Hood Family and Coal Mining

Gilmerton Coalworks - Short History of the Colliery


Brief history of Gilmerton Coalworks and names of some colliers, coalgrieves and overseers

NOTE - Some of the earlier dates (pre 19th century) may be a few years out as some of the information has come from sources written many years later.

1627 - Earliest date for coalworkings at Gilmerton?
"Coalworks carried on here since at least 1627" - Archaelogica Scotica
"Coalworking at Gilmerton supposed to have been started about 300 years ago" - New Statistical Account 1839

Described as a "considerable colliery" at this time.
Seams worked down to a depth of 8 fathoms; water was drained from the workings by a shallow level, a tunnel constructed to drain water from the coalworks, beginning from the Park Burn up to the Minehole Park (slightly east of the road from Edinburgh to Lasswade).

by about 1707 there was no workable coal left.
A few years later, work began at great expense on the Burndale level - the tunnel began at the Park Burn and when completed would allow the coalworkings to be drained of water down to a depth of 18 fathoms at the point where the level met the 'great seam'.

Burndale level reached the first seam known as the 'parrot coal' around 1726 and coalworking started again at Gilmerton. The level continued to be extended for another 35 years.
From 1726-1760s the coalworks worked profitably.
See list of Coalgrieves and Overseers from 1726-75
See list of colliers around 1738-42
According to the new Statistical Account, 54 colliers were employed between 1750-60 and later about 80 families.
by 1762 a large part of the North Green Seam was already worked out.

By 1766 no workable coal was left in main seams. Work continued only in smaller seams until 1773?

A fire engine was erected extending the depth of the coalworkings by a further 30 fathoms. The water was pumped up to the height of the existing Burndale level where it could drain into the Park Burn.

1786 - Very detailed plan of coal workings and seams made.
Includes "A representation or section of one of the seams" showing details of colliers and bearers at work. See details from plan.

1792 - "A few years ago there were fifty colliers; at present only 5 or 6." Archaelogica Scotica 1792
"20 seams from 2 to 10 feet thick. 4 or 5 currently being worked".Old Statistical Account, Liberton


1821 - John Marshall leased rights to work the North Green Seam.
1823 - Strike at Gilmerton - more details.
60 of the strikers were evicted from their homes. 20 had been working at the colliery prior to Mr Marshall getting the lease; the other 40 had come to work at Gilmerton since 1821.
1824-27 - During the years 1825 to 27, limestone quarrying at Gilmerton restarted "when the rock was laid dry by the draining and working of the North green coal which lies regularly above it".
1828 - work probably stopped around this time.


1828-49? - No coalmining. According th the New Statistical Account for Liberton written in 1839 "Work suspended at present because lease expired and coal brought to Edinburgh on Dalkeith Railway more cheaply". The railway had opened in 1831.


1850 - R B W Ramsay open a railway line to Gilmerton Colliery and begin to work coal. Drainage is by day levels to the North Esk river.


From this point, most of the information is taken from the List of UK Mines
1880 - Glagow Iron Co.
1886-1904 - Gilmerton Gas Coal Company
1908 - Gilmerton Coal Co. Gilmerton (4 workers below ground, 4 above)
Small scale operations carried on until 1928.
1918 - No mining in operation.
1928 - Taken over by Fordell Mains Colliery Co. Two shafts sunk to work at deeper levels.
1938 - Gilmerton Colliery Company (172 workers underground, 51 above)
1945 - Gilmerton Colliery Company (161 workers underground, 54 above)
1946 - Nationalisation of British coalpits. All coalmines taken into public ownership.
1961 - Pit sealed up permanently due to to fire in coal seam deep underground. Cause thought to be spontaneous combustion of waste dumped in old shafts.

Coalgrieves and Overseers 1726-75


1726-47: John Burrel (left in 1747)


1726-34: not known, possibly George Vint
1735-55: George Vint
1756-61: 3 different coalgrieves during this period. Names not known.
1762-64: Robert Hunter
1765-75: James Drummond
1775 onwards: not known


1726-35: William Balleny
1740-57: Thomas Logan and George Pride
1764: Thomas Logan. Not known if George Pride also an overseer.
1765-69: Charles Peerie
1769-74: Alexander Sharp (left 1774)
1775- ?: Charles Peerie

Colliers 1738-41

This is not a complete list but shows most of those working at that time.
(if there's enough requests, I may check for specific colliers or coalbearers)

1738 Dec
Robert Armour
Robert Ballenie
William Balleny
George Kerr
Walter Laverock
David Mason
James Pentland
Thomas Pentland
Charles Pirrie
Thomas Peerie
Widow Rannie
William Rennie
Mark Ross
John Sharp
Alexander Smith
1740 July
Colliers 'arled' to Gilmerton Coalworks.
Peter Campbell
Alexander Hope
Charles Scott

1740-41 - New Colliers
William Armour
David Kerr
James Miller
John Ross




© 2012   A Russell