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Biggar's museums

Scotland's Museum Town

With more museums per capita than anywhere else in Scotland, the market town of Biggar
is a window into Scotlandís past.

BY JIM GILCHRIST

Prehistoric flint tools and Victorian shops, the earliest known gun in Scotland and one of the oldest surviving cars in Britain, a poet's cottage and... a gasworks. Such are the bemusingly varied artifacts scattered across seven properties in the south Lanarkshire town of Biggar, which describes itself, with ample justification, as "Scotland's museum town."

With more museums per head of population than any other town in Scotland, Biggar is set to consolidate its remarkable collections, with work expected to start this year on a new, centralized and purpose-built museum in the old market town's broad High Street – if hoped for funding materializes to complement the £450,000 raised in just six months by a community which clearly values its heritage.

At present, the town's vast accumulation of artifacts is housed across various properties – in the Biggar Museum Trust's flagship building, the Moat Park Heritage Centre; in Gladstone Court Museum, a series of recreated Victorian streets and shops; in the 17th-century Greenhill Covenanter's House; in the Biggar Albion Archive, which holds records and vehicles from the famous Glasgow vehicle manufacturer; and, of course, in the aforementioned gasworks (the latter two no longer run by the trust). The trust also manages Brownsbank Cottage, former home of the eminent poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and the Holy Trinity Chapel at Lamington, both situated outside of Biggar.

A royal burgh since 1451, Biggar still retains something of its medieval layout, with many wynds and closes extending off its broad main street. Up one of these closes, you find Gladstone Court Museum. This is where it all started more than half a century ago, when Brian Lambie, whose family ran a hardware store in the High Street, started accumulating old fireplaces and other antiques.

The full text of this article is available in the Summer 2013 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photo above left: © Chris Robson / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint; photos above right courtesy Suzanne Rigg / Biggar Museum Trust