Museums for Family Historians – Mining & Quarrying

From the geology of Scotland its people have derived a wealth of raw materials, and some of these products are showcased in our musems today.

Lead extraction reached a peak in the early 19th century. Every Scottish county had a lead mine but the principle mines lay at Leadhills, Wanlockhead, Alva, Strontian, Tyndrum and Minnigaff. The industry fell into decline after 1820 with the arrival of cheap lead from Spain. Three of these mining areas – Wanlockhead, Leadhills and Tyndrum – also contained deposits of gold, along with Helmsdale in Sutherland.

The Scottish coalfield extends from Ayr on the west coast to Fife on the east. The most valuable seam lay in Lanarkshire, along with many seams of ironstone, and this coal was of vital importance in the iron smelting industry. The Lanarkshire coal fields are now becoming less productive although open-casting continues a viable source of coal.

Slate quarrying was a boom industry in the period from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, with over 80 quarries in production. The centre of the industry lay in Easdale and the three neighbouring ‘slate islands’ where production peaked towards the end of the 19th century. The import of cheap Spanish and Welsh slate saw the end of Scottish industry although many of our traditional buildings still have their characteristic slate roofs.

Museum of Lead Mining

Museum of the Scottish Shale Oil Industry

National Mining Museum Scotland

Scottish Slate Islands Heritage Centre

  • Address: 13A Ellenabeich, Seil Island, Oban, Argyll & Bute PA34 4RQ
  • Tel: 01852 300307
  • E-mail: (Contact form online)
  • Website:

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