New Lanark

South Lanarkshire

"New Buildings", New Lanark
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Lying a half-mile (1 km) S of Lanark in a beautiful setting on the banks of the River Clyde, New Lanark is remarkable. Visitors descending into the picturesque gorge will be astonished to find a complete 18th C. industrial village, managed and preserved by the New Lanark Preservation Trust and now designated a world heritage site. It had lain forgotten and unloved after the mills closed in 1967 and was almost demolished in the 1970s.

In 1784, Glasgow textiles entrepreneur David Dale (1739 - 1806) and industrial spinning pioneer Richard Arkwright, identified the location as ideal for industrial development, with an excellent head of water to power cotton mills. They purchased the site from local land-owner Lord Braxfield (1722-99), the notorious 'hanging judge'. By 1793, Dale had built four mills, making New Lanark the largest industrial complex of its time, together with housing and a school. 1157 people worked in the village, of whom 70% were children, drawn from village families and orphanages as far afield as Glasgow and Edinburgh. Dale was noted for his good treatment of these orphans, remarkable for the time. They were well-fed and clothed, and good standards of hygiene were maintained.

In 1799, Robert Owen (1771 - 1858) purchased New Lanark and built on Dale's foundation to create a community where education and social justice were pre-eminent.

Today, New Lanark is no stale museum; it is a living community of c.150 people, with new craft industries and small businesses attracted by the Trust. Housing is a mixture of owner-occupation and rented. Strict controls preserve the external character of the buildings but, internally, several old one or two roomed flats have been consolidated to form each fully-modernised contemporary dwelling.

In addition to a Visitor Centre, shop, mill-workers' house and Robert Owen's house, which form the main tourist attractions, the village hosts a sizeable modern hotel (a conversion of one of the old mills) and a youth hostel.

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