Scottish shale Scottish shale

Polbeth No. 11 pit

West Calder, Midlothian
Local authority:
West Lothian
Seams worked:
Broxburn Shale, Fells Shale, Houston Coal
c. 1867
1900 (or 1927?)
Current status of site:
Returned to agriculture. Waste bing remains as wooded area within farmland
Regional overview:

Polbeth No.11.jpg

Vertical shaft(s) 402ft to Houston Coal, 660ft to Broxburn Shale, 777ft to Fells Shale

Serving Addiewell Chemical Works

A significant pit, situated in Gavieside Village and sometimes referred to as Gavieside No. 11. At various times Fells Shale, Broxburn Shale and Houston Coal were brought to the surface by one of a number of shafts on this site. The site of one of the worst pit disasters in the history of the industry in which four died (the youngest aged 14) when the cage became disengaged from the slides within the shaft.

Workings in the Fells Shale extended north from No. 11, ultimately joining with Fells Shale workings from Westwood No. 30 Pit. Plans suggest that workings in the Fells Shale also extended to the south and east of No. 11, linking via a cross-cut mine to workings from Polbeth No. 8 Pit and Polbeth No. 10 Pit. Fells Shale workings were abandoned in 1900 (or 1927?).

An area of Houston Coal was worked to the east of No. 11, perhaps the workings at "Polbeth" referred to in abandonment plan 3269/A, dated 1894 / 1901. Sketch plans show an adit near the eastern end of Gavieside Row that might have provided alternative access to these workings.

Plans show a roadway heading south west from No. 11 accessing areas of Broxburn Shale, ultimately linked by a cross cut mine to the workings of Polbeth No. 10 Pit. Seams worked: Houston Coal, Broxburn Shale, Fells Shale.

  • Location & workings at Polbeth No.11 pit
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  • Newspaper references
    • TO SINKERS. CONTRACTORS WANTED to SINK No.11 PIT, in the Lands of Polbeth, from its present Depth to the Shale , about 100 Fathoms, more or less. Specifications and Conditions may be had on application here. Offers to be addressed to Mr. R. Scott, Manager, to be lodged on or before Friday 18th Curt. Addiewell Chemical Works, West Calder, 9th October 1867.

      Glasgow Herald, Friday 11th October 1867



      CERTIFICATED OVERSMEN WANTED to take charge of this Company's new mine openings - viz., (1) at No.11 pit, Polbeth; (2) at No. 27 Mine, Polbeth; (3) at No.31 pit Polbeth. Applications to be made by letter to the undersigned on or before Monday 23rd instant. JOHN FYFE, Managing Director.

      Scotsman, 13th November 1891


      On Wednesday forenoon much alarm was created in No. 11 pit, Gavieside, by the water suddenly rushing through from some old workings and flooding the pit, in which there are employed over 300 men. A lad named William Finister was drowned. The old workings of mine, worked by the late West Calder Oil Company, were contiguous to No. 11 pit workings, and being full water, a considerable source of anxiety to the management. For some time back levels for draining purposes have been driven into these workings with an advance bore obtaining indications of the whereabouts of the body water. While men were engaged in working one of these levels on Wednesday the water burst in and carried everything before it, completely submerging the lower workings in very short apace time.

      The pit is fortunately equipped with a more than usual number of outlets, else a large number of lives might have been sacrificed. As it is, several men were injured, and others had very narrow escapes, large number leaving pit with very little clothing on. The pumps are kept busy at worlfc but considerable time must elapse before the water can be taken out of the lower section. The scene of the catastrophe was visited during the course of the afternoon by Mr Robert M'Laren, Her Majesty's Inspector Mines for East of Scotland, and Mr Prentice, mining manager. For some time the greatest alarm prevailed the village, the first reports the event having been greatly exaggerated.

      Dundee Advertiser, 21st February 1890


      Messrs. Scott and Mountain have also in hand for Messrs. Young's Praffin Oil Co., of Glasgow, an electric pumping plant for their No.11 pit at Polbeth. This plant consists of a horizontal engine, driving by bely on to a Tyne dynamo giving an output of 40,000 watts. The dynamo supplies current to two sets of three throw ram pumps, driven by electric motors of 25 effective h.p. each, and delivering 150 and 100 gallons per minute respectively against a head of 270 feet. The first pump is situated at a distnace of 850 yards from the dynamo, and a second pump further down the dip 600 yards away, the total distance between the second pump and the dynamo being 1450 yards.

      Sheffield Independent, 1st October 1896


      At West Calder on Wednesday the miners of Messrs Young's Oil Company employed in No. 11 Pit received notice to at once bring their tools to the surface, as the pit was to be Closed. The pit is one of the oldset and largest worked by the company, but of late fewer places have been worked. The closing of it will throw about a hundred men idle.

      West Lothian Courier, 26th April 1901


      A similar (pumping) unit (to that installed by the Midcalder Oil Company at Oakbank in 1876) was erected at Young's Oil Co.'s No.11 pit, Gavieside, about 1882.

      Sneddon, Caldwell and Stein, Seventy Five Years of Oil Shale Mining, Institute of Petroleum, 1938

  • External references
      • Coal Authority Mine Abandonment Catalogue No. 3269 and 3269A, showing workings in the Houston Coal from Polbeth abandoned in 1894 and 1901.
      • Coal Authority Mine Abandonment Catalogue No. 4047, showing workings in the Addiewell or Fells Shale from Polbeth No. 11 and Westwood No. 30, abandoned in 1900 (quoted elsewhere as 1927).