New Lanark World Heritage Site Blog

19/05/15 New Lanark World Heritage Site # , , , ,

Family history talk by the Genealogy Detective!

Family history talk by the Genealogy Detective!

Come along to our talk on Friday night (22nd May) where Liz Irving, the Genealogy Detective will be discussing how to use fascinating sources to can add facts, context and colour to your family tree. Tickets are £4 and can be booked by calling 01555 661345 or ‘on the door’ on the night.


Here’s a guest blog from Liz to give you a flavour of what she’ll be discussing on the night…

Researching your family history is an absorbing and fascinating activity, but really getting to know your ancestors involves more than simply finding out their names and the dates and places of their birth, marriage and death.

In Scotland we’re lucky to have easy access to these “vital” or Statutory Records, along with other resources like Old Parish Registers, censuses and wills (known as Testaments).  We can work back through the decades and build up a family tree to be proud of.  But if you know where to look there’s much, much more that you can find out about your family, their neighbours, community and the world they lived in.

Being a genealogy detective means following clues, searching for evidence and building up a picture of our forebears and their lives.

New Lanark is a very special place, and its origins as a mill village have led to a large number of records specific to this community being kept together.  Glasgow University Archives holds a myriad of “name rich” material – including rent, wages and school certificate books, medical reports, letters, even a petition signed by villagers who wanted to continue worshipping in the village’s Old Gaelic Chapel.  Imagine the excitement of seeing your ancestor’s signature from a century or more ago.

Other archives and libraries also hold original volumes that record people’s lives in the past in intimate detail.


It’s sad but true that our ancestors often turn up in official records when they’re having a hard time.  So the birth of an illegitimate child can lead to a mother appearing in Sheriff Court records as she attempts to have the father of her baby legally identified.  An accident and the resultant inability to work may mean an application under the Poor Law, when an inspector would visit and record in detail the circumstances of the applicant, spouse, and wider family members.  Committing a crime and being imprisoned can produce entries in prison registers, newspaper reports and even transportation records – often including a detailed description of the person.  And being accused of what may seem to us quite minor misdemeanours – such as “horrid swearing” – could see a person appearing before the Kirk Session for censure.

The Lanark Prison Register from May 1859 records that Elizabeth Nichol, a 16-year old millworker was accused of “theft of silver money”.  From this book, held at National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, we also learn that Elizabeth had been born in Ireland but spent most of her life in Lanark.  She was a Roman Catholic, 4 feet 11 inches tall, weighed 110 pounds, had a swarthy complexion, dark hair and black eyes.  Elizabeth couldn’t read or write, but her health was good.  She was liberated after spending one day in prison, her conduct said to be “tolerable”.

Thirty-five years later, another New Lanark resident found that with his eyesight fading he could do little work as a tailor.  He was Patrick McGuckian, who lived in Double Row with his wife Euphemia.  In September 1894 he applied for Poor Relief, and the Inspector recorded details of the couple’s birthplaces in Ireland, the names and occupations of their parents, Euphemia’s state of health, and the names, ages and spouses of their grown-up children.  The report – held in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow – even reveals that Patrick and Euphemia had seven grandchildren, a two-apartment house that was “comfortably furnished”, and that while Patrick had resided in New Lanark for around 60 years, he had spent three months in America in 1857.

Documents like these turn our ancestors’ lives from monochrome to colour, words written in fading ink bring us details we could never have imagined.  We become time travellers, dipping into previous centuries.

Let’s jump back to the late 18th century, when David Dale of New Lanark Mills was paying three pounds, eighteen shillings tax for having fourteen windows, and fifteen shillings for having four clocks.  Or to 1823 when the Moderator of Lanark Kirk Session was admonishing “at great length” Elizabeth Dewar of New Lanark for her sin of Fornication, though he later absolved her from the scandal and restored her to church privileges.

Most heartbreaking of all, we find ourselves in March 1918 when Samuel Barr of the Gordon Highlanders was writing a will in his army paybook, leaving all he had to his four motherless children.  Less than three weeks later he was dead and his mother in New Lanark was embarking on a correspondence with the authorities to ensure her orphaned grandchildren would be cared for.  She also received and signed for her son’s effects – letters and photographs, his war medals and a gold ring.

These people come alive again as we see their handwriting, read their words, discover how they lived and understand their joys and sorrows.

Liz Irving – New Lanark Guest Blogger

Tickets for Liz’s talk on Friday 22 May are £4 and can be booked by calling 01555 661345 or ‘on the door’ on the night.

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12/05/15 New Lanark World Heritage Site # , , , ,

10 things you might not know about Robert Owen…

10 things you might not know about Robert Owen…

We’re celebrating the anniversary of Robert Owen’s birthday by looking at some of the fascinating social reforms he made at New Lanark, and some interesting facts about his life! 


1. Robert Owen was born on the 14th May 1771, in Newtown, a small market town in Wales. His father was the local saddler and ironmonger, and Robert was the sixth of seven children, two of whom died young.


2. Robert Owen was a bright boy, musical, good at sports and took dancing lessons as a child leading to him becoming the best dancer in his class! He was also a keen reader, and as the son of one of Newton’s leading citizens, he had access to the libraries of the local clergyman, physician and lawyer. It was there he would have discovered one of his favourite books, Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”.


3. Robert Owen is said to have had a very strange relationship with food owing to his “bad digestion” which was caused by him severely burning his insides with a gulp of boiling hot flummery (a welsh dish made from flour, similar to porridge) when he was 5 years old. Talking about the incident in his Life written eighty years later, he says “my stomach became incapable of digesting food, except the most simple and in small quantity at a time”. Despite his troubles with food, his favourite pudding as a young man was apple dumpling. Whilst at work his cook is said to have asked him what he liked for lunch, to be met with the reply “an apple dumpling…and anything else you like”.


4. Before coming to New Lanark Robert Owen apprenticed with a Scots draper in Lincolnshire, worked in a drapery in Manchester, set up a spinning “mules” manufacturing enterprise and worked as a manager at Drinkwater’s Bank Top Mill in Manchester – all before he was 20! He was then a founding partner of the Chorlton Twist Company, and it was on a business trip with this company to Glasgow that he met Caroline Dale, the daughter of New Lanark Mills’ current owner – David Dale.


5. After marrying Caroline Dale in 1799, Robert Owen took up management of the New Lanark Mills on New Year’s Day 1800. The first period of his management was characterised by his efforts to expand the business and make it more efficient. Not only was he committed to running his business more effectively, he was also dedicated to improving the lives of those living and working in the village. To do this he made a number of important social reforms during his 25 years as manager, including:

  • Phasing out the employment of young children as unpaid apprentices
  • Reducing the length of the working day
  • Setting up a Sickness Fund and providing free medical care
  • Building a new Village Store which sold quality goods at reasonable prices
  • Introducing street cleaning services
  • Establishing an innovative education system for the whole population of New Lanark (see points 6 & 7 for more detail)
A representation of the Village Store is part of our Visitor Centre

A representation of the Village Store is now part of our Visitor Centre


6. Robert Owen believed that education was key to forming a society which would be free from crime and poverty. To support his grand educational plans, in 1809 he planned two large buildings, the “New Institute for the Formation of Character” and the “School for Children”. His current business partners were unhappy with the prospect of so much money being spent on schools, and in 1813 matters came to a head with the mills being advertised for sale. Owen’s discontented partners hoped to buy him out, but with the help of new investors, who were sympathetic to his ideas, Owen was successful in his bid to retain ownership of the mils. “The Institute” was finally opened on New Year’s Day 1816, and on that occasion Owen made his Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark -a lengthy speech relived by a musical interlude halfway through! This imposing building was not only used as a school for the young, but also for evening lectures and concerts for the workers – the first attempt at introducing adult education to the working classes.

The Institute for the Formation of character

The Institute is now home to our Visitor Centre reception and temporary exhibitions


7. Robert Owen is credited with forming the first infant school in the world! Whilst their parents were working in the mills children aged 3 to 6 were taught to share and be kind to each other, and were not “annoyed with books” until they were a little older. From 7 to 12 years children were taught a wide range of subjects including history, geography, nature study, art, singing and dancing. There were no rewards and no punishments, as Owen believed there was no need for either in a system where the children were interested in what they were doing and enjoying their lessons. The lessons were taught in spacious classrooms which were adorned with wall maps, bright pictures of animals and friezes.

The Historic Classroom is now part of the New Lanark Visitor Centre

The Historic Classroom is now part of the New Lanark Visitor Centre



8. Robert Owen was opposed to corporal punishment as a means of discipline at work. Instead, a four-sided block of wood called a “Silent Monitor” was hung by each worker, and turned each day by the superintendant of the department to show how well the worker had behaved. Black=Bad, Blue=indifferent, Yellow=good and white = excellent.



9. Despite extensive campaigning, lectures and publication of pamphlets, Owen failed to persuade other manufacturers that his social reforms could result in a profitable business. In 1825 he sold the mills at New Lanark to Charles and Henry Walker, the sons of one of his Quaker partners, and carried his campaign for a better society into the wider world – a settlement which he named New Harmony in Indiana, USA to be exact. Here he planned to create a Utopian community, in the less conservative climate of the “New World”. Sadly, Utopia was not to be instantly realised. The experiment quickly ran into trouble due to a shortage of practical skills to provide for the basic needs of the community, and Robert Owen returned to Britain in 1828. Although the Utopian experiment did not succeed in the same way as New Lanark, some of its more brilliant settlers remained and the town can boast many “firsts” in American society: the first Kindergarten, the first trade school, the first free public school, the first free library, the first civic dramatic club and one of the first organised women’s clubs, the Minerva Society.


10. Robert Owen had 7 children, 4 boys and 3 girls. Five of his children became US citizens and either lived in New Harmony or retained strong links with the settlement. Owen’s children took up prominent roles in society such as an eminent University Professor (Richard Owen) and the United States Geologist in 1839 (David Dale Owen). Most notably, Robert Dale Owen became a US Congressman and introduced the Bill to found the Smithsonian Institution, and, assisted by his brother David, drew up the initial plans for the Smithsonian Institution Building in Washington D.C. (also known as “The Castle”) 

The Smithsonian Castle and Seneca Quarry

The Smithsonian Castle and Seneca Quarry


This is just a very small selection of excerpts from the fascinating life of Robert Owen. If you want to find out more about Robert Owen’s time at New Lanark, why not take a trip to our award winning Visitor Centre

Melissa – Marketing and PR Officer



Robert Owen and Food – New Lanark Trust, 1989.

The Story of Robert Owen, Fourth Edition – New Lanark Trust, 2012.

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07/05/15 Ted at New Lanark # , , , , ,

Ted’s May at New Lanark

Ted’s May at New Lanark

Hi again everyone, Ted here! I hope you’ve all been enjoying the nice weather (while it lasted!) There were certainly lots of visitors soaking up the sun at New Lanark whilst exploring the village, walking to the Falls, enjoying Clearburn and enjoying a New Lanark Ice Cream cone, or two!

We’re only one week into May and I’ve already been really busy at New Lanark and going ‘up the hill’ to the town of Lanark.

On Monday 4th May New Lanark hosted its annual Spring Food and Gift Fair. Over 600 visitors came down to enjoy some delicious Scottish produce and pick up some wonderful hand made crafts. I had a great day checking out all of the different stalls, and even had my first taste of the famous Arbroath Smokies!


Getting the fish ready for the smoker!

At the weekend I also popped into the new exhibition in the River Room at New Lanark. ‘Seasonal Inspirations’ is a beautiful collection of paintings by local artists Eileen, Eve and Nancy – some of them are even available to buy. Entry to the exhibition is free, and it’s running 10am-5pm daily until the 29th of May! (closed 16th May)

Channeling my inner art critic 🙂

Impressive paintings at ‘Seasonal Inspirations’

Last week I took a trip up to Lanark to visit the Lanark Museum! The museum is now located within the YMCA building in the Bloomgate. It’s open from 11am-4pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from April to September. It has loads of interesting artefacts including old photographs of Lanark, historical Lanimer crowns and a stone marking where William Wallace’s house would have stood! You can find out more about the Lanark Museum online at, by visiting their Facebook page or calling 01555 666680.


Checking out some old photographs…


All hail King Ted!


The crown jewels….of Lanark!


Looking forward to Wallace Weekend on 23-24 May!


Using the touchscreen to find out about the history of Lanark…


When I’ve not been gallivanting I’ve been ‘pom pom’ing!  New Lanark are planning a ‘Craft Bomb’ to join in the celebrations with the launch of Voluntary Arts Week which is all about celebrating the nation’s creativity from 15-24 May 2015. You can get involved by making a pom pom or any other knitted creation and sending it to New Lanark before 15th May. (you can drop it off at Visitor Centre reception or post to Melissa Reilly, New Lanark Trust, New Lanark Mills, Lanark, ML11 9DB) They’ll then use all of the creations to decorate a secret part of New Lanark on 15th May! You can check out this great tutorial which teaches you how to make pom poms with forks and toilet rolls. 


These pom poms are quite comfy!


I’ll hopefully see you at New Lanark soon! Did you know that throughout the whole of May you can get 25% off New Lanark Visitor Centre tickets by downloading this voucher, printing it off and showing at reception? What a great way to explore the award winning Visitor Centre with great attractions like the Annie McLeod Experience, Historic Classroom, Roof Garden & Clearburn Natural Play Area!

There’s lots of other great events coming up in May, including…

Ted – New Lanark Guest Blogger

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07/05/15 New Lanark World Heritage Site # , , , , ,

Getting the kids outside – child friendly New Lanark!

Getting the kids outside – child friendly New Lanark!

Guest blog by Sally Rogers. 

As a mother, I seem to be constantly fighting a (mostly losing battle) with screens. I want my small brood to go outside, to engage with the world, to run and jump and use their imaginations and get all the wonderful benefits of outdoor play that I keep reading about [1]. They would rather stay inside and ‘live’ through a CGI avatar. So I’m absolutely delighted when I find somewhere for which the kids are happy to tear their eyes from the backlit LCDs and head eagerly out into the world – and not even complain about lack of wifi and charging points! New Lanark has proven to be such a place, and has been a fantastic boon to me. It’s great to watch your children using their own imaginations rather than that of a game designer. If you think that a heritage village is ‘stuffy’ and boring for kids – think again. There’s plenty for children to do, and mine are always delighted to take a trip out here.


Clearburn - PLEASE USE
Clearburn Picnic And Play Area
I was so happy with what I found in this play area when I first visited that we’ve been back several times purely because of it. I was delighted by the response of my youngest, in particular. He was diagnosed with ADHD last year. Like many parents of children with ADHD, I tend to experience a degree of trepidation when taking him to new environments as the nature of the condition [2] means that he can have difficulty behaving normally. This doesn’t mean I don’t try, though, and this year’s discovery of the Clearburn Picnic and Play Area was a much-needed tonic for a sometimes despairing mother! The place is like an enchanted land in which he and his sister can wander, explore, and play out limitless imaginary scenarios facilitated by things like a willow tunnel, a tree house, and all the usual play equipment. His absorption in the make-believe world he finds here is total, and clearly very enjoyable. He doesn’t even squabble with his sister – not even when she wants to use the play equipment at the same time as him! After our first visit, he seemed so very happy and relaxed in himself when we got home that I was prompted to do a little research on outdoor play and ADHD. I have since discovered that outdoor play in green spaces of this kind can be fantastic for kids with ADHD [3] – so we’ll definitely be back! However, there’s more than just this play area to draw the kids…


The Roof Garden
The Roof Garden [4] is my daughter’s favourite thing about this place. It’s on the top of one of the mill buildings, and gives a brilliant view of the village and surrounding area. That’s not why my daughter likes it, though. She likes the animal sculptures and the butterflies attracted by the flowers. We spent a happy half hour up here once while she followed a butterfly from bush to bush and tried to identify it with an app on her phone (yes, I know, screens again – but at least she was using it kind of productively!). Given that our children are increasingly failing to engage with nature, a resource like this which gently encourages them to enjoy the natural world of their own accord is very much needed [5]. It didn’t hurt, of course, that there were cute baby ducklings to be seen up there on one of our visits, either (even if I did spend the trip home fending off requests for a pet duck…).


The Historic Classroom
The Robert Owen School classroom may not be outside, exactly, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. My two both love dressing up as Victorian school children and pretending to be the offspring of mill workers for a bit. What they especially love is being able to take the costumes off at the end of it and return to being modern children. I was surprised by the depth of their understanding on our first visit – they seemed genuinely grateful for the facilities (and lack of caning!) at their primary school, and were shocked when I told them that this was one of the good places and conditions were a lot worse for most Victorian children [6]! If your kids need a sense of perspective, bring them here!


[1] Mark Kinver, “Does outdoor play help keep the doctor away?”, BBC, Feb 2012      

[2] PsychGuides, “ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder)”

[3] Diana Yates, “For kids with ADHD, regular ‘green time’ is linked to milder symptoms”, University of Illinois, Sept 2011

[4] New Lanark Visitor Centre, “The Roof Garden”

[5] The Telegraph, “Children’s knowledge of nature is dwindling, study finds”, Apr 2015

[6] Infed, “Education in Robert Owen’s new society: the New Lanark institute and schools”


Please get in touch if you would be interested in writing a Visitor’s View guest blog or article for us.

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05/05/15 Roof Garden # , , , , , , ,

Roof Garden Diary: May 2015

Roof Garden Diary: May 2015

Once again last month in New Lanark Roof Garden, a mother duck managed to lay eggs and incubate them, in total secret, before showing off her clutch of tiny ducklings to visitors. As the chicks were not able to fly back to the water, rangers from the Scottish Wildlife Trust quickly rescued them, and the little family were soon relocated to a more suitable habitat. As well as the duck family, a pair of wagtails were seen gathering moss and other materials for a nest somewhere nearby, perhaps across the river. And swallows have been skimming low across the fountain with great acrobatic skill. Meanwhile, let’s not forget the lovely spring flowers. ‘Lemon Beauty’ daffodils are stunning with their perfumed yellow and white petals and the Woolly Willow is covered in furry catkins!

lemon Beauty 2015 (2)

‘Lemon Beauty’ daffodils

Duck family on the move!

Duck family on the move!

Liz – New Lanark Guest Blogger

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New Lanark World Heritage Site Aerial View

New Lanark is a beautifully restored 18th century cotton mill village in Scotland, and is one of Scotland's six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

On our blog you'll find a behind-the-scenes look at all the latest news, events, stories and general 'goings-on' from New Lanark World Heritage Site.

We are always looking for guest bloggers to become involved with the blog. If you are interested in writing for us, please get in touch.

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