The Miners’ Library
Wanlockhead Miners’ Library is one of the oldest subscription libraries in Scotland and indeed Europe.
It was established ‘….for our mutual improvement’, on the 1st November, 1756 by 32 men. The first woman was admitted in 1784. The Library was funded by subscriptions from the miners, but a contribution was also made by mining companies. The library aimed 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 a major patron of the Library.
The Library Today
The library originally started in the old school house, but as the subscription members increased and the number of books in stock increased, it was necessary to move the library to a new home. A cottage was given to the members by the mine overseers in 1787. However, the cottage was too small and it became necessary to build a larger building, which came into use in July 1788. The stock of books rose to over 2,000 and again having enough space became problematic. A new library was built with money raised through voluntary subscription. The new library was opened in January, 1851, and this is the library you can see today.
The library was neglected after the mid-1950s. Renovation of the building and care of the library collection has been the responsibility of Wanlockhead Museum Trust since 1974. The collection is recognised to be of national importance and remains as a symbol of the lead miners’ culture and education.