Records of Coltness Iron Co Ltd, coal and iron masters and steel and brick manufacturers, Newmains, South Lanarkshire, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Financial records 1926-1955
  • Colliery files 1932-1951
  • Colliery plans 1947

Administrative / Biographical History

The Coltness Iron Co Ltd , Newmains, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, was established in the 19th century  by Henry Houldsworth and his brother, Thomas. The brothers settled for board and financial control, leaving the technical business of mining and metal making to competent managers. By 1922, the iron and steel interests of the business had been much diminished and the company concentrated on mining, appointing William Hamilton Telfer as general manager. Telfer came from a long family tradition of mine managers and had considerable mining experience in the Scottish coalfields. By this time, the company had already made strong connections with other important Scottish companies through shared directorships that were a great help to Telfer during the inter-war period. Following the general strike of 1926, Tefler urged the board to abandon coal iron making and the furnaces were dismantled. A programme of modernisation was then undertaken on the mining side of the business and new collieries were opened at Kingshill, South Lanarkshire, and Overtown, North Lanarkshire, even though the economic climate was unfavourable to such ventures. However, coal output steadily increased during the 1920s. The company's position was made stronger through its link with the Wilson & Clyde Coal Co, colliers, Fife, with whom they purchased the business of James Waldy & Co, coal merhcants of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland, which provided a wide sales network for the coal produced. Telfer's influence and success resulted in his appointment as managing director of the company in 1927 and he was able to influence the board to resisted the attempts to amalgamate coal companies through the 1930 Coal Miners Act.

It was clear that the company could not survive solely as coal masters and it was various diversifications that that kept the company viable. Most notably, it was the success of the cement works at Newmains and the brick works at Carluke, south Lanarkshire, and Jordanhill, Glasgow, which provided the support for the colliery enterprise in this period.

The 1930s saw the acquisition of neighbouring collieries such as the Ardenrigg Coal Co Ltd , South Lanarkshire, in 1932 and the Darngavel Coal Co Ltd, North Lanarkshire, in partnership with the Wilson & Clyde Coal Co Ltd, Bellshill, Glasgow. In 1934, the company sub-let part of the coalfields of Stewart & Lloyds Ltd, Corby, England, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England, and purchased that company's 35 percent stake in Wilson & Clyde Coal Co Ltd. The Coltness Iron Co Ltd had previously moved into the Warwickshire coalfields at Kersley, near Coventry, England, in 1902, though the purchase of the Warwickshire Coal Co Ltd . This colliery had been unprofitable between 1911 and 1923, but Telfer re-organised the concern and made it profitable.

Telfer retired as managing director in 1936, becoming vice chairman although he continued as manager of the Warwickshire concerns which now including Kersley's neighbouring pit, the Sandwell Park colliery in south Staffordshire.

In 1937, the company acquired the Cumberland Coal Co (Whitehaven) Ltd at Whitehaven, Cumbria, England, at the suggestion of Telfer. The 1930s also saw the development of the company's cement and brick works and the steel foundry was modernised and expanded into the production of non-ferrous metal in partnership with ICI as Scottish Non-Ferrous Tube Industries Ltd, Hillington, Glasgow.

The company expended some £800,000 on new developments between 1936 and 1941 without having to increase the companies share capital and during difficult economic conditions. As a result, Telfer was appointed chairman in 1941, a post he held until 1946. By then, Coltness Iron Co Ltd was one of the largest colliery concerns in Scotland and England, employing nearly 5,000 men in both countries with an output of 5 million tons. Telfer had overseen improvements in working conditions, miners welfare, housing and pit safety.

The National Coal Board acquired the company's assets in 1947  when the company was nationalised under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946. The Coltness Iron Co Ltd became Coltness Holdings Ltd in 1946  in order to acquire the assets and capital not taken over by the National Coal Board and entered into voluntary liquidation in 1947. At the time of nationalisation, the company had pits at Blairhall, Douglas, Kingshill, Hanockrigg, Woodend, Gillhead, Greenhead, Overtown, Duntilland and Collyshot, all in Scotland.

Source: Slaven, A and Checkland, S (eds), Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography 1860-1960 vol 1 (Aberdeen, 1986)


This material is arranged into series. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Permanent loan: Deloitte & Touche, chartered accountants : Glasgow

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom.

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)1546)

Alternative Form Available

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Custodial History

Held by Deloitte & Touche, chartered accountants to the company.


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