The Gladstone Court Museum has closed and been replaced by the superb Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum, which opened in Biggar in the summer of 2015. This page remains as it was when the museum was open, to allow a glimpse of what was on offer here.
The Gladstone Court Museum is one of the most fascinating small museums you are likely to find anywhere. An absolute treasure trove drawn from Biggar's past, it allows visitors to wander through a series of interconnected "streets" and explore the many old shops, offices, workshops and other premises which these give access to.
The museum stands on the north side of North Back Street. This is the road that runs parallel to Biggar's High Street and Market Place and, as the name implies, just to the north of it. It can be accessed through a number of narrow wynds or alleys that link North Back Street to the Market Place; and which, incidentally, say much about how parts of Biggar's medieval street plan still remain.
Gladstone Court Museum started life as a private venture in 1964 and opened its doors to the public in 1968. The opening was performed by the poet Hugh MacDiarmid, a resident of Biggar from 1951 until his death in 1978. The connection is remembered in the naming of nearby MacDiarmid Court. The building housing the museum started life as a coach works before becoming a mission hall. When work began to convert the building into a museum it was being used as an ironmonger's fireplace showroom.
The museum has been carefully designed to reward exploration. Within a necessarily limited space, the "streets" that run through the museum are more narrow wynds, complete with a Victorian post box, antique street furniture, street signs and adverts. Two main streets running front to back are linked by a number of cross streets. The fascination comes partly from the enclosed street environment, but for many the real magic starts when you begin to explore what lies behind the many front doors leading off the streets.
Beyond an arch which originally came from Ingraston House lies Biggar's old telephone exchange, which was moved here in its entirety when it was replaced by a new exchange in 1973. Nearby is the village library, now home to many of the books which once resided in the Robertson village library. Here, too, you find a well used armchair which one belonged to Hugh MacDiarmid.
Workshops on view include that of Andrew Reid, watch and clockmaker, who was one of half a dozen to have plied their trade in Biggar in the 1800s. The cobbler's workshop is a partial reconstruction of the home of John Brown, built in 1653 and re-erected here after it was demolished, then fitted out with items from a number of cobblers' workshops. John Gladstone, the ironmonger, started business in Biggar in 1864 and many of the fittings of his business are now housed in the museum. Elsewhere you will find a dressmakers, a joiner's workshop, and an Albion Dog Cart Car, made in Biggar in 1899.
On the retail side the museum is home to a china shop, a grocers, a printer and stationer, and a druggist. Other premises within the museum are home to a bank, whose interior is an amalgam of the branches of four different banks who once had a presence in Biggar. There is also a schoolroom containing items from a number of schools and Sunday schools in and around the town. Standing on a street corner is a wooden booth which houses the Metropolitan Photographic Art Studio.
What makes the Gladstone Court Museum so wonderful and unique is the way so much of what you find within it looks and feels so real: because so much of it is real. Here you find entire little chunks of Biggar's history swept up, preserved and lovingly presented for later generations to enjoy.
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Closed: see note in text.