The Miners Library
Wanlockhead Miner’s Library is the second oldest subscription Library in Scotland and indeed Europe and was established ‘….for our mutual improvement’. on the 1st November 1756 with 32 men. The Library was funded by subscriptions from the Miners, but a contribution was also made by mining companies too in order to encourage ‘self-improvement’ in the miners.
There was a hidden agenda, as the mining companies believed that the Library would help to cut down on the unruly behaviour which existed at the time! The Duke of Buccleuch was another major patron of the Library.
Interested in visiting the miners library
You can now book museum tickets online!
The atmosphere in the Miners’ Library has to be experienced to fully understand the influence that the books had on the lives of the miners and their families. Only 40 miners’ sons ‘escaped‘ from the mines in the 40 years between 1835 and 1875 and this was due in great part to the Miners’ Library and the books it held. Wanlockhead has given the world many famous ‘sons’ and ‘ daughters’, whose first taste of education, was with the books at Wanlockhead Miners’ Library.
Membership of the Library was a privilege and new members were subjected to a rigorous interrogation by the Librarian before being admitted to membership. This membership certificate was issued to William Meikle on joining the Library on the 7th January 1829. It was subsequently transferred on the 26th February 1901 to Mr James Gass. Wanlockhead Miners’ Library was very progressive in that it allowed women to subscribe! In 1784 it is recorded that there were 32 male members and 1 female – Isabella Rutherford.
The library originally started in the school but as the subscription numbers increased and the number of books in stock increased, it was necessary to move the library to a cottage, which was given to them by the mine overseers in 1787. However the cottage was too small and it was found to be necessary to build a larger building, which came into use in July 1788. As the stock of books rose to over 2,000 again the problem of space forced them to build a new library from subscription money. This was opened in January 1851 and this is the library you can see today.
Once the library was fully repaired and the interior environment had stabilised thus ensuring the books were no longer in danger of further deterioration, the collection was put back on the shelves. Today the library houses a collection of books which have been recognised to have “Great National Importance” and can be seen as a symbol of the lead miners’ culture and education.