“ Address: Motherwell Heritage Centre, High Road, Motherwell, ML1 3HU / Type: Heritage centre „
~Motherwell Heritage Centre~
Motherwell is a town in Lanarkshire, Scotland which has a strong, industrial history. The Heritage Centre was designed by Merrylees, Grierson and Robertson of Edinburgh and was opened to the public in 1996. It has a 4star rating from the Scottish Tourist Board. The centre was built on the former ground of the Motherwell Swimming Baths.
~Getting There, Admission and Opening Times~
The Heritage Centre is a 5minute walk from Motherwell town centre. There is a free carpark to the side of the centre and the train station is in view. If arriving from the M74 motorway, exit at junction 6 and follow the signs to Motherwell. Local buses and buses from Glasgow (201, 241, 255, 267) stop on Hamilton Road and the centre is just around the corner. There is also a taxi rank outside.
The centre is free to walk around. It is opened Wednesday-Saturday 10am-5pm (7pm on Thursdays). It is open on a Sunday from 12pm-5pm. The museum is closed on 25th, 26th December and also the 1st and 2nd of January.
The actual address for the centre is :
Motherwell Heritage Centre
The Heritage Centre was built in two parts which have been connected together. The main part of the building is arranged like a half circle with a private garden area to the rear. It is set over two levels. As you enter the building (through the side door or the turning door) you come in to a display area which extends to the back of the building. To the right, there is a reception and waiting area and a small, open shop.
The building splits into three different directions from here. To the left handside, there is some stairs and a lift to take you up a floor. There are male, female and disabled toilets here. To the right, there is a door which will take you to another lift. The main exhibition area is located through a further door.
~Things To Do~
So what is there to entertain us?
The display exhibitions change at regular intervals and could be different during every visit. There are often art displays and various activities for children. The main exhibition area is split into galleries which take you through the various years and living experiences in Motherwell. The galleries are more commonly known as "Technopolis". Each gallery includes voice overs, interactive displays and character statues to allow visitors to learn about various times in the history of Motherwell.
The permanent galleries include :
*Roman - 4 characters giving short talks about life up to the 19th century
*Industrial - iron and coal exhibitions.
*Victorian Street - a replica of a street during the Victorian time with statues, cobbled street and an interactive wall display.
*Cinema - an old fashioned cinema shows a 1930s film reel
*War - a war exhibition through to post war in Motherwell and political views
*Swimming - a fitting area given the location of the centre. This are features boards with swimming winners, changing rooms etc.
*Ravenscraig - the now demolished Ravenscraig played a big part in the industrial history of Motherwell. A small exhibition with a display and video is dedicated to the former site.
*Dream Machine - light up displays from various decades showing various items such as high platform shoes, football tickets etc.
*Local Studies Library*
Located upstairs, this library is free to enter and use. If a member of staff is needed for assistance, it is free for the first 30mins but with a charge thereafter. The library features a whole host of books, maps, photographs, archive documents, pc documents and newspapers. Other reference materials include census returns, cemetery documents and electoral registers. The materials cannot be taken from the library though research can be carried out within the grounds.
Located at the main entrance, this area is open and exhibitions change every 2months. Previous exhibitons have included art work, celebrity displays, football and music displays.
The centre offers conference facilities on the upper floor. This can include tiered seating for up to 60 or a boardroom style conference for 40. This includes use of flip charts, blackboards, full visual projection and catering can be arranged. No prices are listed so it would be worth while contacting the centre for full details.
There is no catering facilities onsite but there is a small shop. The shop offers some old fashioned toys, bouncy balls, pencils and books from 50p onwards. They are a little cheaper than many museums. Other shop items include tablet, crisps and sweets which cost less than £1.00.
*Going Up and Everything Else*
The other part of the centre is the 5storey viewing tower. It can be accessed by climbing lots of stairs or up the lift. It offers 360 views around the area. The tower is lit up at night and visible from miles away. The centre offers activities for children during school holidays and selected weekends. These may incur a small joining charge.
The centre is happy to accept school groups and will provide workshops for up to 33pupils. These workshops can be booked Weds-Friday for 2hr slots and include drama, object handling and worksheet activities. These workshops cost £15.00.
Having lived in Motherwell all my life, I was pleased when they opened a museum heritage centre. At the time, it was always busy and if I remember rightly, there was a £1.00 admission fee. We went as part of school group when it opened and I have returned several times since. The centre reduced the opening times and also changed the admission to be free.
The museum is very noticeable despite being tucked away in a side street. I can see it from the town centre and also from Hamilton town centre. It looks especially beautiful when the tower is lit up blue at night time. The building doesn't look massive when you reach it though but is very spacious inside. There are a few seats outside. We usually arrive by foot but parking and finding the centre is extremely easy. I visited a few weeks ago with a friend.
~Before We Reveal The History~
Ok, so Motherwell may not be the most amazing town to live in but its strong background makes me quite proud to live here. The staff in the museum are scarce but those who you do come across are friendly if a little bored looking. The centre is never busy when I visit to be honest. I would like to add that wheelchair and buggy users can get around freely due to the spacious layout of the centre. The lifts aren't huge though so this could pose an issue.
The display area at the front is quite big and it is always refreshing to see different displays each visit. It doesn't get boring or samey. My favourite exhibition featured various old fashioned toys. I like trying them out but some are kept within cabinets to avoid damage. The little shop area is pleasant and hasn't changed much since I was at school. I do feel the prices are reasonable and not over priced like many centres of this type. We usually buy some sweets to take away with us but a few years ago, I would have thought nothing of purchasing pencils and rulers for school!
The toilets are clean if a little compact. They are always full stocked with the essentials and I do believe a baby changing area is present. I have used the library during my time at college. It is spacious and the staff are friendly. There is a lot of material on offer and the library is usually quite quiet. I used some of the books (neat and tidy) for a project on Motherwell. I have previously used the machines to scan for a newspaper clipping from my childhood and found the facilities easy to use. I have only entered the conference facilities once but it was years ago. They seem adequate for their intended purpose.
~Ok, Time For A History Lesson...~
It is worth noting that the main exhibition area is quite dark. I don't find it ideal for babies or toddlers as it can get quite loud with the voice overs but use your own judgment. Personally I don't believe my son or any toddler would want to appreciate the history of his home town just yet! I do feel the exhibition is ideal for children from primary school age through to adult. I don't visit the centre often as the exhibition remains the same. I do like to rekindle the history every few months and it is a great way to get out the rainy weather that we seem to get!
The displays are set out well in terms of size, information and voice over or interactive displays. The first gallery is only interesting the first time you visit. The statues light up and take it in turns to read about the pre 19th century with focuses being on areas in and around Motherwell. Through some heavy doors, it does get more interesting. I like to learn about the coal mining and iron works in the area as my family played a part in these roles several years ago. The statues are dark and dirty which is the way they are supposed to look but the interactive machine hasn't worked for quite some time.
The Victorian gallery is one of my favourite areas. Despite being dimly lit, it is the ideal spot to sit and relax before carrying on. There is a small wash house and shop front which is interesting and when the interactive display actually works, it can be quite fun. Characters are illuminated on to the stone walls and gossip about going ons during that time. It is the highlight of my visit but disappointing if they aren't working. I do like the realistic feel to this street.
The cinema is quite cool and features a ticket booth and time tables. The lady in the booth used to give out small tickets but no longer does so due to another cutback that has been made! The cinema can seat around 25-30 and has pre-scheduled viewings. Up until recently, ever visit offered a black and white video about gala days in the area and it is quite fun to see how it was done years ago. It isn't the same now as it was when my Granny was little or my parents. The video usually lasts for around 15mins so a great way to break up the tour of the centre.
The Anderson shelter is very noisy with realistic alarming sounds but quietens down as I approach the swimming baths. I'm not a keen swimmer though I do appreciate the former building that was on site. The changing rooms feature ladies chatting and gossiping with a loud shriek when one of the doors is opened..it never fails to amuse me! The last gallery is a lot brighter and hasn't changed since I was a child. The small displays give a little insight into lives of Motherwell residents but again the interactive machine is broken.
I used to love the machines as you could learn further about certain aspects of Motherwell history. I do feel this is something that should be resolved to improve the centre and shall be putting in a comment card. The other missing aspect is the camera. The tower has a camera inside which used to be connected to a screen in at the end of the galleries. This no longer works which is disappointing as it used to be fun to move the camera around and see where we would end up.
~Tower With A View~
If it is a dry day, I like to go up the tower and this is warrant for a visit in its own right. I took the stairs once and decided never again but if you are feeling fit then feel free to sprint up them! The cramped lift takes less than a minute to hit the top and you feel the cool air hit you as you walk out. Again I wouldn't advise taking younger children up. The stair case is steep and wide open whilst the edges of the tower aren't very high. I couldn't trust myself with my son up there so visit when alone or with a friend.
On a clear day, the views from the tower are amazing. The option to walk around the full top is great as no view is impossible. I can see our house and our old house from the top as well as having a perfect view of the town centre, train station and surrounding homes. Hamilton is visible on clear days and you can also see as far as Wishaw, Coatbridge and Glasgow. Strathclyde Park can be spotted as can the mountains (Campsie) in the distance. It is simply amazing but can get chilly so best to wrap up.
For a free attraction, it is certainly worth a visit. The Heritage Centre has seen better days but limited funding means there is only so much that can be done. It is clean and reasonably well maintained except for a few niggles. It is the ideal place to spend an hour or so or more if using the educational facilities. Despite there being no on site cafe, you can eat locally. The Bentley Hotel is next door and offers delicious meals and the Mandarin restaurant around the corner offers good deals. McDonalds and Greggs are a short walk away.
Overall I can recommend a visit to Motherwell Heritage Centre if you are in the area.
Thanks for reading :)