Is Wanlockhead problem a case of mistaken identity?

Protest at Wanlockhead over sale of the bowling pavilion.
Protest at Wanlockhead over sale of the bowling pavilion.

A case of historic mistaken identity could be to blame for a dispute between a group of villagers and one of Scotland’s biggest landowners.

A fortnight ago, the Gazette reported what, on the face of it, seemed a straightforward good-news story about the Wanlockhead Museum Trust being sold the village’s long-defunct bowling club pavilion by Buccleuch Estates for a token fee of £1.

The trust runs the Wanlockhead Museum of Lead Mining and other local attractions, and it’s badly in need of extra space to store its archives and to run a local history classroom for visiting school parties and students.

Using the pavilion seemed like the perfect solution to its storage problems.

However, since the announcement of the sale was made, the village council has stepped forward to object, claiming that the bowling pavilion is not the estate’s to sell.

A spokesperson for the council told the Gazette this week: “The building itself never belonged to the estate as the money to build it was raised through public subscription by the villagers in 1990.

“As for the land it stands on and the green, the village council has been paying for the lease of this for years and continues to do so.

“We still pay the insurance for the building, and we were the keyholders until about 18 months ago when we loaned the keys to the estate for an inspection of the building and never got them back.”

The spokesperson added that the museum trust is welcome to use the pavilion temporarily “until the ownership of the building has been clarified”.

Some members of the council suspect that an innocent historical mix-up might be at the root of the dispute.

They explained that there might be some confusion between the pavilion and a long-vanished, much-earlier building constructed in 1898 for the village’s miners to hold indoor bowling matches in.

That building, sited a few hundred yards away from the present pavilion, was demolished many years ago, and no trace of it now remains.

Said the council spokesperson: “Perhaps someone somewhere in the estate administration has got the two buildings mixed up.

“There is abolutely no doubt in our minds that the current pavilion belongs to the village and not to the estate and so should not have been sold.”

The spokesperson added that the council had nothing against the museum trust’s plans for the pavilion but other groups in the village had suggested alternative uses.

However, Buccleuch Estates has said it is clear on the issue and rejected the Council’s claims.

Its spokesman said: “A 21-year lease on the site of the Wanlockhead Bowling Green came to an end at the request of the club Trustees in 2010.

“The land, still owned by Buccleuch, and the clubhouse reverted to the estate as is normal on the termination of such a lease.

“There was provision for the Village Council to have the lease assigned to it but that was not requested.

“The clubhouse has been in significant disrepair for a long time.

“ We were therefore very pleased that the Wanlockhead Museum Trust engaged with the estate and has now purchased the site and the clubhouse for £1.

“It is sad that some people may not feel the same way.”