A History

Updated 18 April 2010

On this page:

  • OVERVIEW of last two centuries

  • ROADS (See DEVELOPMENT for origins of local street names)





Elsewhere on the site:

Railway Lines in the Armadale Area past, present and future



"The post-office here [Bathgate] receives letters twice a-day from the east, and once from the west.  But the dispatch of letters is not so convenient, the letter-bags being all made up at night.  The communications by roads are on all hands very commodious, and the roads in general well kept.  The turnpike-road from Borrowstownness [ Bo'ness] towards Lanark runs for about four miles and a-half through the parish, and the middle Edinburgh and Glasgow road for a trifle more than seven.  On the latter there travelled for some years from twelve to eighteen stagecoaches daily.  All have been given up since the railway opened.......  An act has been obtained for a railway from Bathgate to the Slammanan Railway; but there is little likelihood of its being soon acted upon."

In the Miscellaneous Observations, dated April 1843, however, it was noted that "Very great changes have taken place in this parish since the former Account was published.  The middle road between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which is by much the most frequented line between these two cities, and which passes through the town of Bathgate, was not at that time even contemplated.  No direct road to the east and west existed, except parish roads, the lines, levels, and keeping of which, were all extremely bad.  Increased facility of communication has been of material service in helping forward the other improvements, to which  the gradual progress of the country has been leading."

New Statistical Account of Scotland - Linlithgow, 1845


Although railway information is to be found elsewhere, I thought readers might like to read a nostalgic reminder of a traveller's view from the 11am Airdrie to Bathgate train (from A.G. Williamson's Twixt Forth & Clyde, which was published initially in 1942):

"I joined this train one morning, and less than a quarter-of-an-hour after we had left the town we were running along the side of a loch that might have had a setting anywhere in Galloway.  There was a grey shingle beach; a bank of fresh green fields dotted with black-and-white cattle; a wooded headland; and, where the loch narrowed into the North Calder Water, a lodge and little stone bridge....

At Blackridge I saw rows of little brown cottages with apple-green roofs; while at Westcraigs there were a mine and some red and grey two storey tenements standing against a bold green hill which suggested a headland.  Beyond the station we struck a typical patch of Black Country, with here and there pyramidical bings and skyline broken by chimney 'stacks', and puffs of velvety black smoke; then the road wandered away on the left, carrying with it a stream of blue-and-white 'buses and cars, into Armadale.  There was a forest of 'stacks' here, and a succession of bings met the eye one behind the other, on the opposite side of the line..."


The Drove Road between Woodend and Blackridge

More information about roads, visit the excellent Old Roads of Scotland site, which contains information about roads across the Lothians ; Ogilface-related; Barbauchlaw-linked.

Two ancient roads in the Bathville area:
  • Bathgate to Holytoun via Hardhill Brae, Bathville Cross, Shottskirk

  • Drove road called Drove Loan until 1880,  used by drovers of sheep and cattle from market trysts at Falkirk and Larbert: South Street, Station Road, Whitburn Road.  Salters brought salt south from Bo'ness to inland markets at centres such as Lanark.

1691: The Middle Way to Glasgow: From Broxburn via Bangour, Drumcross Easton, Colinshiel and Woodend.
1791: "By an Act of Parliament, the road from Glasgow to Airdrie to be extended to Edinburgh via Bathgate, and when executed, will be the most accessible way between these cities, not only as being the shortest, but most level and free from pull"
1795: By October a new road, later known more commonly as The Great Road, between Newbridge and Airdrie was opened as part of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Turnpike Road.  Toll bars or toll points were set up along the road, one at Armadale Cross, known as Barbauchlaw Toll, which was 'heavily gated and barred' to prevent any attempt at toll avoidance.  In 1797 the Toll Keeper's House was on the north-east corner of the Cross ('a small one-roomed hut with a lookout window in each wall').  John Russell's joiner's shop and George Swan's Armadale Inn (tenanted by John Harvie in 1808, and now the Regal Bar) were all built at or near the Cross.
Craig Inn Centre: once known as Westcraig Farm but also as Craig Inn Farm: former staging post and inn for stagecoach travellers as well as drovers.  Now a community centre, with library and small museum
1804: 'the newest and most frequented road between Glasgow and Edinburgh'

"The communications by roads are.... very commodious, and the roads in general well kept.  The turnpike-road from Borrowstownness towards Lanark runs for about four miles and-a-half through the parish, and the middle Edinburgh and Glasgow road for a trifle more than seven.  On the latter these travelled for some years from 12 to 18 stage-coaches daily.  All have been given up since the railway was opened."  New Statistical Account 1845

  • 1855 Bathgate - Monkland railway branch line completed;

  • 1858 first passenger station opened;

  • early 1860s railway line connected with Airdrie-Glasgow line and also Armadale connected to Edinburgh, and connected to Glasgow via Airdrie and Slamannan.

  • As a result of the North British Railway Company service, the last of the stagecoaches were withdrawn as they were no longer needed.

Past and Present Chap I  : The Great North Road (A89)


In 1990 McKinnon and Fernie of Heriot-Watt University produced a survey of The development of distribution facilities in West Lothian that showed Bathgate to be the most cost-effective location for distribution within Scotland. The roundabout on the A89 to the east of Armadale, Heatherfield, was judged to be 'the heart of Scotland', the most accessible place by road in Scotland.


The Stane beside the Cross

There's a stane that stands in Armadale
It stands beside the Cross,
tae yin an' a' it tells a tale
O' hoo a life was lost.
her name shall have immortal fame,
Her deed shall never fade,
For there a heroine was slain
That wore nae martial plaid.

Tho' she was but a humble wife,
her cottage trim and clean,
That fatal day she gave her life
her noble soul was seen.
An' tho' her face may dim with time
Forgotten thro' the years
Her stane recalls a heroine
That wet the Dale wi' tears.

Alas, it stands arrayed in green
And bears a lamp post light
Tae me the green is but a screen
That hides a marble white.

Above: Armadale Cross, on the corner of West Main Street and South Street, looking across The Great Road joining Glasgow to Edinburgh, now the A89, towards the corner of North Street and East Main Street, the site of the Toll House (c1795) and the Toll Bar where travellers had to pay a toll to continue their journeys.  The Toll House was demolished in January 1884.

The memorial in the foreground was erected in honour of Mrs Elizabeth Kerr of Dunolly Cottage. She was a local midwife, and so well known and well liked.

On 26 November 1919, she was shopping in town.  On leaving a shop, she saw a young girl standing in the middle of the road.  She noted that a car was approaching, and so she rushed to push the girl out of its path.  Sadly, the car hit Mrs Kerr who died later from her injuries.

The girl was Mary Easton, later Mrs Forbes of South Africa.

Armadalians expressed their appreciation of Mrs Kerr's heroism by collecting money (The carnegie hero Fund trust, John Ross - Chairman, George Burns - Secretary), which paid for the erection of the memorial at Armadale Cross in the 1920s.  The memorial describes the details of the accident and includes the quotation "Unbounded Courage and Compassion Joined".


Can anyone help?  Looking for information about  the  Armadale Tri-car.

In 1906, an Armadale tri-car and a Lagonda tri-car attempted to drive to Cape Wrath on the north-west tip of Scotland. Unfortunately, the driver of the Armadale put a wheel in a ditch and turned the car over, buckling a wheel in the process. This happened in a remote spot, twenty miles from civilisation.  As a result, the Lagonda had to ferry everyone to the nearest habitation and bring up the rescue party, and so they never made it to the Cape. The whole episode is covered in three issues of The Motor Cycle magazine: 14 November, 21 November and 28 November 1906.

The Armadale Tri-car was an English light three wheeled car, first known as the ‘Toboggan’, with either a single-cylinder Aster or a two-cylinder Fafnir engine. Unusually for a tri-car, the Armadale Tri-car, (sometimes assessed as the "perfect little three-wheeler") featured a pressed steel chassis as well as an infinitely variable friction drive.  

It was manufactured from 1906 to 1907 by Armadale Motors Ltd, Northwood, Middlesex, then, in 1907,  Northwood Motor & Engineering Works, also of Northwood.

I would like to thank Tony Beadle who provided the following information:


In its 14th July 1906 issue, an early weekly motoring magazine called The Motor-Car Journal announced: “We learn that the style of the firm manufacturing the Armadale has now been altered from Toboggan Motors Ltd to Armadale Motors Ltd. For some time past it has been apparent to the directors that the title of “Toboggan” was unsuitable. They have therefore, by special resolution of the company and sanction of the Board of Trade, made the alteration. The company is now installed in its new works at Trinity Road, Wandsworth Common, London S.W.”

The first Toboggan tri-car appeared in March 1905 and got its name from the shape of the body. Known as a forecar (i.e. with the passenger sitting in between the two front wheels and the driver at the back perched over the single rear wheel) the Toboggan was powered by a 4hp Aster water-cooled engine, had a friction disc transmission and a single chain final drive.

In November 1905 the directors of Toboggan Motors Ltd were listed as H.E. Harrison, A.C.G. Smith, R.G. (or W.G.) Batchelor and J.A. Leon. The first recorded use of the Armadale name by Toboggan seems to have been at the Cordingley Motor Show held in London from 24th to 31st March 1906. The company also built a more conventional type of four-wheel car later that year.

Although it has been suggested that there might be some connection to the town of Armadale in the choice of the name, it has not been possible to find any evidence for this – can someone from Armadale provide any clues or suggestions?

The most likely person to have chosen the name must be the managing director of Armadale Motors, Arthur Cyril Godwin Smith – did he have any links to the town? Unfortunately, Godwin Smith was in a financially embarrassing situation by the latter part of 1906 and the company was wound up. Production of the tri-car was then taken up by the Northwood Engineering & Motor Works of Northwood in Middlesex but it is believed that the Armadale failed to survive beyond 1907.

If you have any information about the tri-car or the reason for its Armadale name, please e-mail Rosie  Posted 28 January 2009


The grave of Benjamin Shaw, son of Benjamin and Sarah Shaw of St Paul's Church Yard, London,  in Kirkton cemetery.  He was killed while travelling on the Telegraph Coach near West Craigs in 1807.

  • 1788: Early planning for an Edinburgh-Glasgow mail coach, thereby extending the recently created Royal Mail Coach service from London.

  • 1795: A new road (the Bathgate-Airdrie Turnpike Road) was completed in October.  It promised to be more reliable, and less disrupted by weather, as it was built on lower, flatter ground than the original stagecoach route, which had posed problems because of the steep gradients over Bathgate and the Craig Hills.

  • 1797: Regular coach services began along the Edinburgh - Glasgow toll road.

  • 1805: The Royal Mail coaches were eventually run between Edinburgh and Glasgow using the southern route via Whitburn.

  • 1810: Coaches began to follow the northern route via Linlithgow, Falkirk and Kilsyth.

  • 1828: Coaches left Edinburgh at 11am (southern route) and 9.15pm (northern route).  By the end of the year a night mail coach was using the Bathgate-Airdrie middle route.  The latter caused difficulties for Bathgate's postmaster as he lived some distance from the mail route, and so collection of mail had to be provided for.  Lengthy debate followed over whether the Postmaster should receive payment for the inconvenience of collection. 

  • 1829: Eventually, it was decided that an incidental expense would be paid to facilitate the collection of mail.

  • 1837: A Receiving Office was created on the mail coach route and the middle route Glasgow-Edinburgh coach stopped at Walter Forrester's in Bathgate's Bridge Street at 1am while the  Edinburgh-Glasgow coach via Broxburn and Uphall stopped there nightly at 11.30pm.

  • 1842: The Post Office considered shipping post by railway.

  • 1843: Bathgate Receiving Office was no longer needed and £10 a year was saved!

See Shops and Public Houses for information about inns serving stagecoaches

The photo shows part of the stage coach history display in Blackridge Community Museum

  • 1855: First Sub-Post Office in Armadale, run by Mrs Forsyth, blacksmith's wife.

  • 1860: Mrs Forsyth resigned.  Mr Forrester took over the local office and combined it with his recently opened stationery shop.

  • 1870: John MacDonald, former miner, took over from Mr Forrester, remaining Armadale's sub-postmaster until 1879.  A slit in the wall of his home created Armadale's first post box.  He ran the stationer's, bookshop and newsagent's and was also the village Registrar.

  • 1871: The telegraph was introduced to Armadale (20 words were sent for 1shilling).

  • 1879: Mr Beveridge took over the newsagency. Duncan McDougal, Armadale's draper, ran the Post Office until he went bankrupt 3 years later.  The Post Office was again combined with the newsagent's business.

  • 1900: Armadale's first Crown Post Office: Postmaster; counter assistant; 3 postmen; 2 telegram delivery boys.  2 morning deliveries, 1 5pm delivery Mondays - saturdays.  5 collections, the last at 8pm.  Letters and parcels were despatched by rail.

  • 1909: Post Office to be open from 8am to 8pm.

  • 1909: Telephone Exchange to be introduced if sufficient demand (i.e 5 subscribers).  Once 5 had agreed, plans were implemented.


Colquhoun Postcard

  • 1916 - 1920: Armadale's first speed warning signs (a limit of 10 mph) were erected near the Crown Hotel and at the junction of Academy Street and West Main Street.

  • 1905: The Scottish Motor Traction Company operated a Bathgate - Armadale service by steam-driven charabanc.

  • James Aitken aka Jimmy: At first he ran a horse-drawn wagonette and later a small box-like long bus between Toll Brae and Armadale Station for passengers and goods.

  • Tennant Company: ran buses, a hearse and taxis.  It ran a passenger service between Bathgate and Airdrie and  local excursions such as the Sunday School trips. One of their buses had a folding roof and every row of seats had its own door.  The nearside of the bus had steps leading to the door.

  • Smiths of Mill Road and John Young: small 14 seater buses were for hire. Shopping trips were run every Friday from Woodend - Armadale -Woodend and Northrigg - Armadale -Northrigg.

  • Some bus trips only required transportation on return trips where children walked to destinations such as Boghead and The Birks (behind Heatherfield).

  • In 1950 there was a two-way broadcast between Armadale, West Lothian and Armadale, Australia

  • In 1956, Provost Will Ferrier sent greetings to Armadale, Victoria, Armadale, western Australia, and Armadale, Ontario.

  • In 1956, Armadale was featured in a radio programme 'Matters Arising' in which Mrs. McKeown, Esay Edwards, Martin Prentice, Hugh Wotherspooon, J.F. Miller, Peter King and Mrs Sharp asked questions.