Biggar Gasworks

One of the first small-town gasworks to open in Scotland – and among the last to close.

Filed under Visit

Opening times: 1 June to 30 September: Monday-Sunday 2pm-5pm. Closed 1 October to 31 May

For more than 130 years, this industrial plant made coal gas for use in the town and beyond. Visit the museum for great insights into the gasworks – so complete is the site, it’s almost as it was left on its last day of production. Learn the secret of how the gas was made before the advent of natural gas in the 1960. Look out for Steam Days run by the Friends of Biggar Gasworks Museum, which let you see some of the gasworks machinery in action.

Within the gasworks you get an excellent idea of the various processes required to produce gas. Coal was heated in closed containers called retorts. This drove off the various gases within the coal and left coke, which could then be burned to heat the next batch of coal. The gases produced by heating coal included hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane, which were wanted as components of the town gas that was then piped to users, as well unwanted components such as other hydrocarbons, tar, sulphur and ammonia. A large part of the process involved separating the unwanted components from the town gas: they could then be sold for use in other chemical processes.

In 1973, when natural gas from the North Sea came to Biggar, the works closed down. However, unlike other gasworks it was not demolished. Instead, it has been preserved for future generations by Historic Buildings and Monuments and the National Museums of Scotland. Biggar Gasworks is part of the Biggar Museums Trust.

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