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
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.
||East Wemyss Coal Company
||Lochgelly Iron and Coal
||Fife Coal Company
||Bairds and Dalmellington
||Lothian Coal Company
|Coltness Iron Company Ltd
||Archibald Russell Ltd
||Niddrie and Benhar Coal
||Shotts Iron Company Ltd
||Darngavil Coal Company
||Alloa Coal Company
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).
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:
||Cairns and Simpson, colliery
owners, Merrystow, wages book
||1819-20 and 1853-4
||Dryden Colliery, daybooks
|CS96/1087-1124, 1205 and
||Green Coalwork Company,
, business and sales books
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
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.
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.
The NAS has produced an illustrated booklet 'The Coalminers'.
Baron F Duckham, 'A history of the Scottish coal industry' (Newton
'The history of the British coal industry', in 5 volumes (Oxford,
1984-1993) commissioned by the National Coal Board (now British Coal)
National Archives of Scotland
Crown copyright 2006