Maintaining and Improving Biggar Corn Exchange

Looking after any 150 year old building has its challenges and Victorian architects did rather fail (understandably) to consider what might be required to make a public building safe and accessible in the 21st century.

The first phase of refurbishment of the Corn Exchange in 2010 dealt with many serious structural issues, but problems persist with the somewhat complicated drainage system in the clock tower. Water continues to flood into the stairwell during heavy rainfall and a significant resurgence of dry rot will be a real risk if repairs are not undertaken very soon. The building is owned by South Lanarkshire Council, although Biggar Corn Exchange Ltd. have a full maintenance lease, and we have been working with the Council to draw up specifications for lasting repairs and improvements to the tower and stairwell. Biggar Corn Exchange Ltd. will have to raise £61,000 towards this work. Grant applications are underway and the plan is to complete work over the summer of 2022, if funds can be secured.

The lack of disabled access to the Corn Exchange remains a major problem that, unfortunately, will not be solved without extensive structural re-modelling of the building. We have a stair climber available that allows a wheelchair user to access the building via the front door, with help of a trained volunteer. We do recognise, however, that this is not acceptable in the longer term and we will continue to work with specialists in disabled access to find a solution. The Corn Exchange is a key community facility and everybody should be able to access it without difficulty.

Over the past year, we have refurbished all our fire detection, alarm and emergency lighting systems. In light of he continuing presence of variants of the Covid-19 virus, we have installed hospital grade air purification units in the auditorium and foyer area.

Another improvement that we hope to make in 2022 will be the upgrading of our sound and projection systems in the auditorium. This will greatly improve the Corn Exchange as a cinema venue and will hopefully allow us to offer live links to some national theatre and dance productions, etc.

Refurbishment of The Corn Exchange 2010

The Corn Exchange re-opened in October 2010, following major refurbishment works.

South Lanarkshire Council and Biggar Theatre Workshop worked in partnership to secure funding to complete a number of external and internal repairs essential for the building to remain operational, extend its life and improve its appearance.

Funding from the Rural Community Heritage Fund allowed them to commission a feasibility study from Richard Murphy Architects to look at a redesign of the Corn Exchange.

The first good news was that £197,350 was awarded to the Biggar Theatre Workshop towards the first phase of improvements to the Corn Exchange in the High Street from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Regeneration Fund. This, added to the substantial sums offered by both the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Council, meant that the BTW board, working in partnership with South Lanarkshire Council, secured close to £550,000 funding for the Corn Exchange project.

Refurbishment of The Corn Exchange
Corn Exchange Biggar
Full details of funding of the refurbishment in 2010
South Lanarkshire Council £150,000
Heritage Lottery Fund £49,500
Town Centre Regeneration Fund £197,300
Leader £150,000
TOTAL £546,800

The Corn Exchange closed immediately following the Biggar Little Festival in October 2009 and re-opened in October 2010. The aim was to repair and conserve Biggar Corn Exchange internally and externally and to extend the current life of the facility which will be safeguarded for use and appreciation by future generations.

By tastefully upgrading areas of this building, which is of both historical and cultural value to the town, it has a more inviting and appealing persona and it is anticipated to attract more user groups. It has become a focal point once again for the town and surrounding villages. It provides a centralised point for local residents to have access to information on their local town’s heritage. The building also has improved physical access.

The project has preserved and maintained a Grade B listed building, an attractive historic legacy which forms the centrepiece of Biggar’s High Street and contributes significantly to the unique character of this “outstanding conservation area” which is why it is so important it is preserved to serve future generations.

The Corn Exchange has been tastefully upgraded and because of its commanding site in the centre of the town, has improved the appearance of the main street.

Biggar Corn Exchange has become one of the main sources of arts facilities in this rural area of South Lanarkshire, giving the people of Biggar (with a population of 3132) and surrounding rural areas the opportunity to participate in live theatre.

The Upgraded facility will attract more tourists to the town increasing footfall and dwell time during each visit. By having a theatre in the local vicinity that is inviting to national or regional theatre groups, productions could attend the area that may otherwise have been only available in other towns in the area, i.e. Lanark, Hamilton etc.

This could allow locals to view productions they may not have been able to attend otherwise, thus further improving economic growth within the town for example through pre theatre meals. Biggar has a thriving “Social Economy”, which is continuing to develop.

Refurbishment Gallery