The museum itself has a fascinating history.
The building itself is situated on the site of the Dower House for Douglas Castle. It is popularly believed that Mary Queen of Scot’s spent time here in 1565. To show her gratitude for the hospitality she received the young Queen gifted the village with a clock for St Bride’s Church. To this day the church’s bells can be heard; it is the oldest working clock of its kind in the British Isles.
Built on the site of this Dower House, and adjacent to the 11th century restored chancel of the Church of St Bride (now under the auspices of Historic Scotland), the building was constructed as a two story building in 1706 to house the village’s school. The schoolmaster’s dwelling occupied the upper floor.
Later, in the 1800’s the building served as the Parish Poor’s House.
In the ensuing years it was converted again; this time it was split into two dwellings. It remained as such until the 1960’s. Many of our volunteers remember it as being a dwelling and one of our volunteers even lived here for a while too!
In 1961 the building underwent major reconstruction and was subsequently dedicated to St Sophia as an Episcopal Church in 1963. This replaced the chapel which had adjoined Douglas Castle. Dampness had doomed it to demolition, 25 years after the rest of the castle had been razed to the ground.
On 10th December 1978 H R H Prince Charles visited the Chapel and signed the visitor’s book. We still have this book on display!
However, after 30 years the congregation of St Sophia’s began to dwindle and our Heritage Museum Trust secured it on a long term lease from Douglas and Angus Estates in 1993.
The interior of the building retains much of its original character with the Altar, Baptismal Font and Triptych all still present. There are also seven stained glass windows designed by Christopher Whall; these were transferred from Douglas Castle Chapel prior to its demolition.