About Bathgate

Brief History of Bathgate


Bathgate, West Lothian

An industrial town in, Bathgate is situated north of the M8 motorway, 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Edinburgh; known for its importance in oil-refining in the mid-19th Century. The Barony of Bathgate, including the now-ruined castle southeast of the town was given by Robert the Bruce to his daughter Marjorie on the occasion of her marriage in 1315; some of the ruins can be found on the local golf course while the main site was occupied by the former British Leyland truck and tractor plant.

The town was established as a burgh of barony in 1661 and, at one time, had seven annual fairs. The town is situated between the rich West Lothian coal and shale fields and the mineral-rich Bathgate hills. In the early 17th century silver was mined there and king James VI instructed its use in the Scottish crown jewels. During the later17th Century, a number of Huguenots from France settled here bringing their weaving skills with them. Jarvey Street is named after one of these families (Jarves).

The locally found coal powered the metal foundries, a feature of Bathgate in the industrial revolution era.The renowned scientist, Dr James"Paraffin" Young 1811-83), developed in 1850 the world's first oil refinery here, extracting paraffin from the shale fields to the east of Bathgate. The resulting economic boom subsided in the early 1870s with the import of cheap crude oil from the USA. By the mid-19th century, Bathgate had developed into a settlement comprising an old town, on the slopes of the Bathgate Hills, and a new town to the south, designed on a regular plan with villas for the well-to-do Drapers,Mine and Foundry

Sir James Young Simpson, the inventor of chloroform as an anaesthetic, was born in Bathgate (1811), as was John Newlands who bought land and slaves in Jamaica and founded the old Bathgate Academy. The Academy was part of West Lothian College of Further Education and has now been converted into residential accomodation. John Newlands Day is still celebrated in Bathgate on the first Saturday in June and there is a Highland Games in May.

Most mining and steel production has ended with only one opencast mine remaining. However, the railway station re-opened in 1986 as the terminus of a line from Edinburgh.  In 2010, the former Bathgate and Coatbridge Railway was re-instated, providing a connection to Glasgow on a line that had closed to passengers in 1956 and was lifted in 1982.

The story of Bathgate is told in the Bathgate Heritage Museum (or Bennie Museum) which is situated in the oldest row of cottages in the town. 

Famous People From Bathgate

  • Racing driver Dario Franchitti was born here. He now races in the USA-based Indycar Series where he has won the Indianapolis 500 and Indy racing League Championships.
  • Racing driver Mario Franchitti, younger brother of Dario, currently driving in the American Le Mans Series.
  • Sir James Young Simpson, discoverer of the anaesthetic properties of chloroform, was born here.
  • Actor David Tenant, who played Barty Crouch Jr in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the tenth incarnation of The Doctor in Doctor Who, was born here.
  • European Tour golfer, Stephen Gallagher
  • Former Ryder Cup captains, Bernard Gallagher and Eric Brown.
  • Director Micahel Caton Jones was born in nearby Broxburn, went to St. Mary's Academy here.
  • Ian Hart, Hearts footbal player
  • Racing driver Paul di Resta, cousin of Dario and Marino Franchitti lived in Bathgate and studied at Bathgate Academy.
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