Roughcastle Fireclay Mine, Bonnybridge, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Roughcastle Fireclay Mine, Bonnybridge, Falkirk, Stirlingshire.

See also the Roughcastle Fireclay Works, Bonnybridge, Falkirk, Stirlingshire.

Company names: Campbell & Co.; Dougall & Sons

Dyson Refractories: J. & R. Howie

Site names(S): Roughcastle Fireclay works

Address: Roughcastle Fireclay Works, Bonnybridge

Established: 1889

Ceased: 1964

Founder: J.Campbell

Company history: – The site opened as a coal mine in 1889 under the ownership of James Campbell. In 1892 Campbell & Company began making bricks and two years later. A. Towers, (See under Grahamston Brickworks) became a principal partner in the firm. In 1927 Campbell allowed the other partners to buy him out and by 1947 the firm was a limited company. In 1965 the brickworks were sold to Dougall & Son, ostensibly as a result of the latter’s interest in the high-quality fireclay that was available from the Roughcastle Fireclay Mine which was attached to the brickworks. There is, however, a story of a disagreement between Dougalls and Campbells over water rights. Initially, neither firm was interested in the stream that crossed their lands, but once steam engines came into use, both wanted the rights to the stream.

Today the site is owned by Dyson Refractories, although bricks have not been produced there since 1964. Mining activities continued until 1980, the clay being used to supply their works at Bonnyside.

Transport facilities: – The works had their own railway siding which adjoined the main Edinburgh/Glasgow line. Lorries eventually took over from the waggons used for local transport. In the actual works, barrows were used prior to the introduction of forklift trucks.

Markets: – Exported to Canada (St. Lawrence and Newfoundland), Burma (500 tons a month for use in the rice fields), Scandanavia and Mauritius.

Labour conditions: – When the works were first opened a considerable proportion of women were employed, but over the years their number declined. Prior to the establishment of the National Health Service, each worker had contributed 2d to the company doctor. At this time the works also lacked a union and a pension and sickness scheme. However, prior to the work’s closure, most employees belonged either to the Amalgamated Union of Engineers or the Trades and General Workers Union. Before the Second World War the average employee was paid 11 ½ d per hour, and in a 48 hour week made approximately £2. 11s. 0d. The pay varied little according to skill, and most of the workforce was semi-skilled.

Some housing was provided, for example, for the foreman, but this was not a general policy.

No training or apprentice scheme existed, and the works employed a team specifically for essential maintenance.

Raw materials: – Fireclay was mined at the company’s own mine situated on the opposite side of the main Edinburgh – Glasgow railway line. Three types of clay were mined at Roughcastle: Glenfuir, Low Stone and Slanty. The latter is one of the most expensive forms of clay found in Europe. The mine is one of the oldest in the area, but the present seams were opened in approximately 1935. The clay was obtained by the “stoop and room” method, partly because the firm was obliged to limit its extraction rate. Today, however, working has ceased. (See Roughcastle Fireclay Mine).

Processes: – The works started out with one bee-hive kiln (down-draught and coal-fired) and all brickmaking was done by hand. The huge demand for railway bricks prior to the First World War resulted in the six hand moulders already employed being supplemented by a moulding machine. During the depression of the 1930s two more Belgian kilns (oil-fired) were installed, and the works became capable of producing 1500 tons of bricks per month. By 1965 the works had acquired three more kilns, three pan mills and a plastic machine.

Products and trade names: – Refractory bricks only.


Founder James Campbell.

The mine is one of the oldest in the area and although the present excavations were begun in the 1930s, older workings date back much earlier. Both coal and clay were mined on the site, which extends over an area of 120 acres. The mine was originally opened to supply clay to the Roughcastle Fireclay Works and was usually under the same ownership as the brickworks. Before its closure in the summer of 1981 the mine was owned by Dyson Refractories and supplied their Bonnyside works.

The mine was approximately 100 feet deep. It was worked on the Stoop and Room method, largely because the firm was legally bound to extract only 40% of the clay available. Coal was also worked in 9 to 10-inch seams. The mine was not pumped as water drained naturally into an old shaft. Clay and coal were mined manually. The clay was removed by haulage and the coal was winched to the surface. The roof of the mine was sandstone and therefore required very little support.

Output per day in 1979 – coal – 20 tons and clay – 95 tons.

Since the mine was not automated, most of the men employed in it when it closed were over 50 years old – younger men did not have the skills required. In 1979 the labour force consisted of

1 Pithead man, 4 Miners, 2 Underground workers, 1 Developer, 2 Labourers, 1 Engineer, 1 Electrical Engineer and 1 Deputy Shot Fixer.

Tests were taken every day for gas. The level in the mine was normally 1 – 2% but if it rose to 14 – 15% there was a high risk of explosion. The mine was self-ventilating and therefore no pumps were needed to pump the air through.

3 types of clay were mined at Roughcastle. Glenfiur, Low Stone and Slanty. The latter is one of the most expensive forms of clay found in Europe. (This is slightly different information from the first part of this post) –  Source Falkirk Archives.

1896 – Roughcastle Mine – Campbell & Co, Falkirk. T. W. Howie Manager – employ 6 men underground, 2 over.

1908 – Roughcastle Mine – Campbell & Co, Roughcastle,  Falkirk. T. W. Howie Manager – employ 12 men underground, 1 over.

16/07/1913 – Falkirk Herald – Breach of mines regulations. Two miners, residing in Camelon. appeared before Sheriff Moffatt in the Falkirk Sheriff Court on Monday, charged with having, on 28th June. in the fireclay mine Roughcastle, Falkirk parish, occupied by Campbell and Co., brick manufacturers, before the lapse of ten minutes, approached a shot-hole at which a shot prepared them, and for the firing of which they had lighted a squib, had missed fire. Both pleaded guilty. From the accused’s statements it appeared that they had lighted a squib, but it did not go off. The longest squib took to fire was 35 seconds, and they waited for over five minutes which they thought long enough. The shot, however, appears to have taken effect after that time, and both men were hurt, being compelled to remain off work for eight days. The Fiscal said these men’s employers gave them a very good character. The Sheriff said that seeing both accused suffered personally for their breach of the regulations, it would be unnecessary to do anything further. It could not be too well known, however, that these regulations were very carefully considered before they were issued by the Government Departments concerned, and they were enacted for the safety the workers. Both men were dismissed.

1918 – Roughcastle Mine – Campbell & Co, Roughcastle,  Falkirk. William Durney Manager – employ 21 men underground, 3 over.

06/05/1920 – Dalkeith Advertiser – The many friends in this district of Mr Andrew Wilson, formerly of Woodend Cottage, Arniston, will be gratified to learn that he has been appointed manager of Messrs Campbell & Co., Roughcastle Fireclay Works, Falkirk, and that previous to taking up his new appointment he has been made the recipient of a testimonial in the form of a valuable gold watch from the employees of Sanquhar and Kirkconnel Coal Company. Previous to going to take up the position of an underground manager (Fireclay mine?) with the west country firm, Mr Wilson was for over 25 years an esteemed employee of the Arniston Coal Company.

21/05/ 1930 – Falkirk Herald – Fire Clay Pit Fatality – While, at work in the Roughcastle Fireclay Mine, Camelon, Falkirk, a clay miner named George Neilson (31), residing at Lock 10, Camelon, was killed as the result of being caught under a fall of- material from the roof. The deceased was loading a hutch with clay when there was a fall of material, and Neilson was completely covered by debris weighing about 30 cwt. He survived only a few minutes. [Scotsman 12 April 1930].

29/01/1938 – Falkirk Herald – Wanted Fireclay miners or brushers. Good wages to suitable men. Apply Manager, Roughcastle Mine, Falkirk.

1945 – Roughcastle Mine No 2 – Campbell & Co, Roughcastle,  Falkirk. Alex Scobie Manager – employ 9 men underground, 2 over.

11/05/1946 – Falkirk Herald – Fireclay miners wanted; good wages. Apply Manager, Roughcastle Fireclay Mine. Camelon.

24/08/1946 – Falkirk Herald – Haulage engine and pitheadman wanted. Apply Manager, Roughcastle Fireclay Mine, Camelon.

19/10/1946 – Falkirk Herald – Fireclay Miners wanted. Good wages. Apply Mine Manager, Roughcastle Mine, Camelon.

22/02/1947 – Falkirk Herald – Fireclay miners and drawers wanted. Good wages. Apply Manager, Roughcastle, Camelon, Falkirk.

24/04/1948 – Falkirk Herald – Fireclay miners and drawers wanted by Campbell & Co, Roughcastle Fire Brick Works, near Camelon. Good ton rate wages. Apply to the manager.





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