The village of Wanlockhead has existed for over three hundred years. The first miners came to pan for gold and lived in tents through the summer months, but it was impossible to stay in the winter because of the severe weather conditions.
As Wanlockhead was an isolated place, many generations of the same families lived and worked here. During the recessions in the lead industry, many of the families left to start new lives in Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and United States.
At the Straitsteps Cottages you can experience what it was like to live as a miner in the 18th and 19th centuries. One cottage depicts a cottage interior around 1750 and the second around 1850 with the third and final cottage at around 1910. The artefacts on show, illustrate how the people of Wanlockhead lived, worked and played. The tour guide will explain how the miners’ families lived during these two time-periods.
Straitsteps Cottages tours
You can now book tours of the cottages online!
By the time the lead mining industry had started the tents were replaced by stone buildings made from local stones and thatched with heather or sods. These buildings mostly consisted of ‘but and ben’ cottages and consisted of one room with a rushes on the floor and a fire place which was no more than a hole in the wall with ventilation through a hole in the roof which acted as a chimney.
Fuel for the fire was peat. The windows did not have any glass in as it was too expensive due to the window tax and the elements were kept at bay by wooden shutters.
As new mining families moved into the area they were allowed to build their homes on any free ground they liked. When The Duke of Buccleuch took over the mining operations, housing substantially improved. The houses now had two rooms and the roofs were covered with slate and there was an outside toilet.
The windows were fully glazed but they were small to keep the heat in. Peat fires were replaced by coal by 1809 which was burned in cooking ranges with a proper chimney.