Gladstone Court Museum, Biggar
In a small Victorian arcade, bits and pieces of Biggar's bygone businesses have been carefully collected to create Gladstone Court Museum. Like a Lanarkshire equivalent of Eastbourne's Museum of Shops, the museum shows street life as it used to be. The effect is familar and strange at the same time.
There's one of everything useful - a bank, a photographer's studio, a printer's workshop, a cobblers and bootmakers, a school room, a chemists, a grocers, a drapers, a library and a telephone exchange. It’s amazing how many of these establishments you either don’t get at all these days, or find rarely. The ones that remain have changed beyond recognition so it’s great to go and have a rummage.
The shops are all open so you can have a fossick through trays of letters in the printers, goggle at the peculiar concoctions in the chemists - like liniments and concentrated flesh food, and sit at a really uncomfortable desk in the school room. The old grocer's shop, straight out of Open All Hours is fascinating. It's stacked to the rafters with beautiful brands, now long gone. It's not a big place but we spent quite a while there, explaining to the kids that this was how things used to be, even though it was before our time as well.
For a small town, Biggar is well-served by museums. Gladstone Court is one of 6 locally, and was opened in 1968 by the poet Hugh MacDiarmid who lived in the town. Some of his books are on show in the little library above the telephone exchange. Like many of Biggar's museums, the 21st century has passed it by. Quite fitting, really. There are no animatronic shopkeepers or interactive exhibits. But that’s fine. There’s lots of old stuff, it’s well laid out and you can play with it all to your heart's content.