New Lanark
New Lanark
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Cultural United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland Europe And North America South Lanarkshire, Scotland

When Richard Arkwright's new factory system for textile production was brought to New Lanark the need to provide housing and other facilities for the workers and managers was recognized. It was there that Robert Owen created a model for industrial communities that was to spread across the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. New Lanark saw the construction not only of well designed and equipped workers' housing but also public buildings designed to improve their spiritual as well as their physical needs. It has the most complete integration of architectural design of all the early cotton mill settlements, a type illustrating the most revolutionary element of the Industrial Revolution. The buildings and water-power system express the extension to the outermost limits of the application of materials and techniques to the new industrial age.

The name of New Lanark is synonymous with Owen and his social philosophy in matters such as progressive education, factory reform, humane working practices, international cooperation, and garden cities, which was to have a profound influence on social developments throughout the 19th century and beyond. Owenism, utopianism, philanthropy, cooperation, communitarianism, industrial capitalism, concepts of the sublime landscape, and models for modern conservation partnerships were all shaped at New Lanark.

New Lanark is a small village in a beautiful Scottish landscape. In 1783 Richard Arkwright came to Scotland and met David Dale a leading West of Scotland linen yarn merchant and Glasgow agent of the Royal Bank of Scotland. In 1785, to take advantage of the cotton-spinning patents secured, Arkwright founded New Lanark, which allowed yarn to be spun in water-powered mills on an unprecedented scale.

The first mill at New Lanark went into production in 1786. Housing had to be provided for the workers. Owing to the restricted site in the gorge of the River Clyde, this was built in the form of blocks three or four storeys in height. The houses were superior in quality to those general occupied by working people at that time. Dale was a humane employer, who treated his workers well, and he established also a school 10 years later.

In 1799 a partnership was formed by Robert Owen, a Welsh cotton spinner, who had married Dale's daughter. Owen tightened up the management of the mill. He began to remodel the village around 1809. Owen's philanthropic and idealistic vision of a society without crime, poverty, and misery had a wide appeal in the years following the Napoleonic Wars. Owen left it in 1828, although he continued to develop and promote his ideas until his death in 1858.

Between 1785 and 1968, new buildings were constructed, others were demolished or destroyed by fire, and many underwent radical changes in use, but the appearance of the village is now very close to that of its heyday, the first half of the 19th century.

The model industrial settlement is a phenomenon of the Enlightenment: consideration must also be given to the influence of Owen on later industrialists and planners in the United Kingdom. The nature and layout of New Lanark inspired other benevolent industrialists to follow his example, and this movement laid the foundations for the work of Ebenezer Howard in creating the concept of the Garden City.

Today the village provides physical evidence of Robert Owen's model for a New Moral World. New Lanark is a great landscape modified, through the medium of architecture, to meet the needs and vision of a pioneer working community. Contrast and variety are given by individual buildings, but the theme remains good proportion, good masonry, and simplicity of detail. This common building language produces a monumental unity of character remarkably suited to convey today the idealistic message of Dale and Owen.

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