Mining in Jordanhill


The story behind the old pits and

the associated industries


The following text was substantially revised and updated on 7 November 2012.


When most people talk of mining they mean coal mining.    Jordanhill has a long history of mining, but the mines of North Jordanhill yielded not just coal, they also produced iron ore (ironstone) which was sent by canal to ironworks in the Airdrie and Coatbridge area for smelting into iron and the bings here provided fireclay for the manufacture of bricks in the local brickworks.


The other thing one thinks about in relation to mining is mine shafts or pits.     There were at least 7 pit shafts or air shafts in North Jordanhill which is the area bounded by Anniesland Road, the railway line and Crow Road.     There were at least another six pits just outside this area.    The map below records the approximate locations of all the Jordanhill pits which were shown on the 1859 Ordnance Survey (OS) Map and most were labelled “Old ironstone pit”     There were also several bings associated with these pits.          Some interesting reminiscences of coal mining were given by William Campbell in his 1932 talk entitled “Jordanhill, Past and Present”, see       Although there were no pits shown on OS maps for South Jordanhill, i.e. south of the railway, it is known that mining did take place in this area and it is possible that any pits were open for only a short duration and therefore were not recorded by the OS surveyors.      It was not until 1872 that the law required mine owners to record their workings in what were known as “abandonment plans” but the records were often poor and inaccurate.    In 1912 the law made it a requirement that all mineral workings must be recorded by qualified surveyors.




The pit shown on the map above situated between Chamberlain Road and Austen Road was know as “The Gin Pit”.  It was about 42 feet (7m) deep and was named due to the windings at the pit head being powered by a horse trudging round a “gin” or vertical spindle shaft.        The pit in the vicinity of Milner Road is associated with a deep seam of ironstone known as “Garibaldi”.


In a paper given to the Geological Society of Glasgow in 1887, James S McLellan gave a detailed account of the Jordanhill coalfield and its associated geology.     He alleged that the top 18 feet of ground is generally made up of brick clay then an 35 feet layer of boulder clay, followed by  several layers of shale on top of the shallowest coal layer.     McLellan’s paper is rather technical but in this web page I have attempted to abstract a brief summary.       It should to be noted that following recent investigations (explained in more detail  below) the overlying clay was found to vary between 13 feet and 37 feet.


I have also added some information gathered from the mineral investigations carried out by Glasgow City Council in the area of North Jordanhill which includes Austen Road, Borden Road, Chamberlain Road and Munro Road during the winter months of 2011 and into 2012.      A full technical report giving detailed information of the 14 boreholes drilled and the proposed consolidation works has been circulated widely in the community and a public meeting was held on 29 October to inform local residents.


The proposed infilling works will affect  just over 100 houses and the contract for the work is estimated to cost around £1 million with the cost split equally between the affected owners assisted by a grant of at least 50%.   This equates to an estimated cost of around £5000 per household.   The work is scheduled to start in early 2013 and is expected to take 4 to 6 months.      All the affected properties have abandoned workings beneath them which are overlain by less than 36 feet (11m) of solid rock.    


The figure of 36 feet (11m) is calculated using a formula accepted within the mining industry to calculate the thickness of rock cover required to ensure the future stability of any overhead buildings.    In this case the City Council has used the 6H rule where H is the height of the greatest void encountered during the investigations.    In a borehole in Skaterigg Lane  the drillers found a void 6 feet high  (1.8m) possibly a roadway, so 6 times 6 equals 36 feet.      The procedures to be adopted in the proposed consolidation contract involve drilling small deep sloping holes from the ground (in back gardens and on the road) beside the affected houses and pressure-injecting a filler composed of pulverised fuel ash (PFA) mixed with cement to fill the voids which have been identified.     


The general history of mining in the area is as under.


Coal Mining.


There are records of coal mining going back to 1690, thus serious commercial mining was actively carried out in the area for about two hundred years until the late 1800’s.     The coal field extended for about a mile from north to south and about one and a half miles wide, covering an area of around 1,000 acres.


The coal seams varied in thickness between a few inches and several feet and in the early days coal was extracted using the “stoop and room” method.      Stoops were virtually columns of untouched coal which were left to support the ground above while the rooms were the huge areas of extracted coal.   The stoops varied in size, some were  as small as 4 feet square while others were as large as 12 feet by 36 feet.   Miners were reluctant to leave these big “pillars” of coal but they had to consider their own safety while working underground.      Landowners, including the Smiths of Jordanhill, wisely took steps to ensure there was no mining activity below their mansion houses to ensure they would never suffer from local subsidence.  


In later years the miners used “longwall” or “shortwall” methods where virtually all the valuable material was extracted thus leaving extensive void areas.     In many cases where the seams of coal were thin, say around 12 inches  the miners had to work at a face of over 2 feet high in order to swing their picks.     This resulted in extra waste material being excavated which was used to pack behind them to try to support the roof from collapsing in on them.   There were also many “roadways” or tunnels about 5 feet square used to give access to the working face and to enable the coal to be sent back to the pit head.      The material excavated to form these roadways was also used to pack the adjoining void areas.        Thus the voids were prevented from collapsing, sometimes for only a short period but on occasions for long periods and even to the present day.       


The seams were not level but dipped (became deeper) at a grade of about 1 in 10 towards the north and many were given names such as “The Wee Coal” and “Main Coal”.     A 2 feet (0.6m) coal seam known as “Knightswood Gas Coal”  has been found during the investigations as shallow as about 15 feet below ground level where it outcropped (i.e. reached the surface of the rockhead which lies below the boulder clay).          Workings associated with this seam have also been found and the outcrop has been calculated to lie along a line just north of Woodend Drive which ties in with archive drawings showing these abandoned workings..


The Smiths owned the mineral rights for all strata below their lands and they made a fortune for many years from the fees (known as lordship) payable to them based on the tonnage of coal and other material brought to the surface.   For example, in 1874 they received either sixpence (2.5p) or one shilling (5p) per ton depending on the quality.    Title deeds for the houses in North Jordanhill all contain clauses which reserve for the Smiths and their descendants the rights to all the coal, shale, limestone, ironstone, freestone, whinstone and “whole other metals and minerals” under the plot of land being feued.


By the end of the 1800’s all the seams were pretty well worked out and the Smith’s income dwindled accordingly.    That is what led to their decision to feu off the land for housing.


Ironstone Mining


Another valuable material lay in seams below the area and was known as blackband ironstone.      This was a dull grey material, heavier than coal,  but was of a high quality such that just over two tons of raw material could be smelted to give a ton of pure iron.    The seams were generally quite thin, between 9 and 18 inches, so large quantities of surrounding material had to be brought to the surface in order to actually dig it out.   This resulted in huge bings of material such as blaes and clays (in addition to the material used for packing) and these bings led to the local industry of brickmaking.


The shallowest worked seam identified as “Jordanhill Blackband” lies about 20 feet above the Knightswood Gas Coal referred to above and it outcrops along a line about 30m north of the outcrop of that Gas Coal.   Abandoned workings associated with it have been found during the recent investigation works


The lordship on ironstone was very worthwhile and from the estate records it can be seen, for example,  that in 1876 the Smiths received up to 4 shillings (20p) a ton of ironstone on the output of over 24,000 tons.    They also received an annual rental from the mine owners of £3,000 a year.  These were enormous sums in these days so it is small wonder that the landowners remained rich and powerful.


As with the coal mining, the ironstone ran out and around 1892 and all mining in this area ceased.




As stated above, mining frequently results in additional unwanted material being brought up to the surface.   Not only does it come from the excavations of pit shafts and the long tunnels needed to reach the seams of coal and ironstone, but also as thin unwanted layers immediatley above the sought-after seams.


On the 1859 Ordnance Survey map there is an unnamed brickworks on the south side of Anniesland Road just east of what is now Helensburgh Drive.   There is also Skaterigg Brick and Tile Works shown to sit on open ground just north of Anniesland Road roughly where the tyre and exhaust company now stands on Great Western Road west of Anniesland Cross.


On the 1895 Ordnance Survey map the only brickwork remaining is the Woodend Brickwork which stood on the west side of Crow Road just north of Southbrae Drive.    Photograph No.8 of the webpage Bygone Jordanhill at shows this brickwork building.


Gilchrist and Goldie’s Woodend Brickwork


This map is based on the Ordnance Survey map of 1859. and the heavy chain dotted line is the boundary between Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire.


The main brickworks building stood on the west side of Crow Road just north of what is now Southbrae Drive but they also needed large areas of land round about in order to dry their bricks on huge tables.   Part of their area extended to a large field on the opposite side of Crow Road.  In 1869 there were no railway lines in the Jordanhill area but shortly afterwards North British Railway Company bought part of the brickworks site to build the 24 feet high embankment to carry the line between Hyndland and Anniesland    Although this area had once belonged to the Jordanhill Estate it had been sold to the Oswalds of Scotstoun and there was also an abandoned ironstone pit within the brickworks boundary.      The presence of that pit meant that there was also a ready supply of bing material for brickmaking.



The works produced around 2 million bricks per annum and many of them were used to build the houses on the east side of Crow Road.   About 30 years ago I obtained one of their unused brick which is boldly marked  “Gilchrist & Goldie Crow Road Partick Glasgow 1878”


The legacy of mining


As mentioned above, the roofs of many mine workings collapse either due to the break-up of the stoops or settlement of the packing used to partly fill the voids in longwall workings as explained above, but due to the large masses of rock between the surface and the workings the actual settlements at surface level can be almost imperceptible.    However local areas can suffer more seriously.     However not all settlement in this area is solely attributable to mine workings.


Houses in King Edward Road, Milner Road and Selborne Road are known to be affected by settlement.    It is generally assumed that the terrace of houses on the north side of Southbrae Drive between Crow Road and King Edward Road are badly affected by mine workings and many of the lintels above the doors and windows are no longer horizontal.    The houses at the King Edward Road end of that terrace settled so badly many years ago that they had to be demolished and a new block of flats has since been built in their place.      However Glasgow City Council geologists have stated that the settlement in this area is due to poor consolidation of fill material used to replace ground excavated in association with the local brick works in Crow Road and is not the fault of mine workings..


The Barclay Curle site (north of All Saints Church) which Barratt bought for their Burlington Gate (Skaterigg) housing development required major remedial ground works prior to construction.     In 1982 their consultants examined the records of the Knightswood Gas Coal and Jordanhill ironstone workings below the site and produced a scheme which involved drilling down and packing (consolidating) the old workings prior to construction of the new housing.    


Shortly before the playing fields on Anniesland Road were sold for the Laurel Park development, a large deep hole suddenly appeared in the middle of one of the blaes pitches.    This was caused by the collapse of an abandoned pit shaft and I recall the example in this pitch was about fifteen feet diameter and around three feet deep.  It was quickly fenced off and subsequently properly backfilled.       The pit was shown on old plans and known as No 2 Pit


When old pit shafts were abandoned, they were supposed to be completely filled in with solid rubble packed tightly.    However unscrupulous contractors often just tipped in old junk including long timber logs and topped off the job with the uppermost few feet packed with well-compacted hard material.        After many years, sometimes centuries, the timbers rot away, a sudden void develops far down the shaft and the infilling material above, together with parts of the ground around the old pit, all moves suddenly downwards revealing a large gaping hole .       Modern remedial action when this occurs includes pumping the old shaft with concrete and forming a large reinforced concrete slab over the affected area.


In the case of the Laurel Park site the developers wisely decided to avoid building a house on the old sink hole and a small roundabout at the end of the road layout now marks the precise spot.


The 1895 and 1913 editions of the maps show an interesting tramway system supplying a bing at what is now the fire station on Anniesland Road.     Running diagonally underneath Anniesland Road heading for what is now Knightswood Secondary School is a railway (labelled as a tramway).  Today there is still a deep cutting into the higher ground on which the school stands and if you look closely at the grassy slopes behind the fence at the north east corner of the junction of Anniesland Road and Knightswood Road, you can make out the remnants of that cutting.


Any local resident who has concerns about mining in relation to their homes should contact the Coal Authority.      The Authority is the  Government body which owns all the un-worked coal and abandoned coal mines in Britain and offers compensation for damage to properties caused by old mine workings..   However it should be noted that they are the Coal  Authority and they take little or no interest in ironstone mining       Their web site is






Last updated 12 November 2012.


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