Hood Family and Coal Mining

Gladsmuir Parish - New Statistical Account

New Statistical Account for the Parish of Gladsmuir , East Lothian

Written by the Revd. John Ramsay in 1836.


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



Geology and Mineralogy.—This parish abounds with coal, particularly in the barony of Penston. In the neighbourhood of that village, it was wrought so far back as the fourteenth century, and Pit conned long furnished the chief supply to the eastern parts of the county. It was wrought when Oliver Cromwell was in this country, about the middle of the seventeenth century, and drew then a rent of L.400. In 1834, it was found that the field lying to the south of the village of Penston had been very much wrought out; and a new tenant having succeeded to the lease of the farm, and also of the coal, a new pit was opened a little to the north of the Henmuir, and the coal has been wrought there ever since. But as most of the coal has been already wrought in that part of the property, borings were made in different places to the north of the village of Penston, and a pit was sunk in that quarter about a gunshot to the south of the great road. The operations there were, for some time, very much retarded by an influx of water; but a steam-engine was erected, and the water having been carried off, the work is now going on briskly, and a great quantity of coal is brought out and disposed of. The coal is of excellent quality. The seam is about a thirty-two inches thick, while the Panwood coal is from four to five feet thick. There are now two engines at work, and that part of the field is yet unbroken. At the same time, work at the Henmuir is still going on. The coalgrieve at Penston has been so good as to furnish me with an account of the different stratifications that were met with in the boring for coal.


Another pit has just been opened, a little below the North Mains, upon the side of the road leading from Penston to the London Road; but it is not yet finished. We find that in 1812, coal was wrought upon the property of Hodges. There was also a brick-work upon that property, about fifty years ago; but the working, both of the coal and the brick, has been discontinued. A proposal was made lately to set-a-going a brick-work there for brick and tile; but it was given up. Coal was wrought about thirty years ago at M'Merry, and also at western extremity of the parish; but the pit was removed a little to the west in the parish of Tranent, where it now is. It belongs to Anderson of St Germains.
In 1835, at M'Merry, when the blacksmith was sinking a well a little behind his house, on this St Germains property, he accidentally came upon some parrot coal. The tenant of the coal-work upon that property, upon hearing of this, examined it, and found a seam of parrot coal, which he has been working ever since, and which, having supplied the new gas-work at Haddington, promises to turn to good account. The tenants of the Penston coal also attempted to find it on the opposite side of the road, but did not succeed. The same year, borings were made in different parts of the Elvingston property, with a view to find coal, but without success. The magistrates of Haddington, some time ago, set on foot a colliery on their property betwixt Gladsmuir and Samuelston; but after going on for some time, they were obliged to give up the work, having lost about L 2000 in the experiment.
From all which, it appears that the coal strata crop out on the east, about the Kirk of Gladsmuir



.... Besides, the greater demand for coals, occasioned by the increased consumption from steam engines, must have given employment to an additional number of families. The population residing in the villages of Samuelston, Penston, and Longniddry, amounts to 684; in the county, 974. In that part of the parish inhabited by colliers, the population is constantly shifting, and in the course of two or three weeks may vary from 20 to 50. This shifting has prevailed very much, of late, in consequence of a change of tenants. ...



The two great divisions of labour carried out in the parish are agriculture and mining, or the working of coals. Agriculture is the principal employment of the people....
The inhabitants of Penston, Henmuir, North mains of Penston, and M'merry contain a population of betwixt 400 and 500, a chiefly employed in the working of coal . ....
There are employed at the Penston coalworks 50 colliers, 30 women putters, and 26 boys; and at the St Germains colliery, residing in this parish, 12 colliers, besides women putters and children. A Collier and his putter thrown out, at an average, 15 loads of coals per day, which is equal to 4s. 4 ½d. But as there are frequent interruptions, their income can hardly be rated so high for any length of time. The general income of a man and his putter may be stated that from L.1, 1s. to L.1, 5s. per week; if a load of coal weighs 200 pounds, for which they receive 3 ½d. Men-servants living in the house have from L.4 to L.3 yearly; women servants from L.2, 10s. to L.3.



Villages.— There are three villages in the parish,-Samuelston, Longniddry, and Penston. ...
The village of Penston is chiefly inhabited by colliers. The farm-house is that the west end of it, and his commodious and in good repair. A handsome set of offices, with a steam-engine, has just been erected, and also a sawmill. The houses in the village are in a state of bad repair; the place is altogether dirty, and, though situated in the heart of one of the finest agricultural districts of Scotland, has a very uncomfortable and unhealthy appearance. It stands upon an eminence, about half a mile to the south of the great English road, and a mile west from the Gladsmuir kirk. The inhabitants are supplied with water from three open wells, one at Northmains, another behind the old manse to the east, and another to the west of the farm-house, all on a line running from east to west. Were a proper drain to be formed on each side of the road, with the declivity from the houses, it would contribute much to the cleanliness and health of the place. The present population is 302.

Societies.—There are 2 friendly societies in the parish,-one at Longniddry of old standing, and another at Penston, instituted in 1823, both of which are in a thriving state. At Penston, a Mortcloth Society and was set on foot more than 50 years ago, by Lady Ross Baillie of Lamington, for the benefit of her colliers there. None but colliers connected with the coal-work have a right to become members. Lady Ross presented the society with three mortcloths, and that number has been kept up ever since for the use of the members, who have now acquired a prescriptive right to employ their own mortcloths, when they bury their dead in the churchyard of Gladsmuir. At Penston, there is also a Coffin Society, the object of which is to discontinue the use of mortcloths altogether. The members are furnished by the society with coffins, decently covered with black cloth, and no mortcloths are used. Those are not members may also obtain a coffin from the society, at a cheap rate, by paying for it. The society was instituted about two years ago. Besides these, there is the yearly Society at Penston, the members of which draw sick money in case of illness, and receive a sum of money for the burial of their dead. Connected with the parish is a Frame Society for the Protection of the dead, to which the greater part of the parish belong. The safes are of malleable iron, and of a construction such as is usually employed. When used, they are generally sunk about two or three feet below the surface of the ground. ...



© 2012   A Russell