Early cottage industries in West Lothian included weaving and the lime industry. A typical weaver's cottage can still be seen in Mansefield Street, Bathgate, and now houses the Bennie Museum (new window) . The Bennie Museum holds various items relating to weaving, as does West Lothian Museums Service. Lime deposits were widespread around West Lothian. Limekilns can still be seen at various sites in Bathgate, the Bathgate Hills and at East Calder. More information on both weaving and the lime industry are available in the West Lothian Local History Library at County Buildings, Linlithgow.
From the mid-nineteenth century, the shale and coal industries became of major importance to West Lothian. Tens of thousands were employed, or were dependent on ancillary industries. The mineral oil industry (using cannel coal and shale) was founded by James Young, and was almost unique to West Lothian. But after pioneering the global oil industry, West Lothian's shale industry fell victim to cheaper oil imports and closed down in 1962. The last deep coal mine in West Lothian - Polkemmet - closed in 1984-85. Today the most visible reminder of mining's heyday is its bings. Some have been landscaped to look like natural hills; others, like the remarkable Five Sisters bing near West Calder, now have protected status as industrial monuments. The Almond Valley Heritage Centre (new window) at Mill Farm, Livingston Village holds important collections on the shale industry.
Foundries and railways
A few foundries still survive but the great names have gone - Renton and Fisher's, Atlas, North British, Wolfe's Shovel Works. The foundries grew up in the later nineteenth century, and were mutually dependent on the railways boom. In addition to the main railway lines, West Lothian was criss-crossed by mineral railways, some of which have been turned into pleasant country footpaths. West Lothian Council Archives and Records Centre holds some information on George Wolfe & Sons Ltd, and the Almond Valley Heritage Centre (new window) holds machinery, a display of products, and a reconstruction of the office at the Chieftain Forge Ltd/Bathgate Forge.
British Leyland and the electronics industry
With the decline of heavy industries, the government strove to aid the stricken areas by setting up new industries. BMC (later British Leyland) came to Bathgate in 1961 and employed some 6,000 people at its peak. Its troubled history there came to an end with its closure in 1986. The electronics industry and the jobs of Livingston New Town opened a new era in West Lothian's industrial history. West Lothian Council Archives and Records Centre holds the archive of the Livingston Development Corporation.
For more information on any aspect of West Lothian's rich industrial heritage, visit the West Lothian Local History Library (new window).
Coal mining surface hazards: How to report coal mining surface hazards
The Coal Authority maintains a 24-hour emergency call out service for dealing with coal mining surface hazards. Surface hazards from past coal mining activities include collapses of former mine entries, gas emissions and spontaneous combustion of coal.
To report a coal mining surface hazard, call the 24-hour emergency on 01623 646333. This number must only be used to report coal mining surface hazard emergencies.