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Bell Pit(S) (Period Unassigned), Colliery (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Byreburnfoot

Classification Bell Pit(S) (Period Unassigned), Colliery (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Birnyfoot; Canonbie Coalfield; Byreburnfoot Bridge

Canmore ID 67513

Site Number NY37NE 34

NGR NY 3940 7826

NGR Description Centred NY 3940 7826

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Canonbie
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Annandale And Eskdale
  • Former County Dumfries-shire

Archaeology Notes

NY37NE 34.00 centred 3940 7826

NY37NE 34.01 3904 7802 Buildings

See also NY38SE 36 and NY38SE 38 and NY37NE 48.

The site of the colliery noted in the OSA at Byreburnfoot cannot be located. At NY 3900 7798, however, there is what has probably been the mouth of a drainage level.

RCAHMS 1981, visited January 1981.

OSA 1795.

The mining remains that flank the gully of the Byre Burn mark the NW extent of the Canonbie coalfield. The remains comprise three buildings, two of which may have had an industrial function, several fragments of lades, two drainage levels, a rock-cut passage, several bell-pits, and two spoil dumps linked by a short length of tramway.

A colliery at Byreburnfoot is recorded in the Statistical Account of 1795 and is one of two established in the parish by the end of the 18th century. The colliery was operated by the Duke of Buccleuch, and the opening of the new workings was achieved by labour brought from his other mine at Sheriffhall in Midlothian. The Statistical Account also gives a full description of the water-bucket pumping-engine which drained the workings, and is said to have been fed by the lade (NY38SE 38) that runs from the Tarras Water to the head of the Byre Burn.

A plan of the coal seams published in 1862 identifies the position of the pumping-engine some 60m to the S of the confluence of the River Esk and the Byre Burn; a three storey building occupies this site, and, although there is no evidence that this was ever its function, it is known locally as the old engine house. Also shown on the plan is a water wheel incline and its associated building (NY37NE 34.01), situated on the NW side of the Byre Burn, about 50m to the NE of Byreburnfoot Bridge. Two roofed buildings are shown at this location on the 1st and 2nd editions of the OS map, and both are now ruinous (Dumfriesshire, sheet liii, 1862 and 1900 respectively). The larger of the two is situated on a revetted terrace above the burn, and, although it has been modified on several occasions, two narrow vertical slots are still visible in the SE wall; these are probably related to a pulley system. What may be the outflow of a blocked drain is visible at the foot of the terrace revetment. The second building lies immediately upslope and has been reduced to its stone footings.

To the NE (NY 3913 7815), two fragments of a lade can be traced, cutting across an angle of the burn and heading towards the buildings. A short distance further upstream on the S side of the burn (NY 3921 7815), a patch of heavy iron-staining indicates the mouth of a drainage level, which, although choked with sediment, is still discharging water. A further drainage level (NY 3900 7798) is located to the N of the confluence of the River Esk and the Byre Burn, and this, too, is discharging water. The passage has been cut through the rock and is lined at its mouth with a stone arch. One other feature worthy of mention lies on the N side of the Byre Burn about 100m downstream of the Fairy Loup (NY 3934 7822). Here, the mouth of a rock-cut passage is visible in the river bank, while below, a short length of a wall, now tumbled, extends to the E, and may have been built to deflect the course of the burn.

The earliest documentary reference for the mining of coal in the parish dates to the early 17th century. Although it is impossible to identify these early workings, they may be amongst the bell-pits which lie in the wood on the N side of the Byre Burn. A row of three bell-pits is situated in the NW corner of this wood (NY 3955 7849); the shafts are water-filled and surrounded by a broad rim of shale Some 90m to the NE, a large quarry with a bank of shale on its E side may indicate an area of opencast coal mining, and this too may be early in date. While the majority of the mining remains are situated on the W side of the Byre Burn, on the E side, in woodland to the N of Byreburnside, a bell-pit is situated on the edge of a terrace (NY 3979 7850). A short distance to the N, at the site of the former Birnyfoot steading (NY 3982 7858), there is a further mound containing shale.

By 1810, a coal mine was in operation on the N side of the Byre Burn (NY 3952 7865), about 200m to the SW of Gilnockie School (NY37NE 20), and this is depicted on a map of Canonbie parish, produced for the Buccleuch estate. The remains of the spoil dump are visible on a vertical aerial photograph (543/RAF/1507 0132, 3 November 1961), but all that can now be seen is a swelling on the surface of a ploughed field Another low swelling, possibly a tramway connection, runs SSW into the adjoining field, and leads to a demolished spoil dump (NY 3950 7858). To the N, a lade (NY37NE 36) can be followed in the Major Wood, and this may have provided the power to operate the mine.

Visited by RCAHMS (ARW, SPH), 11 August 1993.

OSA 1795; E Gibsone 1862; C Lowther, R Fallow and P Mauson 1894; B F Duckham 1970; I Donnachie 1971; G D Hay and G P Stell 1986; Scottish Record Office documents GD 224/242/3-5 and 224/292/32.

Byreburn Colliery. Listed as bell-pits, mines and lade.

RCAHMS 1997.


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