Armadale in old picture postcards
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The place name Armadale first appeared on maps of West Lothian in 1790, when the lands on which the town stands were purchased by Scottish Law Lord, SirWilliam Honeyman. SirWilliam, or Lord Armadale as he was to become, already owned large estates in the north of Scotland in Sutherland and it was from there that he borrowed the name for his new base in the lowlands, which he acquired as a handy country hideaway to which he could retreat at weekends from his busy law practice in Edinburgh.
The distinctly rural nature of Armadale at this time is recalled by the name Barbauchlaw by which it had been known up until then. Barhauchlaw was a corruption of Baar Baughlee, which like the place name Balbardie. which still exists in neighbouring Bathgate, is a reminder that the Scottish kings, riding out from their royal palace at Linlithgow, used to enjoy hunting the wild pigs, which once provided excellent sport in this sheltered area to the south-west of the Bathgate Hills. When Lord Arrnadale purchased his new home in West Lothian, or Linlithgowshire as it was then known, it was still situated in peaceful, undisturbed farming country; of which the town 's nickname of The Dale is still a reminder. One of the reasons, however, for his lordship's choice ofhis new estare was the fact that it had recently been made much more accessible by the completion of the Edinburgh to Glasgow highway; the Great Raad as it was known. This important new Scottish transport link, however, as well as enabling his Lordship to comparatively quickly and comfortably travel to and from his law practice in the capital, also helped Armadale become one of the new towns spawned by the Industrial Revolution, which was changing the way of life right across the central belt of the country.
The coming of the Great Raad placed Armadale for the first time on a stage coach route. It became a regular stopping place because a toll house was situated at the Cross, where the new road met the old nor th to south route, which had been used for centuries by the drovers herd-
ing their cattle from the trysts at Falkirk and Larbert all the way to the London beef markets and by the salters from Ba' ness who transported their vital product to inland towns such as Lanark, which could not make it for themselves. The original toll house at Armadale Cross is said to have been a small one-roomed hut with a lookout window in each wall to ensure that neither coaches nor cattle nor any other traveller tried to pass by without paying their dues. As a further deterrent, Armadale Cross is described in a contemporary document as being, 'heavily gated and barred' .
Having stopped to pay the toll many travellers also made use of this halt on their journey to seek some refreshment. Ta begin with the toll keeper also sold drinks ranging from milk to ale and whisky, until the Forbes Mackenzie Act ofParliament in an attempt to regulate licensed premises banned this practice. The ban, however, sirnply increased the trade of the Armadale Inn, which later became the Regal Bar, the Star and the other pubs which grew up around the Cross to quench the thirst not only of those passing through, but also of those who were by this time making their home in the district, as a result of the development of coal mining and other industries.
Coal was first discovered in the bed of a tributary of the Barbauchlaw Burn called the Colinburn and as it was easily worked it soon attracted miners from other parts of Scotland. At first they lived in a squatter camp close to the coal workings, but soon proper buildings began to be erected.
During the next century Annadale's industrial base expanded to include mining for iron ore and the establishment of foundries and the digging of clay to provide raw material for local brick works. For a time the town even played a part in the infant Scottish mineral oil industry founded by Iarnes 'Paraffin'Young, who befare utilising shale as his souree. at first used Torbanehill Gas Coal, named after the local estate. Long low lines of cheaply built miners' rows were rushed up
around East Main Street to accommodate the booming workforce and Armadale expanded rapidly. These were all dirty industries and soon from being a rural retreat, Armadale developed into a rather grimy old town, but the well-known saying 'Where there is muck, there's brass' proved a true one and the district prospered. Perhaps because ofits reputation as a somewhat rough, tough place in which to live, Armadale also developed a tremendous community spirit, which is still a feature of the town to this day with its childreri's Gala Day still the highlight of every summer.
Armadale became a Police Burgh in 1863 and from then on its local affairs were run by its elected Police Commissioners, who were the fore runners of Town Councillors. Under Chief Commissioner Robert Thomson, who owned the local bakery, they took a keen interest in improving living conditions starting with the introduetion of a reliable supply of good fresh water. Two reservoirs were dug and a small filter house, consisting of two chambers, was built opposite Mount Pleasant Row. From there pipes were laid to all parts of the new burgh, but to begin with the water was not led into homes, householders having to be content to collect it in buckets and jugs from hydrants, or stand pipes as they became known, in the street. 1863 was a momentous year for Armadale as it was also at that time that a number oflocal men led by [ames Beveridge, the owner of the then recently built Buckshead Tavern, which had first opened its doors five years earlier, held a meeting in the Crown Hotel and agreed to form a company to bring the new fangled gas lighting to the town. Mr. Boyd McRae was appointed to be engineer of the new gas works and under his supervision the necessary coal burning plant and gasometer were constructed about 300 yards north of theToll on the west side ofthe road leading to Linlithgow. The new Armadale Gas Company applied for permission to dig up the roads to lay the necessary pipes and this was granted on condition that they would restare the surfaces to proper order. By 2nd August 1863 the directors of the gas company were able to armounce the introduction of a gas supply to the town at a charge of 7 shillings and 6 pence per I,OOO cubic feet and appointed a Mr. Forrester to collect the money from all users of the new fuel.
Agreement was also reached with the manager of the Monkland Iron
and Steel Company'sWork to put gas fittings into all the kitchens in Buttries Row free of charge on condition that he collected the charge for the gas from his men's wages.
In 1881 gas street lights were introduced to Armadale for the first time and in 1896, as the town was now its main customer, the directors offered to seIl the gas works to the town, but at a specially summoned meeting of ratepayers the offer was rejected. The gas works were sold instead to local colliery owner Mr. [ames Wood of Bathville and later the owner of Wallliouse Estate at nearbyTorphichen, who invested heavily in them and greatly improved them.
Like many small Scottish towns whose economie weIl being depended upon mining and heavy industry, Armadale suffered greatly during the 1970s and 1980s, when such employment declined. Now, however, these years of depression have given way to a new period of prosperity as Armadale has been recognised as an attractive place to stay, weIl situated midway between the rwo dties of Edinburgh and Glasgow to bath of whom it is conveniently linked by the nearby M8 motorway. WeIl designed privately-built housing estates are encouraging more and more young families to settle in Armadale, where they are weIl carered for by the tewn's secondary school and its three feeder primaries and by its excellent leisure fadlities including its library, modern community centre and indoor swimming pool.
While The Dale, as it is affectionately known, will never again be the bustling industrial centre, which it was for over a century from Victorian times to the 195 Os, it can look forward to the future as a residential centre. This book is intended both for natives of The Dale and for the newcomers who choose to make Armadale their home. It is hoped that it will encourage them all to find out more about its colourful past and how it influences modern life in the town.
1 Robed and wigged William Honeyman of Graemsy, Lord Armadale, on whose Barbauchlaw Estate Armadale was built, is seen here seated fourth frorn the left surrounded by his fellow Law Lords at the final sitting of the Old Court of Session in Edinburgh on l l th Iuly 18Ü8.The picture was drawn by the fameus caricaturist Wilham Kay.
2 The Cross is the heart of Armadale and this picture postcard published in 1906 shows the view looking along West Main Street. Two horsedrawn carts make up the only traffie in very marked contrast to how busy this street is nowadays.
3 This view of West Main Street was taken looking east towards the Cross. It comes from Townson's Grand Photographie View Album, published before the First World War. The surf ace of the road is still unmetalled. Smoke spiraling up from a single chirnney in the far distance, suggests that this tranquil picture of a near deserted town centre was taken on a warm summer day. The prominent two-storey house on the left was the home of Dr. Andersen Sn., the tewn's well-known G.P., and he also had his consuIting room in the house, as was customary for doctors in those days. See also pictures 24 and 25.
4 This view of West Main Street taken looking in the opposite direction to the west, was also taken on a summer day as indicated by the canvas awning stretched out over the pavement from the shop front on the right and the lack of smoke billewing from the many roof top chimneys, needed for the tewn's coal fired homes.
5 On the opposite side of Armadale Cross, East Main Street is seen in this early postcard view of the town, published by local statiener Archer and postmarked in the year 1905. Annadale's first post office was opened by a Mrs. Forsyth in 1 855 only fifteen years after the introduetion of the penny post. She sold the new starups and also accepted letters and pareels for despatch. Letters were delivered once a day in the morning by the letter carrier, who ware a scarlet jacket and carried a post hom slung over his shoulder, which he blewat intervals along his route all the way from Bathgate to Blackridge. In 1860 an afternoon delivery was added and
in those days bef are telephones people used the post to send urgent messages, confident they would be delivered the same day. The sign post on the corner of the street on the left points north
to Linlithgow and south to Whitburn. On the opposite corner beyond the horsedrawn cart, the stand pipe is an mdication that sorne of the houses still did not have a piped water supply.
6 The uniformed driver is about to dimb aboard one of the distriot's first buses in this postcard picture of East Main Street, taken during the mid1920s. The bus stands at what is now the taxi rank in front of the distinctive curved top door of the old Star Inn, Notice the electric lamp, erected to light the scene at the Cross. It is much taller than the lamps at the Cross in the previous pre-FirstWorld War pictures. Notice also on the right the tall electricity poles carrying the overhead wires, which brought the first supply to the town, greatly decreasing the demand for gas. On the opposite side of the street next to the furthest away motor van can be
glimpsed the then newlybuilt Miners'Welfare Institute, seen in dose-up in the next picture.
7 The fIne Miners'Welfare Institute with its 'corbie stane' gable and battlernented threestorey tower was erected in 1923 by the paternalistic local coal company to encourage its men to make constructive use oftheir by then slowly increasing leisure time. As weil as space for indoor garnes, its accommodation included a reading room, which was supplied daily with morning newspapers. The imposing building still stands on the north side of East MainStreet, but in recent years its premises have been put to many uses ranging from a disco to a tea room and from a pet shop to private hornes. See also picture 10.
~li 1 r ,Ye1fare Institute, Annadale.
8 A lone cyclist constitutes the only traffic in this postcard taken from West Main Street looking over the Cross to East Main Street, which dates from shortly after the end of the First World War. The shop belanging to Iacob Stirling and Company can be seen on the right-hand corner and the side door of the Star Inn on the corner on the left.