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New Lanark is a village in South Lanarkshire, on the River Clyde. The village lies around 1.4 miles from Lanark and was founded in 1786.
A Brief History of New Lanark
David Dale, a mill owner, founded New Lanark in 1786 and built several cotton mills and houses for his mill workers. As New Lanark lies next to the river, the mills took advantage of the water power in their production of cotton. Dale co-owned the mills with his son in law, Robert Owen who was known for his views on social reform. As a result the New Lanark and its mills came to epitomise Utopian Socialism.
The mills were sold, along with the village, in the early 19th century for £60,000, to a partnership that included Robert Owen. Owen was responsible for serveral social and welfare programmes in New Lanark demonstrating his philanthropic approach to the cotton industry.
Above New Lanark, on the Clyde, a dam was built to harness the power from the river, and in turn, to power the mill. In 1929 the last waterwheel was replaced by a water turbine and water power is still used in New Lanark today. Mill Number three received a new water turbine recently, to provide electricity for the tourist areas of New Lanark.
During Robert Mill's time in New Lanark many people from the poorhouses of Glasgow and Edinburgh lived in the village, with the population around 2,500. Owen was determined to improve conditions in the mill and decided to open the first infants' school in Britain, in 1816, which demonstrated his concern for the 500 plus children who lived in the village.
The mills enjoyed commercial success however the other members of the partnership were not happy with the expenditure Owen incurred through his welfare programmes and initiatives. As a result Owen bought out his partners after refusing to allow the worker's welfare to subside into its old and lower standard.
Throughout Europe, New Lanark became famous and many royals, statesmen and reformers came to visit the mills throughout the industrial revolution. Many were surprised and delighted at the standard of the mills, marvelling at its clean and healthy environment with a contented and fit workforce as well as a productive business. Owen was very much ahead of his time and often disagreed with contemporary thinking in regard to his workforce. However, he was able to demonstrate to other Industrialists that it was not contrary business profit for employers to also treat their workers well.
In 1825 New Lanark changed hands to the Walker family who managed the mills until 1881, when they were sold to Birkmyre and Sommerville who retained control, along with their successor companies, until the mills closure in 1968.
In 1975 the New Lanark Conservation trust was founded to prevent demolition of the village after the mills ceased operation in 1968.
More recently many of the buildings have been restored and the village has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an Anchor Point of ERIH - The European Route of Industrial Heritage.
Currently it is estimated that over 400,000 people visit New Lanark per year. Around 200 people currently live in New Lanark. The village still aims to retain historic authenticity and no television aerials and satelite dishes are permitted on the buildings. Telephone, television and electricity are all delivered through cables under ground.