The picturesque village of New Lanark nestles in a wooded section of the Clyde Valley in Scotland, beside the beautiful Falls of Clyde. Its fame comes from the model community which was developed there under David Dale and Robert Owen. Today it is a popular tourist attraction, housing a youth hostel and hotel, visitor centre, and historical mystery tour. The United Nations recently awarded the village ‘World Heritage Site’ status. The market town of Lanark is also nearby, home of William Wallace, whose statue adorns the town steeple, and a plaque proclaims that he ‘first drew sword to free his native land’ there in 1297.
The cotton-mill village, powered by the waters of the River Clyde, was founded in 1783 and built to a revolutionary design by Glasgow banker David Dale. Its 1,300 employees worked from 6 am to 7 pm with two breaks. Child-workers aged six and upwards received free clothes, good food, and two hours’ schooling.
A cotton boom had been triggered by a drop in the price of West Indian cotton several years before, added to the ‘flying shuttle’ looms which doubled production.
The village comprised of three mills, a school, and an ‘Institute for the Formation of Character’, where dancing and other cultural events took place. Good housing for workers was also provided.
Robert Owen became manager of the town in January 1800, having married Dale’s daughter. He was to continue Dale’s social reforms. In 1816 he would open an infant school for the children of his employees. He also set up a good quality shop for workers.
The mills remained open until the early 20th century, when their decline led to their closure. A conservation trust was set up by locals in the 1970s, and the village began to be restored to its former state, becoming a prime tourist attraction, especially when the Falls of Clyde are in full flow, and at the annual Victorian Fayre. Funding and awards were received from many sources including the European Community/European Union and the former local authority, Strathclyde Regional Council.