New Lanark - World Heritage Site

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Text © Copyright John M, July 2012
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.


NS8842 : New Lanark by Iain Russell New Lanark NS8842 : The River Clyde at New Lanark by John M

In the late eighteenth century a cotton spinning mill complex and housing known as New Lanark was developed in the Clyde Valley near Lanark to exploit the power of the river at the Falls of Clyde. The site comprised a collection of four mills, engine house, workshops, workers housing including the owners’ houses, schools and a church.

NS8841 : The Falls of Clyde by Kevin Rae Falls of Clyde

The site is downstream of the ‘Falls of Clyde’ beauty spot where the River Clyde flows over a series of four waterfalls in a narrow valley.

In 1783 David Dale, a prominent Glasgow linen yarn merchant and Agent for the Royal Bank of Scotland, invited Richard Arkwright to visit the area to see if he would be interested in developing cotton spinning mills on the site using his patented ‘water frame’. Arkwright pronounced the site ideal and remained involved with the project during the early development until his universal patent was overturned.

NS8842 : Mill Number Two, New Lanark by kim traynor Mills No 2 and 3

The site was leased from Lord Braxfield who had a nearby estate. Works began on the site in 1785 with Mill No 1 starting production the following year in 1786. Three further mills quickly followed with Mill 4 finished in 1789. Initially the first mill used Arkwright’s machinery but later Mills No 2 and 3 used Samuel Crompton’s ‘Spinning Mule’ which produced a finer thread.

NS8742 : Wee  Row, New Lanark by kim traynor Worker's Housing

A large workforce of around one thousand was required to operate the mills and housing was needed for them and their families. The restricted nature of the site within the gorge led to the use of the three and four storey terraced blocks that characterise New Lanark. The workers were predominately drawn from outside the area as the locals would not favour the workhouse like barrack blocks. Five hundred orphans from Glasgow and Edinburgh, the unemployed together with tenants displaced from the Highland clearances were brought in.

NS8842 : New Lanark buildings by Ian Paterson New Buildings

David Dale was seen as an enlightened employer and the accommodation was relatively well designed and equipped. His progressive approach ensured that within ten years he had established a school for the children which had over 500 pupils. The last block of housing to be built on the site, the ‘New Buildings,’ was opened in 1798.

NS8742 : David Dale's house by Jim Smillie NS8842 : Robert Owen's House, New Lanark by Gordon Brown Owner's Houses

David Dale had a modest house built in the centre of the complex. In 1799 Robert Owen, a Manchester mill operator, married David Dale’s daughter Caroline whom he had met on a visit to Glasgow. Robert with a group of Manchester investors bought a controlling interest in New Lanark for £60000 and he moved with his new wife and child to a house on the site. He brought experience of managing mills in Manchester and his progressive and moral views on the treatment of workers.

Under his management Mill No 4 was brought into production together with the building of a house for the apprentices, a foundry and workshops. New methods were introduced to improve the management of the mill with tighter controls on factory discipline and book-keeping. The residents of the factory housing were subject to a series of rules and inspections.

NS8842 : Institute for the Formation of Character by kim traynorInstitution for the Formation of Character

Ten years later in 1809 Robert began to remodel the village in the face of opposition of some of his investors. He encouraged other Manchester investors notably Jeremy Bentham and Quaker, William Allen, to invest with more philanthropic motives. With their support he was able to open his ’New Institution for the Formation of Character’ in 1816 and a school in 1817. Other notable improvements were sanitation within the buildings and a company shop operated on cooperative principles.

The ‘Falls of Clyde’ and New Lanark attracted many distinguished visitors throughout the period to see the model manufactory and village. Robert Owen was a prolific writer and campaigner travelling widely to share his ideas.
Robert Owen left in 1824 and the mill was sold in 1828 to the Walker Brothers and continued cotton spinning until 1881. The final owners were the Gourock Ropework Company who made cotton canvas and netting until 1968.

NS8742 : As it  once was by James AllanNeglect and dereliction

The buildings were listed as Class A by Historic Scotland in 1971. The site was largely derelict when the New Lanark Conservation Trust was established in 1974 to restore and develop the village.

NS8842 : World Heritage Site Emblem by John MWorld Heritage Site

New Lanark was accorded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2001 one of five sites in Scotland.


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