South Broadrigg Brickworks, Blackridge, West Lothian.

28/05/1898 – West Lothian Courier – With the transfer of the Southrigg Colliery to the firm of John Nimmo & Sons, Limited, which took place on the Whitsunday term day (16th inst.), an important step has been taken in the development of the extensive coalfield which extends from West Craigs southwards through the eastmost part of the Parish of Shotts, entering again the county of Linlithgow at Polkemmet, and thence to Fauldhouse. This large field contains all the Bathgate seams of coal, practically untouched, and with the exception of the portion being wrought from Westrigg pit he James Wood Limited the entire field is now in the hands of John Nimmo & Suns, Ltd. That it is in good hands may be seen by the developments that have already taken place at the several works, which fully bear out the high reputation that has been held by the firm for more than a generation. The originator of the firm was Mr John Nimmo, who acted pit manager to the Kinneil Iron Company at Bo’ness, fifty years ago, when that company was at its best. About 45 years ago Mr Nimmo started as a coalmaster on his own account at Slamannan and succeeded in developing the rich resources of that valuable field, which is still being wrought by the company. Extending their operations his firm opened pits in Fifeshire, near Dunfermline, and eight years ago started the South Broadrigg pit near West Craigs, which has formed the starting point of the present undertaking. Twelve months ago a limited company was formed to take over the concern and though the nominal capital was £150,000 only half of that amount was asked from the public in five per cent preference shares, the members of the original firm and their friends taking up the ordinary shares. The director’s board is mainly constituted from the sons of the late Mr Nimmo who have aided him in the development of their various undertakings, the Chairman being Mr Jas. Nimmo, who also ably fills the important position of Managing Director. They are assisted in the directorate by another well-known Bo’ness man, Mr James Allan, of Craigallan, and the company now enjoys the position of being one of the leading coal exporting firms in Scotland. They include among their clients the Anchor, Allan and Clan lines of steamships, and on the occasion of the recent visit of the German fleet to the Clyde they had the substantial honour of coaling the fleet from their pits. The company have a total of some 1350 waggons of six to eight ton capacity, and it may well be understood that it takes a considerable turnover to keep employed the capital invested in that item alone.

In floating the company Messrs Nimmo had in view the working of their undertakings on the broad and comprehensive scale so necessary for success under modern requirements. Accordingly, a lease was obtained from the Coltness Iron Company of part of their minerals south of the Craigs at Westcraigs; the Broadrigg field was got off Mr Readman, Mr Graham’s undertaking at Southrigg is held off Colonel Craigie-Harkett; the Polkemmet minerals from Sir Wm. Baillie; and the Braehead minerals at Fauldhouse from Dr Clark’s Trustees, and others. These several engagements entered upon and all arrangements satisfactorily completed the development of the resources of the various seams is now claiming the attention of the management, and it is being done in a way that promises to result not only in profit to the Company but in considerable benefit to the whole district in which its operations are carried on. The Company have already two pits in operation at Fauldhouse, giving satisfactory results. Sinking operations are taking place at Polkemmet and a depth of 15 fathoms has been reached, the coal lying at 45. The workings are about a quarter of a mile from the village of Harthill, so that hones accommodation is conveniently near at hand. The Southrigg minerals lie between Polkemmet and the works at West Craigs, and the wisdom of the directorate in acquiring them is apparent, because not only will the seams be wrought continuously without interruption, and therefore economically, but the Southrigg Colliery was furnished with a railway which can be extended to connect the several works and will save the Company the cost of laying down at least a couple of miles of new railway. All that is wanted in the way of transport now is a more direct line to a shipping port like Bo’ness to which the coal might be run on the shortest notice for shipping purposes. Why coals coming from say the Broadrigg Colliery should have to be taken to Polkemmet junction thence shunted and taken to Bathgate where the traffic is already sufficiently congested, then run back by Blackston down to Bo’ness is a problem we leave the N.B.R to solve. It cannot be profitable either to the railway company or the traders concerned to have so much mineral doing so much mileage to accomplish such a short journey, not to speak of delays at junctions and the resulting irritation and drawbacks to trade. There has been some talk of extending the branch line running to Woodend Colliery through by Westfield to join the Monkland line about that point which would shorten the route considerably and might solve the difficulty for some considerable time, and if the N.B. Coy. are wise they will do something of this kind without delay. A large undertaking like that of the Nimmos Coy is bound to find a proper outlet in keeping with its development, and a little enterprise where it is evidently much required may prove a case of the early bird with the early worm.

The works at West Craigs, where quite a new village has arisen as a result of the Company’s operation, naturally attract most attention from the public. We learn that here the mineral field extends to something like 1900 acres, and the coal is being got at 56 and 65 fathoms respectively. The seams are a good workable thickness, the main coal being 3 ft. 9 in. to 4 ft., and lying well. At present, about 250 men are employed, but a brickwork has been erected, and as the workings develop this number will considerably increase. The appointments at the colliery are excellent. There is powerful pumping plant, with high-pressure engine and condenser, and separate winding engines for the two shafts, which are worked as two separate pits with the usual underground connections. There is also an installation of the electric light, which lights up not only the pithead offices but underground workings as well. The washing machinery is also first-class and turns out the finest looking “nuts” and “beans” that could be wished for. The refuse from the washer is consumed in the boilers with forced draught so that nothing is lost; and the water used, which is got from the pits, is filtered before running into the burn. The enterprise of the directors does not stop here, and a first-class brickwork has been erected in convenient proximity to Broadrigg, which will enable the Coy. to dispose of the fireclay coming out of the pits to advantage and prevent the accumulation of “bings.” A gangway has been carried over the railway, a distance of 120 yards at a height of 63 feet, which will be used for the haulage of the clay and blaes from the pithead direct to the mills for grinding and mixing. The most improved modern machinery has been laid down by Alexander & Co. of Leeds, capable of turning out 10,000 to 12,000 bricks per diem, and this can be increased to 20,000 at little extra expense. A Hoffman kiln of 16 chambers has been erected; it is now being dried, and the work is expected to start in a fortnight.

A good deal of interest is being taken in the houses of which over 60 have been erected or are in process of erection near the main road. A handsome house of villa design has also been erected for Mr Maxwell, the manager, and the house formerly by Mr Graham’s manager is now available for the manager of the new brickwork. As West Lothian men, the directors are naturally interested in developing the resources of their native county. Not only so, but they are anxious to add at the sense time to the comfort and wellbeing of the people they employ, and so we find on inspecting the class of houses which are being erected that they are put up on modern principles, with conveniences to which most miners are utter strangers, and indeed superior to anything of the sort we have ever seen. One of the rows at present going up on Mr Hamilton Brown’s property is especially noteworthy. It is two storeys high, the houses fronting the road having attics, and containing four apartments, where the larger families may live is a measure of comfort. The lower storey entering from the back consists of two-roomed houses. All the homes are well finished and will be painted and papered before occupation. They are fitted with grates, and iron beds in the recesses, have ample cupboard and press accommodation and each is provided with the modern luxury of a scullery, into which the water is led from the county supply. A bleaching green and wash-house are provided for the use of the families and the ground which slopes down behind to the burn is nicely laid off, and will be sown down in grass, so that there will be nothing approaching the squalid surroundings, which are usually associated with a “colliers’ raw.” The older rows which are already occupied show that the workmen have entered into the spirit of their employers. The houses look clean, tidy, and comfortable; the flower plots are cultivated and well taken care of and there is some talk of a flower show being started in the village, which proves that the elevating effect of pleasing associations are beginning to be felt. The efforts of the directors are highly praiseworthy and the benefit will no doubt be mutual and reciprocative. A better steadier class of men will be got to settle in the district and the work will go smoother and with greater profit alike to master and man.

June 1899 – The British Clay Worker – A young woman employed as a brickmaker by John Nimmo & Sons, Armadale, Scotland was admitted to the Royal Infirmary suffering from severe general injuries, received through the fall upon her of a brick wall in a kiln while following her employment. She lies in a serious condition.

23/09/1899 – Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser –  Serious accident – At South Broadrigg Brickwork, Blackridge, on Thursday afternoon, Hugh Maxwell, about 22, while in the act of oiling the teethed wheels of the brickmaking machine, got caught by the clothes and dragged in such a way as to sustain severe injuries about the lower part of the body. Dr Anderson found Maxwell in a critical state, no hope being entertained for his recovery. He is the son of Mr James Maxwell, general manager to the company.

26/07/1901 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Chimney stalk struck by lightning. On Saturday evening about seven o’clock, just when the thunderstorm was at its height, a chimney stalk, belonging to Messrs John Nimmo & Sons, Westrig, and tenanted by Messrs Robert Muir & Co., brickmakers, Armadale, was struck by lightning, which started at the top and stripped the bricks on one side right down to the bottom, a distance of 120 feet, causing considerable damage. The steeplejack says that it is the most curious thing of the kind he has ever seen, and he has had a photograph taken.

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 – 17/01/1906 – Hamilton Herald – United Collieries to pay damages to Robert Muir, South Broadrigg Brickworks

Below – 17/01/1908 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – United Collieries to pay damages to Robert Muir, South Broadrigg Brickworks.



Below – 22/05/1908 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Theft of brass bushes from South Broadrigg Brick Works which had been closed for some time.

10/07/1908 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – After a long drawn out lawsuit that ended in the House of Lords between United Collieries Company and Messrs Robert Muir and Company Limited, brickmakers, over the terms of the original agreement between Messrs Nimmo, the original owners of South Broadrigg Brickworks and Messrs Muir, in which Messrs Muir won, the works were restarted on Monday.

Below – 18/09/1908 – Linlithgowshire Gazette –  Machinery damaged by a man who had been dismissed from the South Broadrigg Brickworks.

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 brick works 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.

Below – 1910 – South Broadrigg Brickworks.

Below – 14/04/1911 – Compensation to a female who was injured at Broadrigg Brickworks.



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