Volunteers needed to man Lanark’s Tolbooth as an arts hub

Old guard Ian Veitch, Henry Shanks and Jim O'Connor cut the ribbon held by Ian Wilson Leitch (left) and Jamie Hill.
Old guard Ian Veitch, Henry Shanks and Jim O'Connor cut the ribbon held by Ian Wilson Leitch (left) and Jamie Hill.

Lanark Tolbooth has stood in the heart of the town since the 17th century in one guise or another.

And this week it reveals its latest incarnation, as a heritage centre and arts hub.

Its new look, with gallery lighting, new flooring, display pillar fins and a bay which will eventually hold computers was unveiled last Wednesday.

“The tolbooth has stood in the middle of the town for centuries, not only as a physical presence but also in the centre of the community,” said Jamie Hill, chairman of the management committee.

“It has served as a council chamber, a lock-up, the repository of Lanark’s weights and as a retail unit.”

A quarter of a century ago, a group of “very enlightened and enthusiastic Lanarkians” were able to bring the building back into community use as a heritage centre, said Dr Hill, referring to the group that persuaded the council to buy the building for Lanark’s common good fund.

A trust was formed and a management committee set up to run it, with classes, sales, and meetings held every week.

And while those continue, the £40,000 refit – supported throughout by Clydesdale North councillor Catherine McClymont, designed by architect Peter Magnus, and financed by Border Biscuits and the Levenseat Trust – will see the tolbooth, now being run by general manager Ian Wilson Leitch as a heritage centre and arts hub, open every day.

It will be manned by volunteers providing information on local events and will host an ever-changing series of exhibitions.

“It is an obvious place for tourists who come to Lanark,” added Dr Hill.

The committee is now looking for volunteers able to do three-hour shifts to keep the building open from 10am until 4pm Monday to Saturday, and possibly on Sundays too.

“We are all very enthusiastic,” said Dr Hill. “This is not the end of the story – it is the end of the beginning.”

He suggested the property “through the wall”, now an estate agency, would be a good venue for Lanark Museum, bringing everything together.

“We would like to reunify the building,” he said. “Having the museum next door would be wonderful for the town and for tourists – but these are long-term ambitions.”

Past and future met when Ian Veitch, chairman of the management committee for over two decades, and former trustees’ chairman Henry Shanks helped cut the ribbon to reopen it.

Anyone able to volunteer should drop in to the tolbooth for a chat.