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Harthill, Scotland facts for kids

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Harthill Church - - 150671.jpg
Main Street and church in centre of Harthill village, looking east
Harthill is located in North Lanarkshire
Population 2,610 (2020)
OS grid reference NS906643
Civil parish
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town SHOTTS
Postcode district ML7
Dialling code 01501
Police Strathclyde
Fire Strathclyde
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament
  • Airdrie and Shotts
Scottish Parliament
  • Airdrie and Shotts
List of places
55°51′37″N 3°44′57″W / 55.860323°N 3.749256°W / 55.860323; -3.749256

Harthill is a rural village split between North Lanarkshire and West Lothian in Scotland, with most of the village in North Lanarkshire. It is located about halfway between Glasgow, 21 miles (34 kilometres) to the west, and Edinburgh, 25 miles (40 km) to the east. It lies on the River Almond about 2 12 miles (4 km) west of the small town of Whitburn. The closest major towns are Bathgate, 6 miles (9.7 km) away, and Livingston, 10 miles (16 km) away. Major towns within North Lanarkshire, such as Wishaw, Airdrie, Motherwell, Coatbridge and Bellshill are all around 10 to 15 miles (15 to 25 km) to the west. The M8 motorway bypasses the village and Harthill has a service station named after it.


Harthill grew up as a result of the coal mining industries of North Lanarkshire, and some of the original old miners' homes remain. Originally part of Linlithgowshire, it was eventually split between the ancient counties of West Lothian and Lanarkshire. The village of Greenrigg is adjacent to Harthill on the east side and lies in West Lothian. Remaining miners' homes, otherwise known as 'miners rows', are also in Greenrigg, and the occupants worked in nearby Greenrigg and Polkemmet Collieries, which were in West Lothian.

Colliery tank engine, Polkemmet Country Park
Colliery tank engine, Polkemmet Country Park

Polkemmet deep mine coal pit closed around the time of the last miners' strike in 1984. The only evidence remaining is a few miners' cottages and houses, which the National Coal Board (NCB) had sold some time before the closures. A steam engine used to pull the coal wagons is on display in the local Polkemmet Country Park, formerly the private estate of the local land owning Baillie dynasty. Several other mines were dotted around the surrounding area, including the Benhar pits (Eastfield) to the west side of Harthill. These closed some years prior to the 1984 miners' strike. The Benhar pits were also very important in Harthill and Eastfield's socio-economic development. Harthill, Eastfield and Greenrigg form something of a single village entity now, but each retains its independent close-knit identity.

Harthill is located on the main A8 and M8 corridors between Scotland's two largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Harthill was by-passed in 1965 by the first constructed section of the M8 motorway. Scotland's first motorway service station was also built at Harthill in 1978 and is located a few hundred yards south of the village. Originally leased and operated by 'Roadchef' to serve M8 traffic, the service station incorporated a landmark motorway footbridge and a corporate business suite which could be leased for meetings or events – being half-way between Scotland's two major cities.

The service station, known as Harthill Services, was completely redeveloped around 2006 and renamed Heart of Scotland services. A modern and stylish replacement footbridge bridge over the motorway, which was designed by Buro Happold, opened in October 2008 and cost £5 million, completed the redevelopment. The land is still owned by Transport Scotland and the current site operator is BP.

An M8 express bus service between Harthill, Edinburgh and Glasgow city centres runs every 15 minutes from the Harthill Motorway Services. A park and ride system operates for car and bike owners for direct access to these centres. Local bus connections terminate here also.

Local industries comprise food distribution and the manufacture of plastics.


Grave of Elizabeth Burns, Whitburn Kirkyard
Grave of Elizabeth Burns at Whitburn

In 1767 the 'Turnpike' system was first established in Scotland with the main route between Edinburgh and Glasgow passing through Harthill. By 1780 'The Edinburgh to Glasgow Flyer' stagecoach would pass through Harthill and Whitburn up to 20 times a day. The 'Halfway House' which is now a private dwelling at Polkemmet Country park and Golf Course (on the B7066 (A8)) was where horses could be changed and watered. Travellers could take refreshments and later alcohol was licensed. Elizabeth Burns (daughter of Robert Burns) lived here at one point in the Halfway House with her husband, John Bishop, being employed as an overseer on the Polkemmet Estate, and in the nearby Whitburn churchyard there is a memorial to her.

Rev Alexander Carlyle (26 January 1722 – 28 August 1805) a former moderator of the Church of Scotland and autobiographer, wrote in 1744 of the area, that the closest buildings around Kirk o'Shotts was a single cottage in Whitburn, 'Whitburn itself was a solitary house in a desolate county' and that 'there was scarce a cottage to be seen east of Kirk o'Shotts'. He also described the whole area as bleak countryside, sparsely wooded, rough and hilly and weather harsh.

An early map of 1773 has reference to Harthill then known as 'Sidehead'. In 1795 Harthill was known as 'Sideheads' with the name having been given to a building there known as Sideheads. This building was close to where the now category B listed Viewfield house now stands on the Main Street. 1795 Parish records notes a James Main of Muirhead Lands and Mathew Hanney as farmers in the area. Most people in the surrounding area at this time were farmers or farm labourers.

An entry in Reg. Prov. Coun. Vol X dated 1616 makes reference to the coal mining of John Muirhead of Braidenhill who had a going coal pit near the land of Kipp in the new Monklands Parish. This coal pit had one draught and course of water which was drawn from the pit which operated for many years until, out of grudge, Matthew Newlands of Kipp caused the water to be dammed making the pit unprofitable.

A weekly mercat (market) and two annual 'fairs' at Kirk o'Shotts had been established under a warrant by King James VII, in 1685, to James Hamilton, the 4th Duke of Hamilton. These were to be held adjoining (mal a propos) Kirk o'Shotts on the third Tuesday of June and August. The chief business done at these markets was the buying and selling of horses and cattle.

By 1882 the Harthill village was thriving with many external business links and its own commercial bank, and continued to attract incomers.


Gravestone at Kirk o' Shotts, North Lanarkshire
Kirk o'Shotts gravestone showing the area's close connection with coal mining

Harthill and much of Central Scotland has rich deposits of coal. Digging of coal fuelled the beginnings of development in the area. Sir John Inglis of Crammond organised the first coal pits in the area at Benhar, south west of Harthill. Nine men were initially employed and received 13 shillings per week. These miners had tied accommodation with the job and had to pay rent to the coal pit owner. If they could no longer work due to accidents or ill health, they and their family lost their accommodation. Working conditions were very poor and dangerous.

In 1806, two miles to the east of Harthill at Greenrigg, Lord Polkemmet sank a pit which employed thirteen miners, two boys and some labourers. The seam was about 25 m (82 ft) below ground and it produced 8,000 tons of coal per year, which was sold for 6 shillings and 4d (33 new pence) per ton into Edinburgh and generated annual revenues of around £1,000 per year.

As the demand for coal continued to increase with growth from the effects of the Industrial Revolution, factories, and housing growth in Edinburgh and Glasgow, more pits began to be sunk throughout central Scotland for more coal. More people in Scotland now worked in coal pits and factories than in agriculture.

In 1830 it was normal for women and children as young as five and six to haul trucks full of coal to the surface of the coal pits. Accident records were not kept. The Shaftesbury Act (Mines and Collieries Act) of 1842 banned women and children under ten years of age from working in coal pits. They had up to then been employed to pull coal hutches and were known as 'coal-putters'. After women were banned from working below ground, they continued to be employed in emptying and picking unwanted debris from the coal extractions. It took a further 30 years before the Government required children to receive an education before working age.

In 1887 a coal miner earned 4s per day (20 pence; a loaf of bread would have cost a penny).

Greenrigg Colliery, West Lothian, owned by the Loganlea Coal Company, was taken over by United Collieries in 1905. It produced coal and clay, the clay going to the brickworks at Bathgate to make 'Etna' bricks. A fire at Greenrigg Colliery in 1924 destroyed most of the surface buildings and the headframes. The men had to escape through a connecting passage to Southrigg Colliery near Shotts. The pit was reconstructed and continued in operation until 1960.

On 1 January 1947, The NCB (National Coal Board) took over control of all local pits. Many pits nationally needed modernisation and investment. The country's industrial, transport and housing infrastructure needed re-built. By the 1960s small pit production lost out to investment in higher productivity super-pit production. The smaller pits around Polkemmet closed.

Coal pits near Harthill

Name of Pit Men Employed Underground Men Employed Above Ground
East Benhar 64 21
Greenrigg 346 117
Netherton 83 18
Blairmucklehill 249 100
Benhar 620 143
Hassockrigg 263 68
Fortissat 221 41
Hillhouserigg 211 33
Batton 239 65

The Baillie dynasty and legacy

Lord Polkemmet (messrs Baillie) and his family, originally from Lanarkshire, had owned much land around Harthill and Whitburn. They had purchased the land from a Mr Alan Shaw in 1620. The Baillies built a mansion in the grounds of the now public Polkemet Country Park and it became the family residence for over 300 years. The Baillies owned many local collieries and Lord Polkemmet's son William was made a baronet in 1823.

Sir William Baillie and his wife Lady Baillie extended the house in 1822 and the building was in continuous ownership by the Baillie family until the 1950s. At its height the building had 39 rooms and offices, 11 domestic servants and servants quarters. The grounds included stables, fodder store, a horse driven mill, a tack room for keeping carriages and later motor cars and tennis courts and bowling green. The Baillie family played an active role in the community, giving significant sums of money for the construction of public buildings and other developments, including the Baillie Institutes (community centres) built in Harthill, Whitburn and Blackburn. The Baillie Institute building in Harthill is now the Pentecostal church. Sir William and Lady Baillie were also responsible for the establishment of the Lady Baillie Sabbath School in Whitburn. Once a year the family would open their mansion to the public and on several other days each summer made it available for Sunday school outings.

One of the most notable members of the Baillie family was the 6th Baronet of Polkemmet, Sir Adrian. He was Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Lothian and Justice of the Peace. He was Unionist MP for the Linlithgowshire constituency between 1931 and 1935. He married Cecilia (Olive) Wilson-Filmer, the eldest daughter of Lord Queensborough. She reputedly had an income of around £50,000 pounds per year from her grandfather William Collins Whitney, an American multimillionaire. As an MP, Sir Aidrian then spent more time in London and Leeds Castle in Kent. The Baillie family ceased to be resident at Polkemmet from around this time.

Baillie Mausoleum, Polkemmet House
Mausoleum of Sir Adrian Baillie

During the war Polkemmet House was used both as a war hospital and accommodation for Polish soldiers who had fled Nazi-occupied Poland to continue fighting from Britain.

In 1945 Polkemmet House became the 'Trefoil School', originated during the war when a group of people associated with the Girl Guide movement volunteered to take care of handicapped evacuee children there. It was officially opened as the Trefoil School on 25 September by HRH The Princess Elizabeth (Now HM The Queen). She later became the school's patron. The Trefoil School remained here until 1951 when it moved to Gogarburn, Edinburgh. During this time at Polkemmet the school was visited by some important visitors including, Chief Scout, Lord Rowallan and Princess Mary, the Princess Royal. Following this the building became the Scottish Police training school before being demolished by the National Coal Board.

Sir Adrian Baillie the 6th Baronet died in 1947 and was interred in the mausoleum within the estate which can be seen there today. The family connection with the estate ended after three centuries. The mausoleum is the only part of the family estate the family now own.

Nearby towns and villages



The Harthill Free Church was formally opened on 20 July 1871 by Reverend William Arnott of Edinburgh. Reported in the Wishaw Press in 1877, the Harthill and Benhar Parish Church was opened. Costing £2,400 and seating 660, the opening ceremony was celebrated on the first Sabbath of April 1877 by the ordination of the Reverend Alexander Watt the missionary to the charge of the new church. The Reverend Taylor, Avondale preached and presided. In the afternoon a large number of Presbytery, etc. dined together at the residence of Sir William Baillie where the customary toasts were given.

In 1879 a decision was taken for Roman Catholics in Harthill to meet and celebrate Mass in the Harthill Public School. When a chapel was eventually planned it was built just outside the old settlement boundary of the village. The planning of a first chapel in neighbouring Whitburn seemed to follow a similar arrangement.

In 2016 the churches in the Harthill area are: Benhar Evangelical Church (which includes, Greenrigg Evangelical Mission), St Andrew's Church of Scotland (which includes, Forrest Memorial Hall), The Harvest Centre (Harthill Pentecostal Community Church); The Gospel Hall, and St Catherine's RC Church.

Polkemmet Country Park

The Polkemmet House estate was purchased by West Lothian District Council in 1978, and was redeveloped as a country park, opening in 1981.

Gala Day

The Gala Day has been a tradition in Harthill for over 100 years and includes the neighbouring villages of Eastfield and Greenrigg. A day of fun which begins with the colourful parade of floats, bands and people in fancy dress which marches from the Alexander Peden Primary School on through the streets of all three villages and on into Harthill Public Park. The Crowning Ceremony in the park ends the parade, then the Queen begins the sports and fun. Recent years have seen all sorts of events including para-gliding exhibitions, birds of prey, fireworks display and much more. The travelling fair known locally as 'the shows' are also an attraction during Gala week. Harthill, Eastfield and Greenrigg Children's Gala Day is held annually on the 2nd Saturday in June.

Greenrigg only once held its own Gala day. This happened in 1947 and was held in the Polkemmet estate for the children.


Year Population
1861 216
1871 686
1881 1441
1891 1008
2001 3575

Notable individuals

  • Elizabeth Burns (1784—1817), illegitimate daughter of poet Robert Burns. She married John Bishop, overseer at the Polkemmet estate, resided at the estate's 'half way house' on the existing main road B7066. Buried in Whitburn Parish Church graveyard (white headstone still in place).
  • Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North
  • Jimmy Drinnan (1906—1936), footballer who played as an inside forward
  • Hugh McQueen (1867—1944), footballer who played as a winger for Liverpool in the late 19th century, brother of Matt
  • Matt McQueen (1863—1944), footballer who became a director and manager of Liverpool F.C, brother of Hugh
  • John Moore (1943), former footballer, best known as a player for Luton Town
  • William E. Somerville (1869—1950), aircraft engineer
  • Eric Stevenson (1942–2017), footballer with Hibernian
  • Graham Weir (1984), football player who currently plays for Second Division club Brechin City, brother of Steven
  • Steven Weir (1988), football striker playing for Australian side South Melbourne FC, brother of Graham
  • Colin Cloud (1987), Stage mentalist. Appeared on America's Got Talent in 2017. Described as the closest to Sherlock Holmes.

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