Papers on Mining in Scotland, 18th and 19th centuries

Scope and Content

The material is composed of: Symtoms of a Copper myne in Kirkcudbrightshire, 1758; state and history of the Duke of Queensberry's lead mines at Wanlockhead, digested into queries and answers, circa 1770; paper on the state of the mines in Isla, 1770; journal of the lead mine workings at Tyndrum, Perthshire, 1775-1779, 1783-1791, with a copy of entries 1771-1787 sent at intervals from Tyndrum to Leadhills or Garden, in addition to 'bargain books' recording agreements with miners about work and wages, 1762-1772, 1785-1791; report on a mineralogical survey of Scottish lead and copper mines by R. E. Raspe addressed to the Highland Society, Edinburgh, 1790; letters of Messrs. Bogle and Scott, Glasgow, about shipments of lead from Tinwald Downs, Dumfries, 1796-1799; letter of A. Dirom about lead and antimony mines at Leadhills, 1799; letter of W. Burns on behalf of the Society for Preventing Accidents in Coal Mines, 1816; letters of Dr. J. Horner relating to the mines at Leadhills, 1830; and, journal of the strata penetrated through in the course of a trial for the purpose of discovering a workable stratum of coal on the state of Lt. Gen. Sharpe of Hoddom, near Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, 1831.

Administrative / Biographical History

The monks of Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian have been credited with starting the first coal mine in Scotland in the 13th century, and coal fields in the east of Scotland generally - in Fife and Midlothian - were the first to gain importance in the country. Mining was conducted with a scatter of bell pits and with primitive technology, an exception being the workings at Culross in Fife. There, from 1617 the colliery of George Bruce may have been the first to use a wheel mechanism for drainage. With a rise of coal-using industries in the 18th century - lime preparation, glass and vitriol making, and coke-fired ironworks such as that at Carron - the demand for coal increased, and output rose from around 400,000 tons in 1700 to 2,000,000 tons in 1800. Many of the early coal mines were operated by the landed gentry, often on their own estates, but with the rise of iron-making and the building of hot blast furnaces, and the coming of the large coal and iron enterprises, the old estate mines lost their importance.

As far as lead workings are concerned, the Romans may first have exploited this mineral in Scotland. Re-discovery of the resource near the village communities of Leadhills in Lanarkshire on the estates of the Earls of Hopetoun and Wanlockhead in Dunfriesshire on the estates of the Dukes of Buccleuch is credited to Matthew Templeton in around 1517. Lead was also worked just west of Tyndrum in Perthshire. The activity was carried out in fits and starts in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Gold has also been worked at Tyndrum, and gold and silver at Leadhills and these minerals from the latter have been incorporated into the Scottish regalia.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Journals of the lead mine workings, acquired probably 1958, Accession no. E58.23. Mineralogical survey, Accession no. E75.45. Letters, acquired October 1975, Accession no. E75.52.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper and Collins Publishers, 1994.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show references to mining (Scotland) related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): papers relating to mining in Scotland, 1592-1664, at La.II.478; Sir George Hay of Kinfauns iron mines, 1621, at La.II.541; and, coal mines in Mull, 18th century, La.II.701. Also, there is a paper by J. Buddle on creeps and thrusts in coal mines, 1841, at (Lyell1) Gen.108 onwards. There are references to lead mining in correspondence between John Barker of Langshaw, Dumfriesshire and B. Wyatt of Foolow, Derbyshire, 1821-1829, at Dk.2.41; and, an account of coal mines in the Newcastle area, 1830, at Gen. 1996/8/4. The bad state of mining and teaching of mining discussed in a letter of T. J. Torrie to Professor R. Jameson, 1832, at Gen. 1996/9/63. There is an invitation from A. McDonald, secretary to the Committee of the Miners of Scotland to J. L. Ludlow to attend a meeting, 1860, at Gen. 1982/35, and material on attempts to find evidence of Roman tin mining in Cornwall, 1882, at Gen. 1425/145.