Nestled in the Clyde valley, only 8 miles from me, New Lanark stands proud once more. In the early 1980’s, this wasn’t the case.
Millions of heritage funding pounds and 32 years later, the site is transformed and the former cotton mill and social housing complex is South Lanarkshire’s own UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s enough to make the C18th cotton mill founders, Glaswegian David Dale and Lancastrian Richard Arkwright, materialise during the recent open day.
As they wandered and bickered their way around – giving an indication of their somewhat fractious business relationship – they were mighty perplexed. Why has Mill 1 been transformed into a hotel and spa?
Mill 2 has a shop, a café and the only remaining piece of working machinery, although it now spins wool not cotton.
Where is Mill 4? (It burned down in 1883). A waterwheel turns still on its former location ….
even though it is superfluous these days. The two men couldn’t wrap their tongues round this new-fangled “elec- electricicity” word, now generated by water turbine.
What is this school building? “Ah, yes” said David Dale, “my Welsh son-in-law Richard Owen must have built this after I was deceased. Ever the philanthropist, he did have the welfare of the workers and their children at heart. I’ve got to give him that even if I didn’t like him at first … He was dating my daughter.”
As we entered the village store, more of Owen’s initiatives came to light. Buying good quality food in bulk to pass onto the workers at low prices, thus establishing the co-operative movement.
When Owen left New Lanark in 1825, he went to the States and founded New Harmony in Indiana, based on the same social utopian principles practised at New Lanark. In 1862 he was advising and influencing Abraham Lincoln on the abolition of slavery. You could say the U.S Constitution began here at New Lanark.
2015 sees new beginnings for New Lanark with its inaugural book festival in two weeks’ time. I’ll be there, hoping for a dry, sunny day. Can you imagine how beautiful those trees will be at the height of autumn?