The Wick Heritage Centre Museum first opened to the public in 1981. In the museum building are 24 displays set out in rooms that were former homes plus adjoining buildings. The museumís warren of rooms are a real delight and provide many interesting discoveries on the different aspects of local life in the area. Keep your eyes pealed for unusual items such as mouse catchers and an old printing press.
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There are a number of fully furnished rooms in the museum depicting the years between 1900 and 1925. 19th century clothing and military uniforms are included.
Artefacts, documents and photographs depicting the civic life of Wick make up one section of the museum. One of the displays is a photographic gallery with examples of Johnston photographs (three generations of photographers) and others in which many local events such as festivals and fishing boats are chronicled..
There is an extensive collection of Caithness glass early designs at the museum.
Another and unusual item in the museum is Noss (three miles north of Wick) lighthouse dating from the 1850s. It consists of three main parts and is still in working order. There are the sixteen mirrors and lenses and prisms in umbrella shape and sixteen vertical lenses below these. A clockwork mechanism turns the lenses.
Another section of the museum highlights the herring fishing industry. This was a big industry in the early 1800s when more than 1800 boats took part in the summer herring fishing season. The herring curing yards were manned by people from the Highlands and Western Isles and the herring was shipped to Europe and the Baltic. One-fifth of Britainís production came from Wick. With the herring growing scarce in the 1930s the herring fishing industry switched to white fish. An archive of films relates to the fishing industry. Model boats are included in the display in this gallery
An art gallery is also located in the museum. Many of the paintings are by local artists of local places and people.
A boat, the Isabella Fortuna, (in Wick harbour except during winter when it is in the Lifeboat shed on the south shore of Wick Bay.) belongs to the museum. The Fortuna dates from 1890 and was used for line and drift-net fishing. In the Pilot House, overlooking the harbour, are local historical displays. The building was once used as a meeting place for fishermen and locals and by the pilots to store their equipment and flags.
Wick Heritage Centre
18-27 Bank Row, Wick, KW1 5EY
Tel. 0 1955 605 393
Open: April-end Oct, Mon-Sat, 10am-3.45pm
Web: Wick Heritage Centre
Note: Allow a minimum of two hours for your visit; three is better.
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard