Biggar and Upper Clydesdale Museum


Building owner/client:

Biggar Museum Trust

Architect or lead designer:

John Sanders, Simpson & Brown, Edinburgh

Local Authority Area:

South Lanarkshire

Nominating Body:

Biggar Museum Trust

Project Description

Biggar Museum Trust is responsible for a large collection of artefacts, documents and photographs amassed over some 40 years under the leadership of the late Brian Lambie. The collection was housed in two principal buildings and two former church stores, but none were fully accessible or fit for purpose, and were becoming increasingly difficult to manage and maintain. In 2010 an opportunity arose to acquire a former filling station and garage workshop built around a former smiddy, with house above, on the High Street, within the Conservation Area. A consultant team led by Simpson & Brown was selected to prepare a feasibility study, and a local appeal was strongly supported, raising £450,000 within six months to acquire the site and begin the process of producing a high quality design. Further fundraising including a two stage grant from the Clyde Wind Farm Fund, and funding from the LEADER programme, Museums Galleries Scotland, private Trusts, a second local appeal, a legacy, and the sales of redundant buildings has produced a total of £2.5 million. Contractors were appointed after a tendering process and construction started on site in April 2014, followed by fitting out from February 2015. The new Museum opened to visitors on time and within budget on 28 July 2015, and was formally opened by HRH The Princess Royal on 16 October. The Museum consists of a parking area on the forecourt, a shop/ reception area, archive room and office within the original stone buildings facing the forecourt, with two restored flats let to tenants, above. There is also a Special Exhibition Room with enhanced security and environment to enable items of national significance to be displayed on loan in temporary exhibitions, as well as general community use. The main Exhibition Gallery is within a new building with a high level of insulation and a state-of-the-art computer controlled heating and environmental system . It contains carefully selected and presented displays of artefacts illustrating the geology, history and people of the local area, together with a streetscape of recreated shops stocked with items from the town itself. The displays have proved to be of interest to all ages, and an education programme supports this. There are two large storage areas for the reserve collection above the main exhibition area, and further basic stores in the rear courtyard. The central accessible location and facilities have enabled the museum to act as a community resource with a programme of events which was not possible in the former locations. The new Museum has one full time and one part time staff, and otherwise is supported entirely by volunteers, including a Patrons Club and a Friends Group. Admission to residents from the large local postcode area ML12 is free. It is open six days a week from April to October, and at weekends from November to March, although group and educational visits can be arranged outwith normal opening times. It has attracted over 4,000 visitors since opening.

Supporting Statement. Why your group has nominated this project (max 500 words):

Supporting Statement

The consultant team selected for building and exhibition design are very experienced and respected in their fields, and have produced a well designed, attractive, affordable, accessible and practical museum which has exceeded the aspirations of the Trustees, incorporating innovation particularly in the heating and environmental system, and in the display of the collection. The building has low running and maintenance costs, and allows a high level of volunteer input, ensuring that the project will be sustainable. No regular public funding is sought to meet operating costs, to enable the museum to remain independent. The project has improved the setting of the original building within the Conservation Area by clearing the forecourt of petrol pumps and a canopy, restoring the original stone building, and removing the former dilapidated workshop and replacing it with a new building. The two former museums and church stores have been sold for conversion to new uses. The largest contribution to the funding of the project came from the two local appeals which raised over £750,000, a remarkable achievement for a scattered rural community. The new Museum has been accepted as a worthy successor to Brian Lambie’s original concept, and as a benefit to the local economy as well as enabling community participation and engagement, and both these aspects will increase as the new museum develops. The project was completed on time and within budget and when all funding has been received and costs met will enable over £200,000 to be returned to a Reserve Fund to generate interest towards operating costs and provide a safety net for the future. The project and fundraising for it were managed on a mainly voluntary basis from within the Trustees in partnership with the consultant team and contractors over a period of five years, and placed a great strain on the key members involved. Not all of the funding had been confirmed when the project started, and certain elements had to be held back until fully resourced. It had been hoped that the project would be supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund but despite two applications no grant was awarded, and funding had to be sought from elsewhere. This, and managing cash flow with the assistance of two loans, together with the time and skills required from the volunteer team were the most challenging aspects of the project, if the extremely tortuous processes of obtaining contracts from Scottish Power and British Gas are discounted! However, in contrast, the Museum was awarded five stars by VisitScotland shortly after opening, which was a great comfort and accolade.