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History of West Calder
Chapter XXV. Minerals of the Parish, Lime Works


The following interesting account of the minerals of West Calder parish is from the pen of Mr David Mackie, an intelligent miner residing in West Calder.

“A great variety of minerals crop out in this parish, comprising about eight hundred fathoms in all.

Beginning at the west end of the parish, we find at Muldron a seam of ironstone-balls. This seam is known by the name of “curley ironstone”, and has been worked for many years by different companies.

The next mineral of importance and somewhat lower down, is the far-famed Leaven-seat limestone and shaIe. This shale, which has to be taken out in the working of the limestone, was, for many years, thrown aside as useless, but has of late been converted into paraffin oil. About one hundred fathoms below this limestone, we get a very valuable bed of freestone, which has for many years been extensively quarried by Mr Andrew Mitchell, contracting builder, who has erected many of the largest buildings in the town of West Calder with stone from this quarry, which is also famous for making grinding-stones and scythe-stones. The quarry is on the Belhaven estate; and the limestone lies fifteen feet above the splint coal six feet thick.. About eighty fathoms below this freestone, we come to the Woodmuir limestone, which is about five feet thick, but very little of this limestone has been worked. Fifteen feet below this limestone, we get a seam of splint coal about fifteen inches thick of very fine quality; but on account of the thinness of the seam, it is difficult to work. Fifteen feet below this coal, we get the main coal, two feet nine inches in thickness, which has been worked somewhat extensively on Woodmuir. Ten fathoms below this coal is a seam of coal two feet four inches thick known as the smithy coal, which has also been worked to some extent. Six fathoms below the smithy coal, there is a coal known at Woodmuir as the quarry coal. This seam is divided into four sections with ribs of fireclay, and is a good seam of coal about four feet thick, but rather difficult to work so as to keep it free from the fireclay. There is a similar seam at Longford and Loganlea known as the maincoal, which is free of fireclay ribs at these places, and the thickness from two feet six inches to three feet. Ten fathoms below this coal, we come to the best coal in the parish, known as the big coal, or the Wilsonton main coal. At Woodmuir, it is divided into three sections:—head coal, two feet; fireclay, two feet; bottom coal, two feet, with two inches hard rib in the centre. These have been worked for many years as house coal and steam coal, but are now principally made into coke of an excellent quality, a great number of coke-ovens being in operation at Woodmuir. Twenty-six fathoms below this coal, we come to the Wilsonton gas coal about ten inches thick, very little of which has been wrought.

About one hundred fathoms further down, we come to the Lake Stone, which lies at the bottom of whinstone. This Lake Stone has been quarried for many years on the farm of Husha, and is principally used for lining bakers’ ovens. The whinstone lies about due south and north across the parish, and is supposed to be the same as that at Bathgate in which the silver mines are.

A small vein of lead ore was discovered a number of years ago in this whinstone, in the little burn, Scato or Scolly Burn, to the west of Addiewell Chemical Works. About sixty fathoms below this whinstone, we get a seam of limestone and coal—the limestone about six feet thick, and the coal, which lies close under the limestone, is about four feet thick. This limestone and coal appear to have been worked in olden times along the crop from Breichwater, at Addiewell Toll, southward to Baddsmill Burn. The Addie-well Company have also wrought a portion of this lime and coal. About eighty fathoms below this limestone and coal, we come to the shale-fields, the first seam of importance being known as Raeburn’s shale, about sixty fathoms below which, we get a shale known as Grey Shale; and, ten fathoms below that, we come to a seam of coal about five feet thick, known as the Houston Coal. This coal also appears to have been worked along the 'crop’ in olden times near Breichmill and Blackbraes, and has also been wrought by the Addiewell Company to some extent. About twenty-six fathoms below this coal, we come to the seam of shale known as Fell’s Shale, being the first shale wrought by Mr Fell at Gravieside in the year 1862. The Addiewell Company have taken our many acres of this shale. About forty or fifty fathoms below Fell’s Shale, is another seam of shale known as the Broxburn Shale, many acres of which! have been taken out arouncl West Calder. About forty or fifty fathoms below the Broxburn Shale, we get another seam of shale known as Bun net’s Shale, being the shale wrought by Mr Bunnet at fiermand. About fifty fathoms below this shale, we come to the lowest mineral worked in the parish of West Calder, viz,, the liar burn or Bellsquarry limestone of good quality and many feet in thickness,”

Mr Mackie adds that the above is a correct statement to the best of his judgment of the minerals of the parish, from Muldron on the west to Harburn on the east, or, as he said at the beginning, about 800 fathoms altogether.

Lime Works.

There are three lime works in active operation in this parish. One at Harburn, where the seam is 20 feet thick, and another at Easter Torphin of 12 feet, both worked by the Coltness Iron Coy., who themselves use most of the ont-put, and have a kiln at each place. The other at Leavenseat, in the west end of the parish seems rather an extensive work employing about sixty people, with steam appliances, and turns out about 55,000 tons per annum. The burned lime realises 8/-, and the limestone about 3/- per ton on railway waggon at the works. This limestone, which is wrought from the surface and also by pit, averages 8 feet in thickness, with a shale of about one and half feet above the lime. About one quarter of this lime is used for land and for building purposes, the remaining three quarters being sent to iron furnaces.

The Leavenseat lime is reported by an analyist to be of a ‘superior quality;’ and also for smelting iron in a blast furnace, a purer and better limestone could not be desired; and it is equally well adapted for building purposes and for agricultural use.


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