Plans for industrial museum in crisis

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AN ECLECTIC collection of items representing more than 100 years of Scotland’s industrial heritage could be lost after a decision was taken to close the premises where it is stored.

The Scottish Industrial Preservation Trust (SIPT) has salvaged and reclaimed more than 1,250 objects from condemned factories, textile mills, hotels and abandoned offices over the past six years.

The collection is currently housed in a disused printworks in the south side of Glasgow, while the trust searches for a permanent display space for the country’s first industrial heritage museum.

But last week the trust was told it must vacate its temporary home early next month to allow Glasgow City Council to use the building for another project.

SIPT chairman Steven Raeside said that unless they can find somewhere suitable to house the collection, the historic cache might have to be scrapped.

“I’m now very worried by this situation because some of the items are the last of their type. We have the last archive from Mayfield brickworks and the entire archive from Etna brickworks in Armadale, which is very rare. Nobody else in Britain has that,” he said.

Among the items that have been stored in the building are the last black and white HMV television, rare machinery salvaged from the Kirkcudbright creamery, architectural fixtures and fittings from the Buchanan Hotel and Plaza Ballroom in Glasgow, the last two surviving wire-looms in Scotland, and the wrought iron features from the now defunct ice rink at Crossmyloof in Glasgow, which was once Europe’s largest rink.

Some of its more modern artefacts include one of the earliest data encryption unit satellite dishes and a collection of laser discs from the 1970s.

With time running out, the trust is working flat out to find a new home for the collection. Raeside said the demise of Scotland’s industrial heritage also meant the destruction of the large warehouse and factory spaces that would make ideal storage areas or museums for the artefacts.

“It’s been a nightmare trying to find new storage facilities,” he said. “Living in Glasgow, you would have thought it would have been easy to find some, but because the city has demolished so many of its old buildings, there’s very little left and when you do approach modern industrial storage units, the cheapest I’ve been able to find costs £1,000 a month.”

The trust estimates that removing all the items from the printworks would require a large hoist and two seven-tonne trucks, and would take approximately three days.

Raeside described the situation as critical, but said he remained determined to find another space.

“Industry is right at the bottom of the pile when it comes to heritage. It comes right behind agriculture,” he said.

“Most people under the age of 50 have zero experience of industry because it’s all gone. The factories and firms fell like ninepins in the 70s and 80s, and you could count the big ones that are left on a couple of hands.

“It’s a pale shadow of itself, and we are trying to record the parts that are disappearing now.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council confirmed the trust had been given permission to store machinery and other objects at the former printworks near Pollokshaws Road. However, he said the council now had plans for the building and had told Raeside that it had to be vacated.

He said: “It must be emphasised that this is a building owned by the council and we need it cleared in order to utilise the space for our own use. This arrangement to use the building for storage was only ever a temporary situation and it now has to stop.

“We understand from correspondence from Mr Raeside that he has now identified new storage facilities for his equipment. We are in discussions with Mr Raeside and in order to be helpful, we extended the time he needs to remove his property from our building by a further two weeks.”

Raeside acknowledged that the council was well within its rights to ask for the site back. He said he found it difficult to believe a new use had been found for it as it was infested with pigeons and the roof leaked “like a sieve”. He also denied that he had found any new premises.

Raeside added that the four-year stay in the council’s property had been unintended and was a result of a lack of available space. He said the trust would continue to search for premises in which to create a proper industrial museum.