The village of Glamis is best known as the gateway to Glamis Castle. It is also home to the Angus Folk Museum. This remarkable window onto a world now largely gone stands both sides of the road, Kirk Wynd, which leads from the centre of the village to St Fergus Kirk.
The Angus Folk Museum was founded by Jean, Lady Maitland, who assembled an extensive collection reflecting rural life in Angus during the middle of the 1900s. The museum was run by trustees until placed in the care of the National Trust for Scotland in 1976. The NTS continues to run the museum today.
There are two very distinct elements to the museum. You start your tour in the reception and shop. This stands at one end of a terrace of six cottages, which is home to the museum's domestic collections. The cottages were originally built in 1793 to house workers on the Glamis Estate, and were given by the 16th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne to provide a home for Lady Maitland's collection.
None of the cottages had any internal sanitation or running water: all water had to be drawn from a pump which still stands outside the terrace. The cottages have been converted internally to provide a long series of interconnected rooms, each with a collection showing a particular aspect of traditional Angus life.
The second part of the museum occupies a traditional farmstead surrounding a stone flagged courtyard on the opposite side of Kirk Wynd from the cottages. Much of this is home to the "Life on the Land" collection. Although the cart shed at the rear of the farmstead looks like it has been there forever, it actually started life at Knockenny Farm, a mile to the south of Glamis before being dismantled and reconstructed in its current location in 1992.
Starting in the farmstead, the first building on the left is the traditional hearse house for Glamis parish. Inside you find the horse drawn hearse once used in Glenisla. This would have been used to take the more wealthy residents of the parish on their final journey. Others would have had to rely on farm carts or simply being carried by friends or relatives. A little further along the same range is the smiddy, equipped with a forge plus all the tools and various items of "work in progress" that show the working life of the blacksmith.
The stable illustrates an easily forgotten reality about agriculture in Scotland until the 1950s: that the main motive power was the horse. Equally surprising was that up to a third of all arable land was used for growing food for the horses working on the farm. The stable at the museum comes complete with a range of harnesses and other equipment, and with a ploughman and horse. The rearmost portion of the left hand range of the farmstead is home to the bothy. Bothies on farms were relatively common until the end of the 1940s and provided accommodation for unmarried farm labourers. Residents were partly paid in cash and partly through the provision of accommodation and rations of oatmeal, milk, potatoes and peat or coal.
The relocated cart shed at the rear of the farmstead is used to display an amazing collection of carts and agricultural implements of various kinds: these overflow out into the courtyard and in may cases part of the attraction is in wondering what they could possibly have been used for. A large part of the right hand range is home to a more formalised exhibition about life on the land, covering the two waves of change that swept across rural Scotland. The first was the enclosure of land and the passing of the runrig system in the years either side of 1800. The second was the replacement of the horse by the tractor following World War Two.
Back in the cottages, your first impression is that they are far larger internally than looks possible from the outside. The room most distant from the reception is a recreation of the parlour of a Victorian manse, complete with the minister and his wife. The dairy carries a wide range of the implements needed to milk cows and make butter and cheese. The laundry follows the approach of the dairy, and here you find dollies and mangles and all the other accoutrements of washday. The large collection of irons is particularly impressive.
One part of the museum has been set up as a Victorian schoolroom. Desks and chairs fill a room whose walls are lined with blackboards, maps and an abacus. The largest single area in the cottages is given over to spinning and weaving. In the early 1800s this was a hugely important cottage industry (literally), and in 1822 over 22 million yards of linen were woven in Angus. Weaving was usually undertaken by men, while the women specialised in spinning and pim or bobbin winding. The exhibition at the museum is dominated by a Jacquard loom. This was a remarkable device invented in 1801, combining a heavy wooden body with a control system driven by punched cards, much like those used to program the first computers over a century and a half later.
Elsewhere in the museum is an area focusing on the Victorian kitchen, complete with all the equipment and implements needed to produce a range of classic Scottish dishes such as porridge, stovies and clootie dumpling. Meanwhile "Madge's Room" is a complete room from the home of Madge Taylor, once a traditional "but and ben" two room cottage in the village of Craichie, seven miles east of Glamis. This had originally been built in 1807 and was demolished in 1960. The recreation in the museum even includes the ceiling and provides a fascinating insight into one real family's way of life.