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Coal and Bo'ness
Compiled by: Ken Wright

In the 12th Century Monks of Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, were granted a tithe by William Di Vipont to dig coal from his Carriden estate, which was then carried to Holyrood in panniers strapped to the backs of their horses; later it was taken to Leith by sailing ship. In 1291 monks from Dunfermline Abbey were also given the right to dig coal from outcrops around Bo'ness.

Aeneas Sylvius, the future Pope Pius II, visited the area in 1435 and wrote in his journal "the poor, who almost in a state of nakedness begged at the church door, depart with joy in their faces on receiving stones as alms"! This account reveals that although coal was commonly used as fuel in Scotland it was yet unknown in many parts of Europe. This is reinforced as in another account of his visit to Scotland the future Pope wrote, "A sulphurous stone dug from the earth is used by the people as fuel". Although Aeneas rode through the Lothian's it is not clear that he visited Carriden, although as an area mined by monks it is entirely possible.

What is now Bridgeness Tower was originally built as a windmill by the Cadells in about 1750 to pump water from their mines which ran under the Forth and to grind grain. It wasn't used for this purpose for long as the Cadells invested in more efficient steam power. Mr Robert Hughes purchased it in the early 19th Century and changed it into an observatory.

In 1896 Kinneil Cannel and Coking Coal Co. Ltd., Bo'ness had 310 Underground and 96 Surface workers, the Manager was Robert Walker.gear_old.gif (8205 bytes)

Bridgeness Coal Co. Ltd had 193 Underground and 39 Surface workers, the Manager was Wm. Lynn.

Possibly encouraged by hearing about the success of American miners, Mr Cadell and several other associates formed the Scottish Spitzbergen Syndicate with the intention of mining coal in Spitzbergen. In May 1920 a group of 12 Bo'ness miners, a colliery surveyor, Dr Bruce (a Geologist from Edinburgh) and their piper set sail for Spitzbergen via Tromso, Norway. Spirits were high when they set sail from Leith aboard a minesweeper chartered from the Admiralty. At Tromso they played football against a local side and won before departing for Spitzbergen. They did not find Spitzbergen at all hospitable and even found making test bores very difficult in the Arctic soil frozen to a depth of 4 feet. Unlike the American miners based at Longyear City they did not find any large outcrops of coal. Although another group of miners did return the following year the venture did not prove viable and the Scottish Spitzbergen Syndicate sold their interests to a Dutch company.


On 25th June 1951, when the Countess of Balfour cut the first sod, the National Coal Board launched a major reorganisation at Kinneil to include new shafts.

April 30th 1964, Kinneil Colliery linked up with Low Valleyfield, at a depth of 1800 feet at 10.33a.m. Kinneil manager David Archibald shook hand with his opposite number Norman Wallace reportedly saying "I hope you have plenty of coal for me." The 1 1/4 mile link between the two colliery workings took 27 men 18 months to complete at a cost of 500,000. The annual output from Kinneil is about 240,000 tons, principally from one seam named "Seven Feet Coal" situated in the seaward area. Total reserves of coal under the Forth basin, at depths down to 3,000 feet, are estimated to be 50,000,000 tons!

Bo'ness Pits (1760 to1773) on the Estate of Kinneil leased by Dr Roebuck.
Pit No. Name Location Comment

1

Parkwood Gin Pit

Near Kinneil House

 

2

Parknook Pit

 

Air shaft, access to Foreman Pit

3

The Sma' Pit

Kinneil

 

4

Wester Engine Pit

Kinneil

Also known as The English Pit, flooded with sea water.

5

The Well Ospa Pit

Connected to The English Pit

First put down by the Duke of Hamilton.

6

 

 

Air shaft for Well Ospa Pit.

7

The Dukes Pit

 

Put down by the Duke of Hamilton.

8

Corbiehall Pit

 

Soft Coal for Salt Pans.

9

Dirt Hole Pit

 

Soft Coal for Salt Pans.

10

The Old Engine Pit

 

The name refers to the installation of a James Watt steam engine.

11

Moat Pit

 

 

12

The Schoolyard Pit

 

A Gin Pit at the bottom of Schoolyard Brae.

13

The Schoolyard Pit

 

Bye Pit, Engine Pit. Flooded with water to the extent that the pumps couldn't cope.

14

Taylor's Pit

 

Put down by the "old people". Re-opened and extended by Dr Roebuck.

15

The Links Pit

 

Put down by the "old people". Extended by Dr Roebuck.

16

The Smithy Coal Pit

 

Sunk by Dr Roebuck, top quality coal.

17

Moat or Boat Pit

 

Sunk by Dr Roebuck on the Great North Bank Dyke within the seamark.

18

Links Gin Pit

 

Sunk by Dr Roebuck.

 

North Bank Pit

Near Northbank Farm

 

 

Dylon's Pit

Near Champany

 

 

The Chance Pit

Near Chance Park

Put down by the "old people". Re-opened by Dr Roebuck. Manager Mr Allison.

 

Adams Pit

Next to Chance Pit

Mr Adams was a Miner and overseer for Dr Roebuck.

 

Bain's Pit

 

Sunk by Dr Roebuck. When all pits to the north west of the Great Dyke flooded this one was sunk on the south east of the Dyke.

The River Pit

 

Put down by Dr Roebuck in 1761 at the west corner of Maiden Park near to the march with the Dean Tree ("ghost of the White Lady tree").

 

Allinson's Pit

Boundary of Bonhard and Grange Estates

Mr Allison was manager.

The "old people" referred to worked the mines from the early 12th Century.
Gin Pit refers to the fact that horses powered the machinery (Gin Winding Gear) prior to steam power.


Kinneil Colliery Pits (in the 1800's), most of which were also used to mine ironestone, included the following.

Pit No.

Name

Location

Comment

1

The Mingle Pit

Mingle?

This pit was being sunk c. 1830.

2

The Burn Pit

Snab

This pit was being sunk c. 1830.

3

 

North of Bo'mains Farm

 

4

 

"

 

5

 

Near Red Brae

No's 5, 6 & 7 were opened in the mid 1800's when Mr Wilson of Dundyvan leased Kinneil Colliery and began to search for ironestone.

6

 

"

7

 

"

8

Duncan's Hole

Top of Red Brae

 

9

Cousie Mine

South of Northbank and east of Cousie.

 

10

 

Was where the Hospital is now.

 

11

 

Bonhard

Situated east from the foot of Red Brae.

12

 

"

East of the crossroads.

13

 

Below Borrowstoun Farm.

 

14

 

Where Newtown Store now is.

Note: this was Newtown Store c. 1910.

15

 

Where the Newtown Football Field is.

Note: c. 1910.

16

 

In the field east of Richmond House.

I think this is east of where the BP Garage is now situated in the Douglas Park.

17

 

The back of the old Row, Newtown.

This was a small pit to work ironstone.

18

The Lothian's Pit.

 

 

 

 

The Chance

There was an important pit situated here at one time.

 

Jessfield

South from Gauze House.

 

 

The New Pit

 

 

 

Bailie's Pit

At the head of Cow Loan

 

 

Borrowstoun Pit

 

Sunk about 1830 by Mr J.J. Cadell, but abandoned because of too much whin.

 

Temple Pit

Northbank, east of Borrowstoun Pit.

 

 

Beat Pit

Where the "new" cemetery is.

 

 

Store Pit

Where the Furnace Row Store is now.

Note: this was c. 1910. As there is now no Furnace Row Store.

 

Gin Pit

East of No. 2 Pit

This was sunk before 1830.

 

 

Schoolyard Brae

There were two pits here latterly used for pumping.


Grange Estate Pits

Pit No.

Name

Location

Comment

1

 

Shore Pit

No's 1,2 3, 4 & 5 pits were abandoned in the early 1800's and remained flooded till 1859.

2

 

Shore Pit

 

3

 

Shore Pit

 

4

 

Shore Pit

 

5

 

Shore Pit

 

 

Level Pit

Above Bridgeness

 

 

Meldrum Pit

 

Situated at the head of the old 3-feet double inclined railway leading to Grangepans, and built by James John Cadell in 1845. The incline was dismantled in 1890 when the construction of Philpingstone Road began.

 

Kiln Pit

 

South from the Meldrum Pit on the east side of the road.

 

Doocot Pit

Bridgeness

 

 

Miller Pit

 

 

 

Acre Pit

Opposite Lochend Near Muirhouses

Coal and Ironestone were worked here. A tramway run down to the incline at the Meldrum Pit.

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