Barbauchlaw Brickworks, Armadale, West Lothian

Barbauchlaw Brickworks, East Main Street, Armadale, West Lothian.

(Note – SBH – The 1896 entries below refer to a new brickworks in East Main Street, Armadale. I suspect but I am not certain that these were built on the site of the old brickworks or if the pre-1896 brickworks were not on the same site they may have been located just to the North West of the new brickworks at the North end of the mineral line  – see the 1895 map below. Can anyone clarify this please?).


The Scottish Refractory Industry 1830 – 1980 by Kenneth W Sanderson describes the Barbauchlaw Fireclay Works, Armadale viz:- Owned by Robert Muir and Co and working from the 1890s into the post 1939 – 1945 war period when building bricks were made.

c. 1880 – Robert Muir owned the Fireclay Works at Barbauchlaw.

Below – 1895 – Barbauchlaw Brickworks.

1896 – Robert Muir announced his intention to submit plans for new brickworks in East Main Street, Armadale.

26/12/1896 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – The brick manufacturers of Armadale have had an abundance of orders and some of them have had hard work to overtake the demands made upon them. In the summer Messrs Muir and Co opened a new work for the manufacture of bricks at the East end of Armadale.

c. 1897 – c1947 – Barbauchlaw, a fireclay and common brickworks, operated in East Main Street, Armadale. The clay was supplied by the neighbouring mine. By the end of the post-war period, building bricks were being manufactured there.

Below – 21/10/1899 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – George Neally, retired collier found dead within a kiln at Barbauchlaw Brickworks.

1900 – Robert Muir of Bathgate represented Armadale Burgh on the parish council.  He indicated plans to erect an office in South Street, the site of his other brickworks (top of the brae at Blackmoss).

1900 – Marchbanks Cottage was built with Muir bricks for the Manager of the Muir Brickworks in East Main Street.  The cottage was conveniently situated as a track led from the back of the building to the brickworks site. Originally a ploughman, Robert Kerr became the manager of the Muir Brickworks and although he retired at 70, he was called back to work at the Etna bricks.

1903 – Robert Muir & Co Ltd – (Composition & fireclay brick manufacturers, red & white composition bricks, boiler blocks, flue covers &c.),  Armadale, Barbauchlaw, Boghead &  South Broadrigg Brickworks, Armadale Station, Linlithgowshire.

Below – 03/11/1905 – Linlithgowshire Gazette -Robert Muir & Co fined for employing 2 girls under the age of 16 years.

Below – 18/05/1906 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – 2 ex-employees of the Baurbauchlaw Brickworks die.

05/10/1906 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Robert Muir & Co of Armadale, Barbauchlaw and Boghead Brickworks are about to become mine owners, in so much as they are going to open a clay mine in the vicinity of their Barbauchlaw Brickworks at the East end of the town.

Below – 12/10/1906 – Linlithgowshire Gazette. Accident at the works.  Roof kiln collapse.

1907 – Robert Muir, fire brick manufacturer, 27 Oswald Street, Glasgow

Below – 04/01/1907 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Engineer injured in an accident at Barbauchlaw Brickworks.

24/05/1907 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Messrs Robert Muir and Co., Ltd., fireclay brick manufacturers, Armadale, Barbauchlaw, and Boghead Brickworks, gave a complimentary dinner to Mr Robert Boyd and his workmen in the Crown Hotel on Friday evening, on the completion of Mr Boyd’s contract sinking a pit and driving a daylight mine for coal and clay at Barbauchlaw Works. Bailie Samuel, managing director, occupied the chair, and after justice had been done to the excellent viands purveyed Mr Greig, glasses were charged, and a splendid programme of toasts, song, and story enlivened a mirthful and enjoyable!o evening.

28/06/1907 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Ambulance waggon committee meeting … It was also reported that the workers at Messrs Robert Muir and Co.’s Brickworks had subscribed and that the money was in the office waiting to be called for …

Below – 18/10/1907 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Robert Muir & Co, Barbauchlaw Brickworks – a readjustment of rates with regards clay removed from their clay mine.

Below – 13/12/1907 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Barbauchlaw Brickworks, clay miners idle for 2 days regarding wages issues.

15/06/1908 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – 8 boys aged between 14 and 17 years pleaded guilty to setting a clay hutch down an incline and destroying it at Barbauchlaw Brickworks. Each fined 2s 6d or 24 hours in jail.

Below – 13/11/1908 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Fire at Barbauchlaw Brickworks.

20/11/1908 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Barbauchlaw Brickwork which were brought to a standstill a week past last Sunday owing to fire having broken out in the engine room, have not been so long out of operation as was first expected. The pressure of business necessitated the hastening on of the necessary repairs with the result that the works were resumed on Monday.

08/01/1909 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Our County in 1908 … The foundries and brickworks are not so busy as usual and could do with a great deal more work. Messrs Robert Muir & Co-owners of Armadale, Barbauchlaw and Boghead brickworks having been at law with the United Collieries Company regarding their lease of South Broadrigg Brickworks had their case settled in their favour in the House of Lords early in the year and resumed operations at the works on the 4th July.

11/06/1909 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Barbauchlaw Brickwork owned by Robert Muir & Co in dispute with the council regarding their share of the cost in re-laying a drain.

24/09/1909 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – New Management at Muirs Brickworks – Hugh Goldie, who has managed the brickworks and coalmine of Messrs Robert Muir and Ltd., for the past three years, having accepted an engagement of similar nature Bonnybridge, left on Wednesday of last week. In order to fill the vacant position. Messrs Muir and  Co., who own Armadale. Barbauchlaw and Boghead Brick and Pipe Works, and Barbauchlaw Coal Mine have had to engage a manager for the brick and pipe works, and also a manager for the mine. Mr James Gillespie,  late of Turner and Co., Portobello, took up the duties of managing the brick and pipework on Tuesday, and Mr Heaps, from Blackbraes, a young certificated mine manager, has taken over the management of the mine.

10/12/1909 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – As an outcome of the lawsuit over the injury to a horse at the East Main Street level crossing, Messrs Robert Muir & Co, the proprietors of Barbauchlaw Brickworks are to be asked to lay the crossing with double flanged rails by order of the town council.

Owing to the weather which prevents building, the red bricks at Messrs Muir’s Armadale Brickworks has so accumulated as to have caused them to suspend the making of more bricks at that works meantime, but nearly all the hands are being accommodated at Boghead and Barbauchlaw Works.

06/05/1910 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Barbauchlaw Brickwork owned by Robert Muir & Co were accused by the Council of allowing site rubbish to choke a marches drain. They stated they would rectify the problem.

Below – 02/06/1911 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Barbauchlaw Brickwork – Man fined for cruelty after throwing a whippet down a mine shaft.

04/08/1911 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Mr Robert Heaps, manager of Robert Muir and Co.’s coal mine at their Barbauchlaw Brick and Can Works has resigned and leaves tomorrow to fill a more important position. His successor will be William Shields, who at present holds the position as oversman at Northrigg Colliery at the United Companies service. He commences his new duties on Monday. At Boghead Brickworks, owned by Messrs R. Muir. Ltd., Mr James McColl of Half-Way House, Cambuslang has been appointed manager and commences his duties on Monday.

11/11/1911 – West Lothian Courier – On Friday evening in the Crown Hotel, Armadale. Mr Robert Heeps, late. manager of Barbauchlaw Colliery, owned by Messrs R. Muir and Co., was the guest of his former workmen on the occasion of his leaving the district. There was a large company present, presided over by Mr Adam McLean who delivered a short introductory address. After refreshment, Mr George Paddle on behalf of the workmen at Barbauchlaw Colliery and friends presented Mr Heaps with a writing desk of mahogany and a handsome travelling portmanteau. In doing so he referred to the splendid manner in which, during his two years as manager, Mr Heeps had conducted matters at the Colliery. While ever active in seeing that the firm of Messrs Muir and Co had their proper due. He also saw that the men were fairly treated and no one who ever approached him with a fair and square proposal or a fair grievance but had his plea granted. He could truly say that during his regime he had earned the respect of all the men and that they were deeply sorry that he had seen fit to leave them. He voiced the feeling of all present when he wished for Mr Heeps every success in whatever position he may in the future be called upon to fill. (Applause.) Mr Heeps said that the presentation that night had been very unexpected. He had often felt that the men appreciated him in his dealings with them, but not till that night had he really thought that the bond of sympathy had been so strong. During his service as manager with Messrs Muir and Co., he had tried to deal even-handed justice all round and it was very pleasing to him to know that night, that his work had not been wholly unfruitful. As they were aware, be had resigned his position and had not quite decided on his future movements, but he had no doubt that he would soon be in harness again. He thanked all who had contributed to the handsome gift. which had been given to him that night from the bottom of his heart. (Applause.) During the evening songs were sung by Messrs Wm Nagle, Henry Burnett sen,  John McLurg, H. Burnett, jun, and John Strang, while recitations were given by John Walker, John Beattie and John Brown. The according of votes of thanks and the singing of Auld Lang Syne concluded a very pleasant gathering.

29/11/1911 – Falkirk Herald – In the Burgh Armadale – Linlithgow and Falkirk District electric lighting. Railways: The following level crossings:- Mineral lines to Hopetoun Colliery and Armadale Brickworks (North British Railway) crossing Hardhill Road at Bathviile Mineral Line Armadale Colliery (North British Railway) crossing South Street Mineral Line to Barbauchlaw Brickworks (Robert Muir and Company Limited Armadale) crossing East Main Street.

Below – 1913 – Barbauchlaw Fire Clay Works.

05/12/1913 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Assessment appeals – Mr John Wilson appeared in the interest of Robert Muir & Co, Barbauchlaw Brickworks against being assessed on the full £119 0s 6d instead of one forth. Provost Smith after a short discussion of the case promised Mr Wilson that the case would receive their attention and that the company would be advised of their finding.

26/12/1913 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Article on an employee of the Atlas Foundry being run over by …”What is known as Bathgate 8.30 am pilot engine was returning from Barbauchlaw Brickworks (situated at the East end of Armadale) to join the main branch line with six loaded waggons and a brake van in front …

16/04/1915 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Thomas Birbeck died 14/04/1915. He arrived in Armadale about 13 years ago and was employed as a brick burner for Robert Muir & Co Ltd.

28/07/1916 – Fatality at brickworks. Emma Cadbury (15), daughter of Mr and Mrs John Cadbury, 63 East Main Street met with a fatal accident at Barbauchlaw Brickworks at noon yesterday( Thursday). It appears that the girl had been engaged in feeding what is known as the pan mill for the grinding of the clay when she is thought to have overbalanced herself and fallen into the pan. She was severely crushed and although promptly rescued, death ensued almost immediately thereafter.

Below – 02/02/1917 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Robert Muir & Co, Barbauchlaw Brickwork appeal to the war office regarding a brick kiln burner – Frank O’Neil.

Below – 14/06/1918 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Hearing regarding compensation claim from James Roberts who lost an eye while working at Barbauchlaw Brickworks.


25/05/1920 – Edinburgh Evening News – At  Barbauchlaw Brickworks, Armadale owned by Robert Muir & Co, yesterday afternoon, John Kerr, junior who was engaged watching a sieve machine was caught by the driveshaft and killed. The deceased was a son of the manager and was about 15 years of age.

18/03/1921 – West Lothian Courier – R Muirs and Coy’s new brickworks manager. On Friday last Mr Daniel Watson, who succeeds Mr Gillespie as brickworks manager with Messrs R Muir and Coy, Armadale commenced his studies. Mr Watson is a native of Cleland and figuratively speaking, may be said to have been born into the business. His father was in the same line and it is very interesting to note, was the first manager of the Etna Brickworks, then owned by Mr James Wood of Wallhouse and which are now owned by United Collieries Ltd. His uncle too, is in the same business and he, it is also noteworthy to state, was for a period, manager at Mr King’s Possil Brickwork, Glasgow. Mr Watson entered the brickworks at the early age of 12 years and while yet in his teens was appointed manager of Cambuslang Brickworks. From here he went as the manager to the Linwood Brick Manufacturing Company, Paisley and it is from Paisley that he comes to take over his Armadale managership. Just a little over 40, he looks the ideal manager, and his, very obviously, a great liking for and interest in the work which he has followed now for fully 30 years.

1923 – 1924 – R Muir & Co, Brickmakers, Armadale.

Below – 27/02/1925 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Daniel Watson, brickworks manager at Barbauchlaw was assaulted by Henry Peddie.

03/12/1926 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Court appearances regarding the theft of coal from Barbauchlaw Brickworks. Reference to the following employees as witnesses:- John Kerr, brickwork foreman, Daniel Watson, brickwork manager and James Smith, brick moulder.

16/08/1930 – The Scotsman – Fireclay works and building brickworks. Offers are invited for the old established business of Robert Muir & Co, Ltd, Armadale, West Lothian as previously advertised. These works can be purchased together or separately and may be seen on application to H. Ramage, C.A, 21 Rutland Square, Edinburgh or Mr R. W Russel at the works. (Note – SBH – I believe these entries relate to the Barbauchlaw Brickworks as opposed to the Armadale Brickworks).

07/11/1930 – West Lothian Advertiser – We understand that the old firm of R. Muir and Coy., Ltd., with a coal mine and several brickworks in Armadale, and which recently went into voluntary liquidation, will cease to exist as from Saturday. The coal mine and brickwork at Barbauchlaw will be taken over on Monday by a new company but, for trade purposes, it is understood the old name will be retained. As a result of the change, two old brickworks will cease to function. It is understood that at Barhauchlaw, new machinery will be introduced and that, following this, employment will be given to all workers formerly engaged at all three brickworks.

06/12/1930 – The Scotsman – To contractors and builders – job lots of fireclay, pipes, connections, bends, branches, inspection pipes, traps, grease boxes, joist shields and chimney cans, also 2½” fire bricks, boiler seating blocks, flue covers, etc Special prices to close liquidation. Apply R Muir & Co, Ltd, Armadale.

13/12/1930 – Dundee Courier – New Company – Robert Muir & Co (1930) Barbauchlaw Brickworks, Armadale to acquire the goodwill of the business of brick and tile manufacturers and coal masters now carried on by Robert Muir & Co Ltd (In liquidation) at Barbauchlaw Brickworks. Capital £4000 in £1 shares.

17/04/1931 –  Linlithgowshire Gazette – Robert Muir & Co, Barbauchlaw Brickwork are given permission to build new offices on site.

02/12/1931 – Falkirk Herald – Promising Revival in Brickmaking and Hosiery. A promising revival in certain industries in West Lothian is reported notably to the manufacture of bricks and hosiery.  One of the busiest places in the country at the moment is the Etna Brick Works, at Armadale, belonging to the United Collieries Ltd.  An official stated that there had been a sudden revival of trade, and they were supplying the demand as it occurred.  A few weeks ago the daily output of bricks from the works was 25,000, and the last week the figure was almost 55,000.  Not only has the spurt to the industry been responsible for the employment of additional men, but it has also been found necessary to put on a night shift.  A large number of the bricks have been sent to Glasgow for housing achievement.  This output of bricks is regarded as a really high for a brickwork in the provisional housing schemes in progress in West Lothian are being supplied.  The prospect of the brick trade are promising.  At the company’s other brickworks at Bathville, the employees are also busy.

Another brickworks at Barbauchlaw, Armadale, belonging to Robert Muir & Co (1930). Ltd., have also doubled their output and business has been much better during the past five weeks.  They chiefly export bricks to Canada, South Africa, and India.  The employees are working extra time, ad the output has been greatly facilitated by the installation of a new plant.  There has been a large demand fro bricks from the East of Scotland.  These works are associated with a concern in Fife, which is also working for steam ahead.
The prospects in the hosiery trades are higher than ever.  Mr James Livingstone, the chairman of the West Lothian Hosiery Factory, Ltd., stated that fancy hosiery manufacturing was very busy, and f the manufacturers of this particular brand of hose were successful in their efforts for the tariff the result would be advantageous and the factories in the county would be going full steam ahead.  he stated that although Bathgate and Bo’ness hosieries orders were being executed for German clients, and there was plenty of work in hand for the next three or four months.  Within a recent week, the boom had been so satisfactory that 120 extra hands had been taken on at Bathgate and 40 at Bo’ness.
So long as the staple industries such as shipbuilding, engineering and electrical manufacturing are suffering from depression, the steel and iron foundries in West Lothian will be affected.  According to Mr James Watt, of the Atlas Steel, Armadale, it was very difficult to make a prediction regarding the future of the industry in the County.  About a month ago there was a spurt in business, but at the end of last week a lull occurred, but it was coming away this week.  It was much better at the moment than it had been, and all that was required was a new confidence.  the iron trade, he said, had been badly hit.  On enquiry at the works of Messrs George Wolfe & Sons, Ltd., shovel manufacturers it was reported that there had been an improvement in business since the General Election.  Their chief manufactures were shovels and rolled steel. They have six employees, and the policy of the firm has been to keep the works going full time.

Below – 1938 – Barbauchlaw Fire Clay Works.

Below – 09/05/1941 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Robert Muir & Co, Barbauchlaw Brickwork fined for allowing a light to shine from their engine winding house.

1942 – 1943 – R Muir and Co Ltd, brick and tile makers, Commercial Bank Buildings, Bathgate.

Below – 1944 – 1967 – Barbauchlaw Fire Clay Works.

1947 – Barbauchlaw Brickworks, West Lothian – It passed to the National Coal Board in 1947 and the colliery closed in 1952. In its last 2 years, the works were owned by the Scottish Brick Corporation.

05/12/1947 – West Lothian Courier – About 200 workers employed in two brickworks in Armadale were involved in an unofficial strike that took place on Wednesday. The works affected are Etna Brickworks, owned by the United Collieries Ltd., and Barbauchlaw Brickworks owned by Rose Ltd. It is stated that the workers are claiming an increase of £1 per week and a five-day working week. At a meeting of the strikers held yesterday, it was decided to resume work this morning (Friday). Negotiations with the employers will continue.

(Note – SBH – I believe that ‘Rose Limited’ may refer to Donald Rose who used to operate the Aberhill/Methil Brickworks in Fife – A reference in a 1933 article concerning his death states “He also acquired the Armadale Brick Company with which is associated a coal mine and fireclay works”).

08/02/1963 – West Lothian Courier – National Coal Board. Central Area review. 1962 – The Central Area was formed at the beginning of the year by amalgamating the Central East and Central West areas … Brickworks – There are six brickworks operating in this area, namely Barbauchlaw, Blantyreferme, Gartshore and Gateside, Newton and Northfield. Some 54 1/2 million bricks were produced during the year. These works now come under the Brickworks Executive. which was formed earlier this year …

1961 – 1962 – A directory of British clay products and manufacturers – (See NCB Scottish Division, Central East and West area). Common bricks.

1969? – The works were taken over by the Scottish Brick Company.

c. 1970 – The following are believed to have worked at the brickworks. Mr Morton – manager. Wullie Williamson – engineer. Jock Smart and Harry Wilson – machine men. Wullie Dillet – tractor driver. Bobby Toner – “pan man” ie fed the crusher. (He also salvaged about a pail of coal from the clay every day.) Jimmy Reekie, Jim Gallagher, George Spalding and George Maxwell – general workers.

c. 1973 – The works closed? (This date is in conflict with the ‘Survey of Scottish Brickmarks’ publication which suggests they closed c. 1982).

02/1982 – Canmore reference to machinery possibly being bought from Bradley and Craven.

Below – The Scottish Brick Co Ltd sign at Barbauchlaw Brickworks. Many thanks to John Davidson for the photograph.

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