New Lanark

New Lanark

New Lanark, Scotland: see Lanark.

New Lanark is a village on the River Clyde, approximately 1.4 miles (or 2.2 kilometres) from Lanark, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It was founded in 1786 by David Dale, who built cotton mills and housing for the mill workers. Dale built the mills there to take advantage of the water power provided by the river. Under the ownership of a partnership that included Dale's son-in-law, Robert Owen, a philanthropist and social reformer, New Lanark became a successful business and an epitome of utopian socialism.

The New Lanark mills operated until 1968. After a period of decline, the New Lanark Conservation Trust was founded in 1975 to prevent demolition of the village. As of 2006, most of the buildings have been restored and the village has become a major tourist attraction. It is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland and an Anchor Point of ERIH - The European Route of Industrial Heritage.


The New Lanark cotton mills were founded in 1786, by David Dale. Dale was one of the self-made "Burgher Gentry" of Glasgow who, like most of this gentry, had a summer retreat, an estate at Rosebank, Cambuslang, not far from the Falls of Clyde, which have been painted by J. M. W. Turner and many other artists.

Dale sold the mills, lands and village in the early 19th century (for £60,000, repayable over 20 years) to a partnership that included Dale's son-in-law Robert Owen. Owen was an industrialist who carried on his father-in-law's philanthropic approach to industrial working and who subsequently became an influential social reformer. New Lanark, with its social and welfare programmes, epitomised his Utopian socialism (see also: Owenism).

The New Lanark mills depended upon water power. A dam was constructed on the Clyde above New Lanark and water was drawn off the river to power the mill machinery. The water first travelled through a tunnel, and then through an open channel called the lade. It then went to a number of water wheels in each mill building. It was not until 1929 that the last waterwheel was replaced by a water turbine. Water power is still used in New Lanark. A new water turbine has been installed in Mill Three and is used to provide electricity for the tourist areas of the village.

In Owen's time some 2,500 people lived at New Lanark, many from the poorhouses of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Although not the grimmest of mills by far, Owen found the conditions unsatisfactory and resolved to improve the workers' lot. He paid particular attention to the needs of the 500 or so children living in the village (one of the tenement blocks is named Nursery Buildings) and working at the mills, and opened the first infant school in Britain in 1816.

The mills thrived commercially, but Owen's partners were unhappy at the extra expense incurred by his welfare programmes. Unwilling to allow the mills to revert back to the old ways of operating, Owen bought out his partners.

New Lanark became celebrated throughout Europe, with many leading royals, statesmen and reformers visiting the mills. They were astonished to find a clean, healthy industrial environment with a content, vibrant workforce and a prosperous, viable business venture all rolled into one. Owen’s philosophy was contrary to contemporary thinking, but he was able to demonstrate that it was not necessary for an industrial enterprise to treat its workers badly to be profitable. Owen was able to show visitors the village’s excellent housing and amenities, and the accounts showing the profitability of the mills.

As well as the mills' connections with reform, socialism and welfare, they are also representative of the Industrial Revolution that occurred in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries and which fundamentally altered the shape of the world.

In 1825, control of New Lanark passed to the Walker family. The Walkers managed the village until 1881, when it was sold to Birkmyre and Sommerville. They, and their successor companies, remained in control of the village until the mills closed in 1968.

After the mills closed people started to move away from the village, and the buildings began to deteriorate. In 1963 the New Lanark Association was formed as a housing association and commenced the restoration of Caithness Row and Nursery Buildings. In 1970 the mills, other industrial buildings and the houses used by Dale and Owen were sold to Metal Extractions Limited, a scrap metal company. In 1974 the New Lanark Conservation Trust [NLCT] was founded to prevent demolition of the village. A compulsory purchase order was used in 1983 to recover the mills and other buildings from Metal Extractions. They are now controlled by the NLCT. By 2005 most of the buildings have been restored and the village has become a major tourist attraction.

Living Conditions

In the mid 19th century, an entire family would have been housed in a single room. Some sense of such living conditions can be obtained by visiting The David Livingstone Centre at Blantyre. David Dale, who founded New Lanark, was also involved in the mills at Blantyre. Only one tenement row has survived in Blantyre, and that building is now a museum. Mostly, this is devoted to David Livingstone, who was born there in 1813. However, the museum, too, includes a re-creation of the single~room living conditions of the time at New Lanark, featuring such as trundle beds for children~ as Livingstone would have used. The David Livingstone Centre is 18 miles by road from New Lanark, and lies between Glasgow and Hamilton.

The living conditions in the village gradually improved, and by the early 20th century families would have had the use of several rooms. It was not until 1933 that the houses sported interior cold water taps for sinks. In that year, the old communal outside toilets were replaced with inside facilities.

From 1898, the village proprietors provided free electricity to all the homes in New Lanark; But only enough power was available for one dim bulb to be lit in each room. The power was switched off at 10 pm each night, or one hour later on Saturday. In 1955, New Lanark was connected to the national grid.

New Lanark today

It has been estimated that over 400,000 people visit the village each year. The importance of New Lanark has been recognised by UNESCO as one of Scotland's five World Heritage Sites, the others being Edinburgh Old and New Towns, Heart of Neolithic Orkney,St Kilda and the Antonine Wall.

About 200 people now live in New Lanark. Of the residential buildings, only Mantilla Row and Double Row have not been restored. Some of the restoration work was undertaken by the New Lanark Association and the New Lanark Conservation Trust. Braxfield Row and most of Long Row were restored by private individuals who bought the houses as derelict shells and restored them as private houses. In addition to the twenty owner occupied properties in the village, there are 45 rented properties which are let by the New Lanark Association [NLA], which is a registered housing association. The NLA also owns some other buildings in the village. It has been criticised for its failure to restore Double Row and rebuild Mantilla Row.

Considerable attention has been given to maintaining the historical authenticity of the village. No television aerials or satellite dishes are allowed in the village, and services such as telephone, television and electricity are delivered though buried cables. To provide a consistent appearance all external woodwork is painted white, and doors and windows follow a consistent design. Householders used to be banned from owning dogs, but this rule is no longer enforced.

Some features introduced by the New Lanark Conservation Trust, such as commercial signage and a glass bridge connecting the Engine House and Mill Three, have been criticised. The retention of a 1924 pattern red telephone box in the village square has also been seen as inappropriate. The mills, the hotel and most of the non-residential buildings in the village are owned and operated by the New Lanark Conservation Trust.


  • Braxfield Row [built c1790] – a tenement block converted to ten houses. There are nine four storey properties and one five storey property. All the houses are owner occupied.
  • Long Row [built c1790] - a tenement block converted to fourteen houses, all three storey. Ten of the houses are owner occupied and four are tenanted.
  • Double Row [built c1795] – a five storey tenement block, containing back to back apartments. The side facing the river was also known as Water Row. The row is currently derelict.
  • Mantilla Row [built c1795] – this tenement block was demolished when it became structurally unsafe. New foundations and a retaining wall have been laid, but the row has not been rebuilt.
  • Wee Row [built c1795] – a tenement block which was converted to a youth hostel in 1994. The hostel is operated by the Scottish Youth Hostels Association.
  • New Buildings [built 1798] – a four storey building containing the bell tower. The bell, which once summoned the workers to the mills, is now sounded once a year at midnight on the last day of the year. The building contains a museum and tenanted flats.
  • Nursery Buildings [built 1809] – a three storey building which has been converted to tenanted flats. The buildings were once used to house the orphan children who worked in the mills.
  • Caithness Row [built 1792] – a three storey tenement block which has been converted to tenanted flats. Caithness is a district in the Scottish Highlands and the row was supposedly named for a group of Highlanders who were recruited to work in the mills.
  • Village Church [built in 1898] – now used for social purposes.
  • Mill Number One [built in 1789] – this mill was built in 1785 and started spinning in March 1786. It burnt down on the 9 October 1788 and was rebuilt in 1789. In 1802 the mill had three waterwheels driving 6556 spindles. In 1811 558 people [408 of them female] worked in the mill. In 1945 it had its top two floors removed. The building became derelict and was demolished and rebuilt as the New Lanark Mill Hotel. The hotel opened in 1998.
  • Waterhouses – this row of one and two storey buildings lie next to Mill Number One and have been converted to holiday flats. They were built circa 1799-1818.
  • Mill Number Two - this mill was built in 1788. In 1811 it had three waterwheels and employed 486 people [283 of them women]. It was widened in 1884-5 to accommodate ring frames. The extension is the only brick faced building in the village. This building is now used for tourist purposes.
  • Mill Number Three - this mill was built 1790-92. It was known as 'the jeanies house' and contained a large number of water powered jennies. It burned down in 1819 and was rebuilt circa 1826-33. In 1811 it employed 398 people [286 of them women]. This building is now used for tourist purposes. The building also contains a water turbine which generates electric power for parts of the village.
  • Mill Number Four – this mill was built circa 1791-3. It was initially used as a storeroom and workshop. It also housed '275 children who have no parents' [Donnachie and G. Hewitt]. It was destroyed by fire in 1883 and has not been rebuilt. In 1990 a waterwheel was brought from Hole Mill Farm, Fife and installed on the site of the mill.
  • Institute for the Formation of Character [built in 1816] – a four storey building which is now used for tourism and business purposes.
  • Engine House [built in 1881] – this building is attached to the Institute for the Formation of Character and contains a restored steam engine.
  • School [built in 1817] – a three storey building which is now used as a museum. This building housed the first school for working class children in Scotland.
  • Mechanics Workshop [built in 1809] – a three storey building which once housed the craftsmen who built and maintained the mill machinery.
  • Dyeworks [built in ?] – this was originally a brass and iron foundry and had its own waterwheel. The buildings now contain shops and a visitor centre.
  • Gasworks with octagonal chimney [built at some time before 1851] - this building is used as a store.
  • Owens House [built in 1790] – this building is now used as a museum.
  • Dales House [built in 1790] – this building is now occupied by a firm of book publishers, Waverley Books.
  • Mill Lade - dug to carry water from the River Clyde to power the mill machinery.
  • Graveyard - the graveyard is on the hill above New Lanark, between the village and the visitors car park. Many of the first villagers are buried there.
  • 1 & 2 New Lanark Road - two opposing two storey gatehouses which are some distance from the village. These marked the entrance to New Lanark. They are now in private ownership.

Visiting New Lanark

There is a large free car park on the outskirts of the village. Only disabled visitors may park in the village. There is a bus service from Lanark, about two kilometres away. Lanark has a railway station with half hourly services from Glasgow.

The village has a three star hotel (the New Lanark Mill Hotel, which is owned and operated by the New Lanark Conservation Trust), a number of holiday flats (the Waterhouses) which are let by the hotel and a youth hostel operated by Scottish Youth Hostels Association. There are restaurants and shops in the village, and a visitors centre.

The Clyde walkway long distance footpath passes through the village and the Scottish Wildlife Trust's visitor centre for the Falls of Clyde Nature reserve is based in a group of mill buildings.


See also


  • Historic New Lanark, I. Donnachie and G. Hewitt. Edinburgh University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-7486-0420-0.
  • Historical Tours in the Clyde Valley. Published by the Clyde Valley Tourist Association and the Lanark & District Archaeological Association. Printed by Robert MacLehose and Company Limited, Renfrew, Scotland. 1982.
  • David Dale, Robert Owen and the story of New Lanark. Moubray House Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. 1986. ISBN 0-948473-02-9.
  • New Lanark World Heritage Site management Plan 2003-2008.

External links

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