Scottish Oils Limited Brick and Tile Works, Pumpherston, West Lothian

Scottish Oils Limited Brick and Tile Works, Pumpherston, West Lothian and Dalmeny Brick Works. (Note – SBH – I cannot find the Dalmenny Brick Works on any map)

07/02/1936 – Linlithgowshire  Gazette – While on the subject employment, it is interesting to note that this industry has played its part in easing the unemployment problem during recent years, and at least 1000 workers are engaged by Scottish Oils (Ltd.) under what is known as the spread-over scheme. In accordance with this plan, instead of employing a small number of men continuously, the workers under the scheme, 1000 in number, are given three weeks work each month. In addition, the development of new industries associated with the oil business has been able to absorb further labour. An interesting example of that is the manufacture of bricks side-line, which has been taken up recent months by Scottish Oils (Ltd.). It is well known that the quantity of oil extracted from the shale is only a comparatively small fraction of the material mined, a fact which is shown by the existence of the numerous spent shale bings. Until recently this spent shale was a waste material, but after lengthy research it was discovered that this waste had excellent adhesive qualities, and that high standard bricks could produced from it. The company are now manufacturing thousands of these bricks every day for buildings of all types, and when put to the test has been found that the bricks have a crushing strength twice as great as the common brick. This is only one of a number of developments, as other spent shale products are in view.

Below – 13/11/1937 – The Scotsman – Brickworks to be established at Dalmeny.

29/01/1938 – The Scotsman – Huge shale bings in the Dalmeny and Broxburn districts, it is predicted, will shortly be utilised for the manufacture of bricks which are in great demand for housing schemes throughout Scotland. A large new factory to manufacture bricks from shale has just begun production after months of experimental work at Dalmeny, and it is estimated that the factory will soon be able to make 8000 bricks daily from the refuse shale.  The factory is situated alongside a bing formerly belonging to Scottish Oils. Ltd.
The basic material for the bricks is scooped from the bing by an electrical grab, and after various processes off sifting and grinding, the rough brick is formed.  Later it is dried and hardened.  The new brick from shale product is of a dark red colour.

29/01/1938 – Dundee Courier – Dundee firms new enterprise – Unsightly shale bings of West Lothian are being converted into bricks for house-building by a Dundee firm, Albert Thain,  Ltd.,  joiners and builders, 76 High Street.  The district where this operation is taking place is that of Dalmeny and Broxburn.  and a factory is now producing bricks at the rate of several thousands a week.  Production is expected to increase in the near future. A few thousands are brought to Dundee each week for Messrs Thain’s own use.  Material for the bricks is scooped from the bing by an electrical grab, and after various processes of sifting and grinding the rough brick is formed, dried and hardened.  It is of a red colour.  This manufacturing enterprise is the result of months of experimental work.

Below – 1939 –  Rankin Industries Ltd, SOL or S.O.L Brick Supplier, 175 West George Street, Glasgow.

Rankin Industries scottish oils SOL bricks

1940 -1941 – Scottish Oils Ltd, 23 Bothwell Street, Glasgow.  SOL bricks made from spent shale for ordinary building purposes. Selling agents Rankin Industries ltd. 175 West George Street, Blasgow. Telegram – Bricks, Glasgow

25/05/1945 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Some of the causes of delay in house building were revealed at the meeting of the County Council Housing Committee on Tuesday. There it was stated that houses at Winchburgh are being held up because of a shortage of bricks. The convener stated that there were a million and a half bricks at Pumpherston, but under present rules these cannot be used for Winchburgh as the Ministry specify that brick from Edinburgh must be used. Accordingly the houses at Winchburgh must wait and the bricks at Pumpherston must lie idle. We have heard complaints that the Pumpherston bricks are oily and so are not favoured by builders, but Bridgend Village is built of them so one assumes there cannot be much wrong. In any case in times like these one would think that bricks from anywhere would be welcome. The saving in cost of transport by using local bricks should also amount to something worth considering. If bricklayers can be induced to lay 800 bricks per day as was demonstrated to be possible last week then the gap between an economic rent and the cost of the house would be further reduced. This apparently stupid action on behalf of the Ministry is fairly typical of a good deal of Government control. Yet people cry out for more of it. Its a case of a fine theory not working out in practice.

C. 1950 – Miniature shale composition brick embossed “SOL” made at Scottish Oils Ltd brickworks at Pumpherston as a trade sample or promotional item. Source – Museum of the Scottish Shale Oil Industry.

May 1962 – Shale Mines Close –  Brickworks Continue. The oil shale mining industry in the Lothians source of valuable brickmaking materials now being used extensively in this area will close down in the very near future.  But brickmaking will be continued.  This was announced by Mr. John Caldwell, managing. Director of Scottish Oils Ltd.. On April 3.  The industry is 106 years old and was the basis of a major growth of scientific and industrial development in the central Scotland area in the 1850’s.  It employed 12,000 men at peak growth in 1914 but has been declining since under the impact of high costs.  The Government allowed a preference on the home produced oils, but this brought in less than £500,000 in a year.  Now the Government has indicated that this preference will be withdrawn by 1964 at the latest and will not be replaced by subsidy.  To anticipate the inevitable decline and close down the company is now releasing about 1,000 workers, closing the main oil shale pits and mines and various allied works. But the Pumpherston refinery will continue to refine crude oil from the Nottingham oilfield and certain other activities will be maintained for the person at least.  Among these is the manufacture of bricks.  These have been made for many years in this area using the spent shale as a source of raw material combining the virtues of this waste, often reclaimed from the older brings, to good advantage.  In their statement on the development Scottish Oils say that the continuing  activities will employ some 450 out of the 1,750 still remaining. Clay Worker Magazine.

July 1970 – Pumpherston J. W. Midlothian Scottish Oils Ltd. Last surviving brickmaking links to the great days of the  shale oil firms.  50 men opened the works in 1933 to utilise waste material produced by the shale oil industry which at one time was a major industry.

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