Featured charity of the month 

Bennie Museum

Article featured in Konect Bathgate September 2013

A hidden gem in Mansfield Street records the life and history of the Bathgate people in around (so far) 9000 objects - mundane or unusual, large or small, ancient or recent - each piece tells a story. 

Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Bathgate, Bennie Museum is well and truly a community project that many Bathgate people and businesses have contributed to over the last 30 or so years.

Bennie Museum

The main museum building was originally two cottages, one of which was a weaver's workshop dating from approximately 1780. The cottages were owned by the Bennie family for many years from the late 19th century, who ran a transport business locally. By 1980 though the buildings had fallen into disrepair and were destined for demolition. The Bennie family donated them to the community (hence the name of the museum), and they were saved from demolition by a campaign headed by local resident Bill Millan. Over the course of the next 10 years, thousands of volunteer hours went into renovating the buildings. Local tradesmen and businesses donated time and materials, working evenings and weekends to bring the buildings back to a useable condition. West Lothian Council were also very supportive, providing funds for materials.

The official opening was in May 1990. There was already a significant collection of items, as during the renovation period many donations had been handed it. It is growing all the time. All of the items have a connection with Bathgate, and it's an eclectic mixture - from a large steam pump dating from public baths in 1934, to small coins. There are many household and personal items recording the minutiae of everyday life over several generations. The oldest man-made item is a Roman coin from 250AD discovered in Waverley Street in 1922 and donated to Bennie Museum by its owner. 

 A separate building houses special exhibitions, currently a Museum of Childhood. It contains toys, books and other items, mostly from the 1940s and 50s but with some older and more recent things too. Some of the toys are available for children to play with and a hands-on approach is encouraged, including a game of “peevers” (hopscotch). So next time the children complain that they don't know what to do when their computer or electronic gadgets are out of action, a trip to the Childhood Museum would give them some ideas! This special exhibition will run for as long as possible as it significant to many families in Bathgate.

The museum is very grateful for the support of West Lothian Council, both financially and in other ways. It is also welcomes the support of a number of local organisations who hold fundraising activities to contribute to the work of the museum. Each donation is valued and they all add up to helping the museum's work. Donations of historic items connected to Bathgate are always welcome.

Entry to the museum is free and it is open Mon – Sat 10am – 4pm in the summer and 11am to 3.30pm in the winter. Call the museum on 01506 634944 for more information. 

  © Lothian Publications Ltd 2013