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West Lothian
Grid reference: NS973689
Location: 55°54’8"N, 3°38’35"W
Population: 15,068  (2001)
Post town: Bathgate
Postcode: EH47, EH48
Dialling code: 01506
Local Government
Council: West Lothian
Linlithgow and East Falkirk

Bathgate is a town and parish in West Lothian, on the M8 motorway, five miles west of Livingston. West Lothian's M8 corridor is a busy place and nearby are such towns as Blackburn, Armadale, Whitburn, Livingston, and Linlithgow.

The town stands two miles south of the Neolithic burial site at Cairnpapple Hill (which is the county's highest point) and so Bathgate and the surrounding area show signs of habitation since about 3500 BC.


Middle Ages

Bathgate first enters the chronicles of history in a confirmation charter by King Malcolm IV (1141-1165). In royal charters of the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, the name of Bathgate has appeared as: Bathchet (1160), Bathket (1250) and Bathgetum (1316). Batket in the 14th century, and by the 15th appeared as both Bathgat and Bathcat. The name is may be Old English, or from an Old Welsh origin (baedd coed would mean “Boar Wood”).[1]

In 1315, the daughter of King Robert I of Scotland, Marjorie, married Walter Stewart (1293– 1326), the 6th Lord High Steward of Scotland. The dowry to her husband included the lands and castle of Bathgate. Walter died at the castle on 9 April 1326. This Marriage is still celebrated in an annual pageant forming part of the Bathgate Procession & John Newlands Festival, colloquially known as the Bathgate Galaday (or Gala day)

In the 1846 book A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, Samuel Lewis writes:

Of this ancient castle, some slight traces of the foundations only are discernible, in a morass about a quarter of a mile from the town, in which, though it has been drained and brought into cultivation, kitchen utensils of brass, and coffins rudely formed of flat stones, have been discovered by the plough

Another antiquarian, W. Jardin, in the Statistical Account of Scotland Vol I (1793), referring to Walter Stewart states:

Some traces of his mansion may be seen in the middle of a bog or loch about 1/4 mile from the town. Hewn stones have frequently been dug from the foundations, and some kitchen-utensils of copper or brass have been found.

Dating from around the same time the remains of Bathgate's former parish church still stand at Kirkton. The original 12th century construction was absorbed by a later build in 1739 when a new church was erected on the same site. The walls of the church were consolidated in 1846.[2] This simple whitewashed edifice served the community until its last service on 9 April 1882. King Malcolm IV makes reference to the original church in a charter, granting it to the monks of Holyrood Abbey. Records show that Holyrood Abbey gave the church to the abbot and monks of Newbattle Abbey in 1327.

17th – 18th century

In 1606, silver ore was chanced upon at nearby Hilderston, in the shadow of Cairnpapple Hill, by a prospecting collier, Sandy Maund.[3] This accidental discovery began a short-lived crown “project” in the area. Advisers to King James VI became aware how rich in silver the mine may be and in April 1608 requisitioned the land for the crown. By December 1608 it was clear that the ore in the mine was of varying quality and by March 1613 all efforts to extract silver from the area were abandoned.

Bathgate remained a very small rural community until the middle of the 19th century with only a foray by Covenanters in the 17th century to unrest the populace. Frances Groome, in the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4) writes:

Some of the inhabitants suffered hardship and loss in the times of the persecution; and the insurgent army of the Covenanters, when on their march from the W to Rullion Green, spent a disastrous night at Bathgate.

Robert Louis Stevenson, in the book Lay Morals, Part 2: The Pentland Rising. A Page of History further elucidates upon this night in November 1666:

A report that Dalzell was approaching drove them from Lanark to Bathgate, where, on the evening of Monday the 26th, the wearied army stopped. But at twelve o’clock the cry, which served them for a trumpet, of ‘Horse! horse!’ and ‘Mount the prisoner!’ resounded through the night-shrouded town.

His depiction goes on to describe how the half the army perished in the freezing weather as they headed towards the Pentland Hills.

19th century

Bathgate Academy in 2010

Established around 1800, the Glenmavis Distillery in Bathgate was bought in 1831 by one John McNab, who produced the eponymous MacNab's Celebrated Glenmavis Dew from the site until the distillery's closure in 1910. In 1885, the distillery was producing 80,000 gallons of single malt a year which was transported throughout Great Britain and to the colonies.[4]

In 1831 Bathgate Academy was built. Designed by the Edinburgh architects R&R Dickson this is Bathgate's only large public building of historic merit. It was endowed by a Jamaican plantation owner, John Newlands.[2]

By the opening of Edinburgh and Bathgate Railway in 1849, local mines and quarries were extracting coal, lime, and ironstone.

James Young’s discovery of cannel coal in the Boghead area of Bathgate, and the subsequent opening of the Bathgate Chemical Works in 1852, the world's first commercial oil-works, manufacturing paraffin oil and paraffin wax, signalled an end to the rural community of previous centuries. When the cannel coal resources dwindled around 1866, Young started distilling paraffin from much more readily available oil shale.[5] To this date, the landscape of the Lothians is dotted with the orange spoil heaps (called "bings") from this era. Collieries and quarries and the associated “traditional” industries (brickworks, steelworks)[5] were the main employers in Bathgate as the 19th century drew to a close.

20th century

Bathgate on a frosty day in December 2005

In the mid-20th century, many local industries were closed and West Lothian was designated a 'Special Development Area'. In such areas, extra financial inducements were offered by the British government to assist companies wishing to relocate. As a result, in 1961, the BMC (a merger of the Austin Motor Company and Morris Motors) located a new Truck & Tractor plant in Bathgate rather than expanding their Longbridge plant as originally planned. The plant closed in 1986.

On 24 March 1986, the Bathgate-Edinburgh railway line was re-opened to passengers for the first time since the 1950s. This railway line was extended as the Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link to Airdrie, allowing train services to run between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley by way of Bathgate on time and on budget in December 2010.[6]

The world's oldest known reptile fossil, Westlothiana lizziae (affectionately referred to as Lizzie), was discovered in East Kirkton Quarry, Bathgate in 1987; it is now in the Museum of Scotland.[7]

One of the town's major benefactors was John Newland. Newland emigrated to the West Indies. There he became a rich planter with extensive sugar cane plantations. His benefaction allowed the establishment of Bathgate Academy, which was founded in 1833. He is remembered today by an annual pageant (known as the Procession or Newland's day), held on the first Saturday in June.

Industry and business

Bathgate was a very industrial town in its time. It played host to the Menzies' Foundry [8] (demolished recently due to the railway link construction) and British Leyland was sighted in Bathgate too. It had two railway stations, Bathgate North and South. There was a link that ran from the site of the current station, along Menzies Road, at the rear of one side of Mill Road all the way to Easton Road where the station was. This was used for the coal-mining industries and the foundries.


  • Football: Bathgate Thistle junior fooball team play at the Creamery Park. Their stadium is also used for activities such as football roadshows.


Land art

Patricia Leighton's 'Sawtooth Ramps' project was built in 1993 as part of th "M8 Project". The sculpture is 1,000 feet long and consists of seven ramps 36 feet high. The artist based the design on local geographic features (drumlins) and the shape of the surrounding bings.[9] The pyramidic shape of the sculpture gave rise to the name of the nearby Pyramids Business park.

In 1998 the artist Lumir Soukup built the earth sculpture The Bathgate Face at Wester Inch. By taking facial measurements of more than 1200 Bathgate residents, the artist was able to create an 'average profile' which was the basis for the sculpture. Development in the area in 2004 threatened to demolish the sculpture; however the artist managed to persuade developers to build around his work.[10]


  1. Price, Glanville, Languages in Britain and Ireland (page 122).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Buildings of Scotland; Lothian, by Colin McWilliam
  3. "sasaa king jamie's silvermine". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  4. Barnard, Alfred: Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom (1887); reprinted Birlinn Ltd (1 July 2007); ISBN 1841582662
  5. 5.0 5.1 Groome, Frances, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4)
  6. "New £300m Airdrie-Bathgate rail link reopens". BBC News Online (BBC). 12 December 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  7. Knell, Simon J, Museums and the Future of Collecting (Second Edition), (P170), ISBN 978-0754630050
  8. "George Macbeth Menzies - Obituary". The Independent (London). 1 February 2003. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  9. "projects". Art in Partnership. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  10. Bradley, Jane. "Edinburgh Evening News". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bathgate)