Visit to Fireclay Mine near Bo'Ness

Fireclay is used mainly for making bricks for use in metal foundries, kilns and fireplaces, because it can withstand high temperatures. This fireclay mine supplied the local foundries and furnaces in the central belt of industrial Scotland. It is in the Avon Gorge and can be arrived at on the Bo'Ness to Kinneil Railway. 

This is what you see first - the works where the fireclay was brought up to, sorted and loaded onto trains

The different forms of clay is fascinating. It varies from stuff that must be blasted out of the fragile granite rock, super white and non-plastic (see my China clay posting) and settled beds of clay, soft and almost ready to use by a potter (see the Clay winning post). Then there is fireclay, which is deep down in the ground and is so hard it can support remarkably wide tunnels without support. 

The visit to this mine is great because it comprises a lovely little train journey, a walk through forest in the Avon Gorge and then underground to the mines. There is lots to see down here, with the guides describing the life of the fireclay miners, the marks of ancient riverbeds in the roof of the mine and the 300 million-year-old fossils, laid down in the Carboniferous Period, long before even the dinosaurs walked the earth.

Trucks from the mine

The walk down the gorge towards the mine

The mine's entrance

With hard hats on we go down the mine
This fellow worked in extraordinarily low light conditions

Deeper we go - it can be unnerving for some people

The ventilation system

In some wider sections the roof needs support
This was the bottom of a river bed

As water is no longer pumped out, a lot of the mine is now flooded

This is the sort of thing the clay was turned into (not on this site). The bricks were used extensively in the steel industry


One of the dead-end tunnels going off to the side

This is a fossil - sorry I can't remember of what