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Parish of Bathgate

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1791-99: Bathgate
1834-45: Bathgate

Bathgate, a town and a parish in the SW of Linlithgowshire. The town stands in the middle of the parish, 6 miles S by W of Linlithgow, whilst by sections of the North British, that converge to it from E, S, W, and NW, it is 19¾ W by S of Edinburgh, 14¼ NE of Morningside, 16 E by N of Coatbridge, 24¾ E by N of Glasgow, and 8½ S of Manuel Junction. Its situation is a pleasant one. The hilly grounds to the NE, and the beautiful park of Balbardie on the N, give a cheerful aspect to the town, which consists of two parts, the old and the new. The old stands on a ridgy declivity, and has narrow crooked lanes; the new town, on low ground, is regularly aligned, and has well-built streets. A considerable extension occurred after the opening of the Bathgate and Edinburgh railway in 1849; a greater one, after the establishment of a neighbouring paraffin work in 1852; and other ones, or rather a continually increasing one, after the subsequent commencing or enlargement of other neighbouring works connected with mines and with mineral produce. The inhabitants prior to the first of these extensions, had little other employment than hand-loom weaving, and lived in a state of penury; but the new works employed not only them but numerous immigrants from other towns. Bathgate soon grew to threefold its former extent, and passed from a state of stagnancy and decay to one of bustle and prosperity; and though suffering at present under the general depression of trade, it now has many fine dwelling-houses and handsome shops. It possesses a head post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments; 2 railway stations, upper and lower; offices of the Royal, National, and Union banks; a local saving's bank; two chief hotels, the Bathgate and the Commercial; a handsome and commodious corn-exchange; a police station (1870); a working men's institute (1875); and a Saturday paper, the West -Lothian Courant (1872). Places of worship are the parish church (rebuilt 1882; cost £5000), a Free church, a U.P. church, an Evangelical Union chapel, a Wesleyan chapel, and a Roman Catholic chapel (1858; 600 sittings). A weekly market is held on Tuesday, and has become important as a central corn-market for Linlithgowshire and for parts of the adjoining counties. Cattle fairs are held on the fourth Wednesday of June and October; and cattle and hiring fairs on the Wednesdays after Whitsunday and Martinmas, old style. The public works, to which the town owes its growth, and also the schools, will be noticed under the parish. The town, with a territory around it, was anciently a sheriffdom; and in legal form it still is such, only that the sheriff of Linlithgowshire is always also sheriff of Bathgate. The right to its sheriffdom was long hereditary, and belonged to the Earls of Hopetoun, whose representative, on the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions in 1747, was compensated by a payment of £2000. In 1824 the town was constituted a burgh of barony by Act of Parliament, under which it is governed by a provost, 3 bailies, 12 councillors, and a treasurer; in 1865 it adopted the general police and improvement act of Scotland, and since has a body of police commissioners. Walter, the son-in-law of King Robert Bruce, receiving Bathgate as part of his wife's dowry, had a residence at it, and died here in 1328. Some of the inhabitants suffered hardship and loss in the times of the persecution; and the insurgent army of the Covenanters, when on their march from the W to Rullion Green, spent a disastrous night at Bathgate. Jn. Reid, M. D. (1809-49), anatomist and physiologist, and Sir James Simpson (1811-70), professor of midwifery in Edinburgh University, were natives. Pop. of burgh (1831) 2581, (1861) 4827, (1871) 4991, (1881) 4885.

The parish of Bathgate contains also the small town of Armadale, 2½ miles W by S. It is bounded, N by Torphichen and Linlithgow, NE by a detached portion of Ecclesmachan, E by Livingston, S by Livingston and Whitburn, SW by Shotts in Lanarkshire, and NW by Torphichen. Its greatest length from E to W is 6&hz. miles; its breadth from N to S varies between 2½ and 3&hz. miles; and its area is 10,887½ acres, of which 11¾ are water. The surface-nowhere much less than 400, or more than 1000, feet above sea-level-attains 626 feet near Cowdenhead in the W, 409 at Balmuir in the NW, 1000 at the Knock in the N, 563 near Colinshiel, 535 near Bathville, 537 near Whiteside, 583 near Torbanehill in the S, 486 near Upper Bathgate station, 848 at the Standing Stones, and 700 near Drumcross in the E. The western and part of the southern slope of the hilly mass are considerable declivities, yet contain the best land in the parish. The tract at the base is the lowest ground, was naturally marshy, and appears to have long lain mainly under water; but now, in result of draining, is comparatively dry. Ballencrieff Water rises among the hills, makes a circuit through great part of the low tracts, and then runs for about 1½ mile along the boundary with Torphichen. Barbauchlaw Burn comes in from the SW, traces much of the rest of the boundary with Torphichen, and makes a confluence with Ballencrieff Water. The river Almond, from a point about 5 miles below its source, runs about 1½ mile on the boundary with Whitburn. A lake of about 11 acres lay in the northern vicinity of the town, but was drained in 1853. About 510 acres are under wood; 800 are pastoral or waste; and all the rest save what is occupied by buildings, public works, fences, roads. and railways, is either constantly or occasionally in tillage. The rocks include dykes and masses of trap, but belong mainly to the coal measures, and are very rich in useful minerals. At Boghead, 1½ mile SW of the town, a black bituminous shale, sharing the appearance both of coal and slate, was found in 1850 to be peculiarly rich in mineral oil, and began to be worked about 1852 for the production of illuminating gas, paraffin oil, and solid paraffin. Coming into much demand also for exportation to the Continent and elsewhere, it was mined at the rate of fully 100,000 tons a year; but about 1866 began to show signs of exhaustion,-signs that fulfilled themselves in 1873. Chemical works, for manufacturing paraffin oil and solid paraffin, stand about ¾ mile SSW of Boghead; cover 25 acres; are connected by branch railways with the main lines in their vicinity; look, in the distance, like a grimy irregularly-built village; and employ from 400 to 500 men. These works underwent some change, at the expiry of a lease, in 1864; and they were sold, about the beginning of 1866, at a price variously reported from £200,000 to £240,000. Other works of similar kind, under stimulus of the prosperous experiment at Boghead, and after successful search for shales of kindred character to the Boghead shale, were meanwhile established at Uphall, Broxburn, Kirkliston, Westwood, Hermand, Saltney, Calderhall, Charlesfield, Leavenseat, Addiewell, and other places in Linlithgowshire and the W border of Edinburghshire; and these, by powerfully extending the demand for paraffin oil and paraffin throughout Great Britain, and in countries so distant as China, gave increasing impulse and energy to the parent works and researches in the neighbourhood of Boghead. One of the new works was established within Bathgate parish itself, shortly before 1865; and that, together with brick-making and mining in connection with it, employs between 300 and 400 persons. Another of the new works also was erected, near the end of 1865, about 3 miles E of Bathgate town. Collieries have long and extensively been worked in the parish, whose western half contained nine active pits in 1879. A very rich iron ore was, at one time, worked on the estate of Couston. Limestone for conversion into quick-lime, sandstone for building, and trap rock for road-metal, are largely quarried. Lead ore, in small frequently-interrupted veins, with traces of silver, occurs in the limestone beds. The argentiferous ore was long worked in one of the limestone quarries, still called the Silver Mine; but, after yielding a considerable quantity of silver, it ceased to be obtained in sufficient quantity for remunerative working. The Silver Mine was explored in 1871; was then found to comprise several deep pits with numerous ramifications; and to contain inscriptions and a curious ancient hammer, showing it to have been extensively worked in the Middle Ages; and, giving promise of lead, silver, and platinum ores, it was once more for a time subjected to vigorous operation. Thin beds of mineral pitch also are found in the limestone; and traces of brown blende zinc ore have been observed- Calc-spar is plentiful; and heavy-spar, pearl-spar, Lydian stone, and chalcedony are occasionally found. Fire clay is abundant. Antiquities are Couston Castle and the Refuge Stone, in the NW; the Boar Stone, in the SW; the Standing Stones, in the NE; the old church, a little SE of the town; and Ballencrieff House, to the N of the same. The principal mansions are Balbardie, Bogbead, Torbanehill, Kaim Park, Rosemount, Easter Inch, Drumcross, Wester Drumcross, and Wester Inch; and 14 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 43 of between £100 and £500,59 of from £50 to £100, and 100 of from £20 to £50. Bathgate is in the presbytery of Linlithgow and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; its minister's income is £314. Besides Armadale public school, the Academy and a Roman Catholic school at Bathgate town, and Bathgate landward public school, with respective accommodation for 774,187, and 131 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 608,179, and 155, and grants of £599, £90, 8s. 1d., and £94,11s. Valuation (1881) £34,449, 19s. Pop. (1801) 2513, (1831) 3593, (1861) 10,134, (1871) 10,129, (1881) 9450, of whom 642 5 belong to Bathgate registration district.—Ord. Sur., sh. 31,1867.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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