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Thursday 28 May 2015

Coal mining records

Coal mining is probably Scotland's oldest major industry. Mines on monastic estates, such as at Carriden and Preston, are mentioned in early monastic cartularies. For the later period customs accounts reveal shipments of coal for foreign markets. Coal was never a leading Scottish export but it has been estimated that by the 1680s one in every two vessels leaving Scottish ports carried coal.

The National Archives of Scotland (NAS) holds the main historical records of coal mining in Scotland - the records of the National Coal Board (NAS ref. CB). These include the records of earlier coal companies before nationalisation in 1946 under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act.

Excerpt from a letter written by the Labour Relations Officer of the National Coal Board Scottish Division regarding the closure of the Bankhall Area of the Bannockburn Colliery, 1948, NAS ref. CB217/14/1

The National Coal Board was set up to run the mining industry throughout the UK. It changed its name to the British Coal Corporation under an Act of Parliament of 1987. The Corporation continues as a residual body within the Department of Trade and Industry. The Coal Authority was established under the Coal Industry Act 1994 to provide a framework for the future of the industry. The NAS holdings largely predate the British Coal Corporation period.

National Coal Board records

The records include output books, wages books, account books and sales books. Details of coal operations throughout Scotland are given in the coal holdings register (NAS ref. CB16) and related release files (NAS ref. CB17) and plans (NAS ref. RHP 10 000) gathered under the terms of the Coal (Registration of Ownership) Act, 1937. Also useful are Robert Bald's reports on various collieries throughout Scotland between 1808 and 1825 (NAS ref. CB27) which give details of mineral deposits, workings, buildings and drainage at the collieries. Bald (1776-1861) was one of the earliest and most eminent mining engineers and land surveyors in Scotland. He managed collieries in Alloa and later went into partnership with John Geddes as consulting engineers in Edinburgh. He also wrote a General View of the Coal Trade in Scotland (1808).

Records of colliers survive among the records of coal companies in the Coal Board records or private collections. These include wage books, pay books and output books.

The Coal Board records also include the papers of earlier coal companies. These include:

NAS reference Coal company Dates
CB1 East Wemyss Coal Company 1891-1948
CB2 Lochgelly Iron and Coal Company 1847-1953
CB3 Fife Coal Company 1872-1961
CB4 Bairds and Dalmellington Ltd 1898-1952
CB9 Lothian Coal Company 1741-1919
Coltness Iron Company Ltd 1885
CB12 Archibald Russell Ltd 1901-46
CB18 Niddrie and Benhar Coal Company Ltd 1880-1937
CB21 Shotts Iron Company Ltd 1871-1946
CB22 Darngavil Coal Company 1943-45
CB24 Alloa Coal Company 1835-46
CB30 Fordell Colleries 1798-1940

Accidents in mines are investigated through a public inquiry held by the Home Office. The records of the Home Office are kept at The National Archives (London).

Other sources

Acts of Parliament (NAS ref. APS)
Acts relating to the exportation and regulation of the coal trade. There is a comprehensive index in volume XII of the printed 'Acts of the Parliament of Scotland,' (ed.) T Thomson and C Innes (1814-1872).

Court of Session (NAS ref. CS)
Many cases relating to individual coal companies appeared before the court. Business records extracted from Coal company processes can be found in NAS ref. CS96 and include:

NAS reference Description Dates
CS96/44 Cairns and Simpson, colliery owners, Merrystow, wages book 1819-20 and 1853-4
CS96/57 Dryden Colliery, daybooks 1756-70
CS96/1087-1124, 1205 and 2972-8 Green Coalwork Company, , business and sales books 1791-7

The CS96 Court of Session Productions, c.1760-1840, are printed by the List and Index Society (1987). A supplementary unpublished list for the years 1840 to 1947 is available in our search rooms.

Dissolved company files (NAS ref. BT2)
Files of dissolved mining and quarrying companies from 1856 onwards.

Exchequer records (NAS ref. E)
These include customs books recording the export of coal.

Friendly Societies (NAS ref. FS)
The rules and regulations and statements of constitution of a variety of societies, including many operated by colliers and mine workers, such as the Kilmarnock Coal Cutters Society (FS1/2/41) and the Carfin Colliery Friendly Society (FS1/16/29). Details of these and other societies are given in Ian MacDougall's Labour Records in Scotland (Scottish Labour History Society, 1978)

Private records (NAS ref. GD)
Many collections of private landowners hold material relating to coalmines and colliers. The material ranges from business records, rules and regulations governing the pit, to bonds binding colliers and their families to the mines. A source list of mining material found in private papers is available in both search rooms.

Register of the Privy Council of Scotland (NAS ref. PC)

The business brought before the Privy Council includes mining - licences to export coal, restrictions on the export of coal and regulations relating to the employment of miners. The published registers cover the period 1545 - 1691 (Edinburgh, 1877-1970) and are fully indexed.

Register of deeds (NAS ref. RD)

Contracts and other deeds relating to coal and coal mining, for example a contract about coal workings in the Bo'ness area, 15 June 1615 is recorded in the Register of Deeds (NAS ref. RD1/274, folios 105-111)

Plans series (NAS ref.RHP)

The Register House Plans series contains plans relating to coal mining. Read the guide to topographical, architectural and engineering plans for more information.

Sources elsewhere

The Coal Authority holds many records relating to Scottish mines at their Mining Records Office near Burton on Trent, Staffordshire. These include coal abandonment plans, geological prospecting data, the coal holdings register and associated records and the Licence Register.

The National Archives (London) holds a considerable amount of material relating to the coal mines nationwide.

Further reading

The NAS has produced an illustrated booklet 'The Coalminers'.

Baron F Duckham, 'A history of the Scottish coal industry' (Newton Abbot, 1970)

'The history of the British coal industry', in 5 volumes (Oxford, 1984-1993) commissioned by the National Coal Board (now British Coal)

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