Scotlands History

New Lanark

Power from the River Clyde made the cotton mills at New Lanark the largest industrial enterprise of its time. The workforce was gleaned from the orphanages of Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as from emigrating Highlanders en route for America and the colonies.

By 1793 there were over 1100 people employed in the mills, dyeworks, shops and school; nearly 800 of them were children, because nimble fingers were required. Workers were housed, and orphans well fed, thanks to the enlightened ideas of the mill’s owner, David Dale, a Glasgow banker and entrepreneur. 

In 1800 New Lanark was sold to Dale’s son-in-law Robert Owen, who continued the social reforms.

Robert Owen raised the minimum age for mill workers from 6 to 12 years old, provided an on-site nursery for working mothers, set up a welfare system, and taught children music, singing and dancing.

In 1824 Owen was invited to set up a similar enterprise in America. Both Dale and Owen were years ahead of their time in looking after their workforce.

  • A photograph of New Lanark and the Clyde.

Click on the image to view a larger version.