Hood Family and Coal Mining

Inveresk Parish - New Statistical Account

New Statistical Account for the Parish of Inveresk, Midlothian

Written by the Revd. J G Beveridge in March 1839.


Note - Only those parts relating to colliers or coalmining have been included here



Geology and Mineralogy.— the geological features of this parish present no great variety of character. The rocks belong exclusively to the stratified or sedimentary class, that is to say, they have been all forms at the bottom of the deep ocean, by the deposit of various substances mechanically suspended in the waters. There are in the parish no plutonian rocks, such as greenstone, basalt, or porphry. The sedimentary formations in this parish consist exclusively of strata more or less thick, of sand, clay, limestone, and coal. They form part of a large deposit, which extends through the greater part of the Lothians, and which has been termed the great coal basin of the Lothians. It has been ascertained by geologists, that this coal basin must have been deposited at a period in history of the globe anterior to the deposition of the strata forming the Durham and Newcastle coal-field, inasmuch as the latter are found to lie a long way above the strata in the valley of the Tweed, which can be proved to be contemporaneous with the Lothian deposits.
Coal appears to have been worked in the parish at a very early period. There is still extant at tunnel, which runs under Eskgrove House, through which a part of the River Esk had at an ancient periods been conducted to drive a wheel at Pinkie, used for draining the coal seams there.*[see footnote] The expense, or labour, and difficulty of making the tunnel must have been very great. It was begun in November 1742, and finished in May 1744. The north entrance to it is built up, and may be seen in the plantation within which Eskgrove House stands. The south entrance to it has not been traced.
The old sea cliff which runs along the south shore of the Frith of Forth traverses this parish. The village and church of Inveresk stand on it. The upper level of it is about 80 feet above the sea, the base about 65 feet. The teeth, scales, and bones of large sauroidal fish have been found in the shale and coal seams at New Craighall; and shells of a mussel shape are also met with in the shale at Cowpits, Pinkie-burn, &c. It is matter of dispute whether these lived in fresh or salt water. All, however, are agreed, that they are now in the position where they lived and died. Now this bed of mussel shell extends for several miles, showing necessarily a considerable extent of water. This is farther proved by the occurrence of fish's teeth found at Craighall and neighbouring collieries; and similar proofs exist in every part of the Lothians, that the strata composing them were deposited in the manner already stated, namely, at the bottom of a great lake or sea, into which were transported trees, plants, vegetables all kinds, in great abundance. Great numbers of fossil ferns and coniferous trees have been found at all the collieries.
Several quarries of freestone are wrought within the parish. Limestone also exists in abundance, although not wrought to any extent at present, as a plentiful supply can be had at Cousland, formerly a part of this parish, but now annexed so the adjoining parish of Cranston. The most interesting and valuable of strata are the coal seams. On each side of the Esk, which bisects the parish from south to north, the ground rises with a gentle inclination from the river. The coal strata have the same inclination. The under coal extends from the river westward about two miles and a half, and eastward about three miles and a half to it surface edges. Northwards the coal-field crosses the Frith of Forth, and southward extends about twenty miles along the course of the rivers. This coal-field, which contains forty beds of coal (save of which the thickest is 9 and the thinnest 2 1/2 feet in thickness) is supposed to have more coal in a section of its centre than any other coal-field in the island. The coal-mines at present wrought in this parish are the three upper beds of this formation. Their respective thicknesses are 3, 4 1/2 and 4 feet. The average distance from the surface to the first of the beds is from 9 to 12 fathoms. The depth of the deepest pit is 56 fathoms. Foul air occasionally causes inconvenience to the miners, but never to such extent as to require the use of the safety-lamp. It prevails most in south winds. The principal collieries are at New Craighall, Monktonhall, and Edmonstone. Formerly there were collieries at Pinkieburn, Midfield, and Cowpits, but they have of late years been abandoned. At the pit at New Craighall there is erected for cleaning the mines of water, the largest steam-engine of which this country can boast. It was constructed by Claude Girdwood and Co., Glasgow, at an expense of upwards of L 6000, exclusive of sinking the pit, &c. It is of 140 horse power, can work thirteen strokes per minute, and deliver in that time 889,779 ale gallons. A description of it is to be found in the treatise by Mr John Milne, teacher of architectural and mechanical drawing, Edinburgh, entitled A Practical View of the Steam Engine, illustrated by engravings of the largest Engine in Scotland.

* this extraordinary aqueduct was constructed by William Adam, architect, of Edinburgh. That gentleman erected a coalwork at Pinkie in 1739, out of which he extracted the water by a horse machine. This was, however, found to be inefficient; and he determined to cut an aqueduct through the hill on which Inveresk stands. Preparatory to this great undertaking, he cut a canal from the Esk to the foot of the Inveresk Hill, above a mile in length. Coming here on a bed of sand, it became necessary to sink two shafts, one at each extremity of his intended aqueducts, to the depth of 50 feet. He then began his duct through the rock. Between these shafts the aqueduct is nearly 800 feet in length of, 4 feet in width, and 6 in height; and about 100 feet below the surface of the hill on which the village is situated.


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