947, an underground explosion and fire led to the death of 15 men; by far the greatest loss of life in any accident during the history of shale oil industry. Download report.

Shale-field: West Calder area.

Mapped by the Ordnance Survey of c.1952, showing the pit in production.

  • Location and workings at Burngrange No.1 & 2 pits
    • Show seams:

  • Detailed maps
  • Archive images

  • Drawings

    Recent images

  • Newspaper references

      Two New Shafts to be Sunk at West Calder - POWER STATION SCHEME - Much satisfaction has been caused in the West Calder district by the news that Scottish Oils (Ltd.) intend to sink two new shafts on the Burngrange estate, on the western side of the village. This decision follows recent boring operations, which have proved satisfactory. The boring operations revealed an extensive deposit of the Dunnet shale, and the new shafts will be sunk to work this shale to a depth of 75 fathoms. The shafts are to be brick-lined throughout. The shale from the new pits will be conveyed by rail to Addiewell Oil Works for retorting. Another development which will be welcomed by the shale and oil workers is a scheme for the erection of an electric power station at Addiewell Works, which will generate power for the new pits. The Company's colliery at West Mains, West Calder, will also be converted from steam to electric power. About 100 men will be given employment sinking the new shafts and erecting the power station. This is the first extension in the Scottish shale oil industry since the curtailment of operations took place about three years ago.

      Scotsman, 29th December 1934


      Rich New Seam Opened up in West Calder; Work for 250 men. Sinking operations at a new shale shaft at Burngrange, West Calder, which were begun some nine months ago, have now been successful in reaching the Dunnet seam at a depth of 75 fathoms. The reaching of the new shale supply, which will, it is stated, mean employment of about 250 men in a few month's time, gave rise to general rejoicing in the district, and a Union Jack hoisted over the shaft marked the satisfactory stage in the operations....The development of the newly-found seam will be pushed forward with all possible speed. The shale will be conveyed by a recently laid railway to the Addiewell Oil works, where a new electric power station is being erected.

      Scotsman, 21st October 1935



      Illustrated London News, January 18th 1947

      See full record LVSAV2016.121

  • External references
      • Ministry of Power and Fuel. Report on the causes of, and circumstances attending, the explosion and fire which occurred on 10th January, 1947 at the Burngrange No. 1 and 2 (Oil shale) Mine, Midlothian.
      • Coal Authority Mine Abandonment Catalogue No. 15102, showing workings in the Dunnet Shale from Burngrange No. 1 & 2, abandoned 1958.
      • A Prayer, by W. Jones. A touching poem written for those who lost loved ones in the explosion at Burngrange No. 1 & 2 Pit on 10th January 1947.
      • The Burngrange Disaster, by John Crombie. A moving poem written in the aftermath of the tragic accident on 10th January 1947 where 15 men lost their lives at Burngrange No. 1 & 2 Pit.
  • Additional resources
      • Oral history transcript: Mr A Balloch
      • Oral history transcript: Mr & Mrs Crilly
      • Oral history transcript: Mrs Sheena Donachie
      • Oral history transcript: Mr Ellis & Mr Ellis
      • Oral history transcript: George Fairley
      • Oral history transcript: Mr George Jordan & Mr Harold Purse
      • Oral history transcript: Mr David Mackie
      • Oral history transcript: Mr A. Taylor