Winchburgh Brick, Tile and Fire Clay Works, Winchburgh, West Lothian

Winchburgh Brickworks, Winchburgh, West Lothian.


1869 – Alexander Dougal  & Son, brick & fire-clay goods merchants, 19 Port Hamilton & 100 Fountain Bridge.

Below – 20/04/1872 – Falkirk Herald – Sheriff Court Linlithgow. Important decision – McAlley v Dougal.

22/02/1873 – Falkirk Herald – Brickmaker wanted, a good slab moulder, 1s per 1000. Apply at Winchburgh Brickwork.

15/05/1875 – Alloa Advertiser – Deaths – At Winchburgh Brickworks on the 8th inst, Janet H Hunter, the beloved wife of Mr John Stein, in the 40th year of her age. (Note SBH – This is the same John Stein that was a partner at the Alva brickworks in 1868 and the father of John Gilchrist Stein).

1878 – 1879 – Alex Dougal and Son, brick, tile and fire clay manufacturer, 100 Fountain Bridge, Edinburgh.

1882 – Alexander Dougal, Brick and Tile Maker, Blackness and Winchburgh.

25/07/1885 – Aberdeen Free Press – Alexander Dougal, brick and tile manufacturer – also a director of The Hermand Oil Company.

1886 – Alexander Dougal – 74 High St, Linlithgow. Works Blackness and Winchburgh.

29/10/1887 – Falkirk Herald – Winchburgh Brickworks – Labourers wanted. Apply at the works.

1889 – 1890 – Alex Dougal & Sons, brick and tile and fire clay goods manufacturers, lime and cement merchants, 100 Fountainbridge. Sole agents for Gilmour & Co, Kilmarnock, manufacturers of white and coloured enamelled bricks etc.

30/11/1889 – Falkirk Herald – Wanted an engineer (jobbing), to take charge of machinery. Apply Winchburgh Brickworks.

15/08/1891 – Falkirk Herald – Blacksmith wanted, one with some knowledge of machinery preferred; good encouragement – Winchburgh Brickworks.

Below – 22/09/1894 – Receipt – Alex Dougal & Sons, brick, tile & fire clay goods manufacturers, stone, lime and all other building materials supplied. Depot – Port Hamilton. Cement, putty, lime-harps, hand-barrows, navvy-barrows, hods &c always in stock. Sole agents for John Gilmour & Co, Kilmarnock, manufacturers of white and coloured enamelled bricks &c. Office – 100 Fountain Bridge, Edinburgh. (Many thanks to Andrew Knight for forwarding a copy of this receipt).

01/01/1898 – West Lothian Courier – William Hunter, labourer, Niddry Rows, was charged with having on the 2nd December last at Winchburgh Brickworks, occupied by Alexander Dougal, assaulted Catherine McGuire, Greendykes Row, Broxburn, and Elizabeth Brand, Niddry Rows, both brickworkers, by seizing hold of them and beating them with his fists to the injury of their persons. The accused pleaded guilty. The Sheriff said Mr Dougal had spoken to him about the accused and said he thought if he got a chance he would not do the same again. That being so he would dismiss him.

27/08/1898 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Assault in Winchburgh Brickworks. Alexander Greig Donaldson, brick works manager was charged with assaulting Catherine McGuire in the Winchburgh Brickworks, the property of Alexander Dougal and Sons, by seizing hold of her by the neck and pushing her with violence against the wall of the drying stove. His defence was that, on the morning in question, the girl refused to do any work, and kept others off their work. He simply took her by the arm and dragged her for two yards or so. The Sheriff said was aware that brickworkers could be aggravating when they liked, but nevertheless, the accused had no right to take the law into his own hands. The fine would be 30s, the alternative being sixteen days imprisonment.

14/01/1899 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Winchburgh Drainage. I received a complaint front Messrs Alex Dougal and Sons, Winchburgh Brickworks, the following effect: For some years a number of the proprietor’s houses in Winchburgh have been running their drainage into one of our fields near the High Road. As we are likely to be building there very shortly, this will now have to be stopped at once to give the ground time to dry. Not to inconvenience anyone and to give time to find other means of disposing of the drainage, we are willing that it should be carried further down the High Road, and into the extreme west corner of one field if you desire it. This, however, can only be temporary, as our tenant declines to take the field from us again unless it is stopped. Messrs Dougal have closed up the drain as it enters the field, and the roadman has opened a drain to the west side of their field, where it runs with Messrs Dougal’s permission. But the sewage has run down the side of the public road at present, and in consequence of this, I served notice on the whole of the tenants and the properties connected with this drain to cease using the drain if possible. I also wrote to the proprietors asking if they were ready to provide other means of drainage. Only one of these proprietors, however, is in a position to provide a proper outlet for the drain, while the others are content to leave the matter in the hands of the Local Authority. The only method of disposing of the sewage, in this case, is either to use it for irrigation before discharging into the Myre Burn, to carry it to the Niddry Burn. As either of these methods would entail the formation of a special drainage district, the question arises whether the whole part of the village should be included in the area to be drained. This matter is for the district to decide. The meeting, after considering the foregoing report, was of opinion that there was no call for the remarks regarding the infectious diseases referred to by the inspector. As regarded the Linlithgow Combination Poorhouse, the committee saw no occasion for interposing in the meantime as it was stated that the House Committee proposed connecting the drainage of the house with the burgh drainage so soon as that had been introduced. As to the Winchburgh drainage proposals, it was remitted to Mr Ralston and Mr Armour to inquire and report as to the most suitable method of disposing of the sewage. This was all the business.

04/06/1902 – Edinburgh Evening News – Burner for Hoffman kiln. Apply Winchburgh Brickworks.

1903 – Alexander Dougal & Sons, 74 High St  Linlithgow; works, Winchburgh S.O.

26/06/1903 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Foreman to take charge of clay hole. To thoroughly competent good man good wages will be given. Winchburgh Brickworks..

13/12/1905 – The Scotsman – Agricultural tiles, all sizes to all stations. Alex Dougal & Sons, Brick and Tile Works, Winchburgh.

28/08/1908 – Linlithgowshire Advertiser – Machinery breakdown at brickwork. The employees of the brickwork have been thrown idle for a week owing to the shaft of one of the engines breaking.

28/10/1911 – Invoice – Alexr Dougal & Sons, Winchburgh Brick Tile and Fire Clay Works, Winchburgh. Edinburgh depot – 100 Fountainbridge. Fire clay goods of every description, lime, cement, putty, barrows and all other building material kept in stock.

12/09/1913 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – The Winchburgh tragedy. Children’s bodies are found in Hopetoun Quarry. The father Patrick Higgins was charged with murdering them between 25/10/1911 and 01/01/1912. Higgins was discharged from the army on medical grounds and had found work at Winchburgh Brickworks. At one point they moved to Prestongrange to live and work ( The brickworks?) He had married and had 2 sons. His wife died and in 1911 he went to stay with her daughter.  In 1911 he was earning 24s a week at the brickworks.

07/04/1916 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – A few good boys 14 or 15 years of age wanted. Winchburgh Brickworks.

21/06/1916 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – A few boys wanted over 14 years. Winchburgh Brickworks.

13/10/1916 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Brickwork proprietors appeal. Messrs Alexander Dougal and Sons, proprietors of the Winchburgh Brickworks, appealed for the exemption of William Munn, 20 years of age and single, described as a foreman and stated to be engaged in blasting. The appellants set forth that if this workman was taken away the work would be stopped, as they could not get anyone to fill his place, as owing to the great demand for contiguous shale mines and oil works there was no labour be got. They also stated that they were engaged in Government contracts.

06/06/1923 – The Scotsman – Bricks for housing schemes – Mr Thomas Henderson (Co-op, Glasgow, Tradeston) asked the Under Secretary for Health for Scotland whether he was aware that in connection with the latest instalment of the South Queensferry housing scheme the architect to the scheme was insisting on the use of Dougals Winchburgh bricks, costing substantially more than the price at which perfectly suitable bricks made locally could be purchased which action tended to encourage the brickmakers to maintain high prices, to discourage competition amongst brickmakers to maintain high prices, to discourage competition amongst brickmakers and to hamper contractors in producing lower building costs; and what steps he proposed to take in the matter.

The Under Secretary for Health for Scotland (Capt Elliot). As the result of inquiries made through the local Authority, I am informed that the architect states that he does not insist on the use of Dougal’s Winchburgh bricks, but only that the bricks used shall conform to the specification, which required ” hard-burned” bricks. The local bricks referred to in the question are presumably those made by the British Brick Company (Ltd.) at Philipstoun. These bricks, which are made by a process new to Scotland, cannot be described as ” hard-burned”. But the Scottish Board of Health are aware that they have been used on other housing schemes, and so far with no complaints regarding them have reached the Board. In the circumstances of the present case, I do not feel warranted in interfering with the discretion of the architect, who would appear to be entitled to insist upon compliance with the terms of the specification. The Board are, however, taking steps with a view to ensuring that in future leases the terms of specifications may not be such as to exclude the use of any type of suitable brick whatever may be the process of manufacture.

18/10/1935 – West Lothian Courier – Meth drinkers sentenced. At Linlithgow Sheriff Court yesterday, three “meth” drinkers were sentenced by Sheriff Robertson to ten days imprisonment without the option of a fine. The accused were Henry Devlin, William Brannan and Margaret Devlin, all in custody and they pleaded guilty to having on October 17, within a kiln at the brickworks, Winchburgh conducted themselves in a disorderly manner and committed a breach of the peace. Brannan admitted that they had been drinking “meth”.

30/10/1936 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Winchburgh … The storm on Monday evening created great havoc in the village and neighbourhood. All the roads showed signs of the storm, and many had to be cleared for the traffic. Those buildings a direct line of the gale suffered badly and none more than the brickworks and the new mine. The gale fanned the fires at the brickworks, and a quantity of coal was burned. At the new mine, matters were considerably worse. The scaffolding which bears the hutches gave way, and this means a closing down of the mine for a day or two.

1940 – 41 – Alexander Dougal & Sons Ltd, brick, tile and fire clay goods manufacturers, lime and cement merchants, 131 Fountainbridge.

1941 – 1942 – Alexander Dougal & Sons, brick manufacturers, Winchburgh.

10/02/1942 – Edinburgh Evening News – Blacksmith wanted. House available if required. Apply Winchburgh Brickworks.

08/06/1945 – Linlithgowshire Advertiser – A letter from the Department Health stated that they understood the Area Director of Brick Production had taken action from which it was understood the Winchburgh Brickworks would soon be returning to production.

15/06/1945 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Winchburgh Brickworks In the House of Commons on 6th June Mr Mathers asked the Minister of Works why it has been stipulated that bricks for County Council houses at Winchburgh, West Lothian, must be supplied from Edinburgh when there are locally manufactured bricks available. Mr Manningham-Buller – It has not been possible to find any trace of such a stipulation being made. Apart from the express provisions of a contract, bricks may be purchased from any source within 35 miles of a building site. If the hon. Member can give me more information I will, of course, have the matter further investigated.

07/04/1950 – West Lothian Courier  – Winchburgh Brickworks to close. Winchburgh Brickworks, which have been in continuous operation for close on 100 years, are to close down this week. Notice to workers expired yesterday (Thursday) and except for a few employees retained on a care and maintenance basis, the rest of the workers will have to seek other jobs. The establishment was owned and operated by Wm Dougal & Sons until about two years ago when it was acquired by the Edinburgh firm of Jas. Millar & Sons, Building Contractors. The Winchburgh brick, made from the blue clay found in large deposits in Winchburgh area, enjoyed a first-class reputation in the building trade. Intensely hard and durable, it was much in demand for engineering constructional jobs and for all buildings where permanency and hard wear were essential. Production costs, however, have been high. The clay is not in itself combustible and in the baking of the bricks, a lot of coal has to be burned. Bricks made from colliery clay contain a percentage of coal which helps to keep down the fuel costs. Whether or not the Winchburgh works will ever open up again will depend upon the state of the market and the demand for high-class bricks. The number of employees affected by the dose down is 50.

25/04/1952 – West Lothian Courier – When I was a boy (writes our local reporter) and the local brickworks were operated by Messrs William Dougal and Sons one of the sights was to stand in the Station Road and watch the clayhole, where the raw material for the bricks was obtained, operating. By an ingenious system of slopes and slides, plates, etc., the bogeys were brought to the scene of operations unattended and, just as miraculously, were sent back to the haulage loaded, still unattended. Heath Robinson might have got material for one of his humorous drawings out of it. How different it all is now. The brickworks have been taken over by the well-known building firm of James Miller and Partners, Edinburgh, and the clayhole and works are rapidly being modernised. Bulldozers and mechanical shovels operate in the clayhole and the clay is conveyed to the brick making machines not in four-wheeled bogeys but in petrol-driven “dumpers.” We hear that the latest in brick-making machines will shortly be installed to take the place of the old machines which have served the place so well. It is pleasing to note that the brickworks is as busy as ever and overtime is the order of the day. The Winchburgh brick enjoys a high reputation and finds a ready market. So big is the firm now operating the works that they are able to use all the output themselves.

30/01/1953 – West Lothian Courier – Winchburgh strike settled. The dismissal of two employees at Winchburgh Brickworks last Thursday because they refused to enter a kiln after it had been opened as in their opinion it was too hot, caused a temporary stoppage of work at the brickworks last Friday forenoon. The reinstatement of the men brought the stoppage to an end the same day. The men claim that following the dismissal of the two men, a Board of Trade inspector was called in to test the heat of the kiln with a thermometer. The heat is alleged to have burst the thermometer.

13/02/1953 – West Lothian Courier – West Lothian trades council … Letters were read the T & S.W.U and the Gen and Mun W.U regarding organisation in the Hotric Works, Broxburn and the Winchburgh Brickworks. Bro Finnigan reported that the Winchburgh Brickworks had been organised but Hotric was still unorganised and the secretary was instructed to write to Mr McHale re the Hotric Works.

Jan 1967 – Winchburgh Brickworks for sale – For sale – comprising machine shed 96 ft by 62 ft., premises providing over 7,000 square feet of floor area and land,
of approximately 25 acres. Large valuable deposits of blue clay and yellow puddle clay.  Also a number of employees’ houses.  Full particulars from James Miller & Partners Ltd., 18, George Street, Edinburgh, 2.  Phone 30241.Clay Worker Magazine Jan 1967.

22/03/1974 – West Lothian Courier – Are they boring for oil near Winchburgh, for more than half a century a leading shale oil mining centre. The setting up of a boring rig in a field west of the village has set tongues wagging. With oil so much in the news, that was inevitable. It is hardly likely to be an oil probe, however. To tap the “black gold,” if any, means boring down many thousands of feet and that is well beyond the scope of the rig which has been set up. The work in hand is probably that of making a test of clay deposits known to exist in the area in question. Not far from the test bore, and on the other side of the Union Canal, was Winchburgh Brickworks, operated for many years by the Linlithgow firm, Wm. Dougal & Sons. The Winchburgh brick was recognised as being one of the best and hardest industrial bricks produced in Britain and came from a very rich alluvial blue clay. The Miller construction firm, Edinburgh, bought the Winchburgh plant from the Dougals and operated it for the last year or so of its life before abandoning it. This type of clay contains no combustible material at all and this means that coal is used to fire the kilns, making the bricks expensive to produce. If brickmaking is resumed st Winchburgh, the villagers hope that the planning committee will see to it that the village is not left with the same legacy of scars it inherited from the previous enterprise. During that time the clay was won by an opencast or quarrying method and no attempt was ever made to fill in and restore these workings. The clayhole, covering many acres, was left as it was, an ideal adventure playground for many generations of Winchburgh children but a dangerous and unsightly one nevertheless.


The following family information is supplied by Rose Williams.

The following Dougals are all sons and daughters of my great-great-grandparents, William Dougal & Marion Ferguson of Linlithgow, all of them born either in or around Linlithgow.
Elizabeth Dougal  1816 – 1884  married Thomas Newton  1816 – 1884. Thomas as a young man was a sailmaker at Carronshore, Larbert, and then was a tenant at Drumkilbo Tileworks from about 1856. (Owner, Rt. Hon. Lord Wharnecliffe). Continued till at least  1871, but by 1881 Thomas was farming at Kingoldrum, Angus.
Janet Dougal   1819 – 1896  married Robert Meikle 1818 – 1897 of Linlithgow. They were also at Drumkilbo Tileworks during the same years as Elizabeth & Thomas Newton. By 1871 Robert was farming at Polmont.
James Dougal 1821 – 1893 –   Erected Craigend Brickworks, and with his brother, John Dougal and others carried on the business successfully for 17 years. In 1868 Callendar Coal Company was formed, which James was coal master of, employing 310 men in 1881.
John Dougal  1825 – 1899   was with James at Craigend Brickworks, and by 1861 was farming at Muiravonside.
Alexander Dougal   1828 – 1899   as a young man was at Rentonhall Brickworks, Morham, East Lothian, ( learning the trade ? ) About 1859 he was at Forgandenny Brick & Tileworks as the tenant. By 1869 he was back in Linlithgow, and Winchburgh Brick and Tile works had begun. With 2 of his sons in the business, Winchburgh Brickworks continued beyond Alexander’s death in 1892.
Drumkilbo Tileworks made the bricks for the railway tunnels at Dundee Railway Station.
Winchburgh Brickworks used the canal for transporting bricks and coal to their depot in Edinburgh. They had a yard at Linlithgow Canal Basin for the same purpose. Another relative was in charge of this and lived in the cottage on the canal which is now a tearoom.
It would be fitting for it to be recorded that 5 members of the family were all connected with early brickmaking.
 3 others were successful boot and shoemakers in Linlithgow, and my great-grandfather, Laurence Dougal was an iron founder in Bathgate, but that is another story.

Many thanks to Alex Steven for forwarding the following photographs

Below – <1914 – Winchburgh. Union Canal. Bricks on a barge coming from Winchburgh Brickworks. The bricks appear to have been thrown into the barge. Was this the normal practice or were these broken 2nds anyway?

Below – Unknown date – Winchburgh Brickworks in ruins.


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