New Lanark World Heritage Site Blog

Robert Owen

19/10/15 Talks at New Lanark # , , , , ,

Free talk at New Lanark on Historic New Harmony & Jane Blaffer Owen

Free talk at New Lanark on Historic New Harmony & Jane Blaffer Owen

Robert Owen is known for being one of New Lanark’s most enlightened mill managers, but perhaps one of the lesser known facts about Owen is that in 1825, frustrated by constant opposition to his new ideas, Robert Owen sold the Mills at New Lanark and decided to buy the settlement of Harmony in Indiana, which he renamed New Harmony.

In the less conservative climate of the New World, Owen planned to create a Utopian Community or Village of Unity and Mutual Co-operation. Owen was partnered by William Maclure, a Scottish Geologist and social experimenter who shared his belief in rational and scientific education.

Just 2 years later, in the spring of 1827 the Owen / Maclure New Harmony was abandoned after a series of disagreements within the community organisation. Despite the failure of Owen’s utopian dream, New Harmony did not disintegrate completely. Some of its most brilliant settlers remained and made significant contributions to American scientific and educational theory, study and practice.

Over the years the relationship between New Lanark and New Harmony has continued to grow, with many visits ‘across the pond’ being made by residents and representatives from both communities.

On Friday 30th October, Nancy Mangum McCaslin from New Harmony will be giving a free talk at New Lanark related to New Harmony and Jane Blaffer Owen CBE, the wife of Kenneth Dale Owen – Robert Owen’s great-great grandson.

“In 1941, Kenneth Dale Owen, great-great grandson of Robert Owen, brought his bride, Jane Blaffer Owen, to his ancestral hometown, New Harmony, Indiana, where two communal societies took root in the early 1800s: the religious Harmonie Society from Germany, who relocated and sold their entire town to Robert Owen, who together with a like-minded Scotsman and scientist William Maclure, began an educational and scientific model community based on mutual cooperation. New Harmony’s historic significance, however, had faded by the time of her arrival in the 1940s.”

Jane Blaffer Owen dedicated herself not only to the preservation and revitalization of the historic buildings but also to bringing some of the finest intellects of her time to the town. Jane Blaffer Owen recounts her activities in the posthumously published memoir New Harmony, Indiana: Like a River, Not a Lake (published by Indiana University Press, 2015) and edited by Nancy Mangum McCaslin, who also serves on the Advisory Board of Historic New Harmony.

Nancy will give a presentation on Robert Owen & his family in New Harmony, followed by a brief documentary showing an interview with Jane Blaffer Owen, entitled Conversations in New Harmony. The free talk will take place on Friday 30th October 2015 at 2.30pm within the New Lanark River Room. Afterwards, copies of New Harmony, Indiana: Like a River, Not a Lake will be available for sale and signings.

No booking is required for the talk. For further information please call New Lanark Trust on 01555 661345.

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28/07/15 Exhibitions at New Lanark # , , , , ,

The Quaker Tapestry at New Lanark

The Quaker Tapestry at New Lanark

New Lanark Guest Blog

by Bridget Guest, Manager of the Quaker Tapestry

“Is there anything I can do to help you?” I hesitantly asked the visitor who was in tears in front of one of the Tapestry panels… she was alright – just a little overwhelmed by the emotion of seeing something she had been longing to see. The visitor, a woman of about my age, was from Australia and had heard so much about the Quaker Tapestry but the experience of seeing the panels ‘in the flesh’ exceeded all her expectations.

The Quaker Tapestry definitely has a wow factor – but, I hasten to add, doesn’t always bring on a flood of tears!  The vibrancy and richness of the colours are not possible to portray in print or film – you really do need to see the embroideries.

‘Inspirational’ is the word most often used by visitors to describe it, with the ability to ‘speak’ to people in different ways. As one person, on a third visit, explained: “The first time I saw it – I read all the written information in the panels and the inspirational quotes; the second time I enjoyed the storytelling quality of the panels and was surprised at how much of the social history I didn’t know; and this time I have actually noticed the stitches!”

A4_detail_childrens_Richard_Sellar_med

I have been working with the Quaker Tapestry since 1994 when we established the permanent home for the exhibition in Kendal, Cumbria. With a background in art, design, illustration and a love of all textiles, when I spend time with the panels I am usually examining the embroidery stitches. Just how many colours of wool does it take to create an evocative sunset, what brilliance produced a three dimensional engine funnel or created a perspective in a landscape that allows you to see for miles?

It wasn’t until February 2001, that I became absorbed by the stories and social history within the Quaker Tapestry. We were exhibiting the Tapestry at Beverley Minster the hometown of Ann Nichols, one of the four main teachers who enabled the 4,000 men, woman and children to create the 77 Quaker Tapestry panels between 1981 and 1996. Ann is such a wonderful storyteller and has the ability to gently reel-in her audience. She had gathered a class of 9-year-old school children around her and one of the panels. You could have heard a pin drop as they sat with open mouths on the stone floor of the dimly lit Minster, listening to the tale of Richard Sellar, a young sailor from Scarborough who was press ganged to fight in the 17th century Dutch War.

A 19-year-old Quaker, Richard refused to fight and as a result he was made an example of by the captain with punishments such as keelhauling and hanging by his thumbs from the yardarm and whipping “until the blood ran red over his back”. Ann’s years in teaching had given her the skills to enthral the children as they listened to every gruesome detail. Children of their age had illustrated and embroidered the story at the bottom of this panel. Little hands went up to answer her carefully crafted open questions about how they might feel if those gory things had happened to them.   I was also enthralled at Ann’s delivery and I hadn’t noticed that my partner Roy had grabbed a blanket from the back of the shop to creep up behind the group of children at the end of the story and surprise us all by throwing the blanket over them with a loud shout of “here comes the pressgang!!” Needless to say, the screams of fright, surprise and laughter helped to lighten the mood.

Richard Sellar’s story stayed with me for several weeks and Roy and I were inspired to write a song about him. This led on to other research and song writing until we found we had an album of songs inspired by the Quaker Tapestry entitled ‘Universal Chorus’.  In another life Roy and I sing as a duo on the Folk scene and our claim to fame is that we sang the title song from the album on the BBC TV programme Songs of Praise in 2002!

Over the years the Quaker Tapestry and its stories of remarkable people have inspired all sorts of people to produce: poetry, song, theatre, other textile projects small and large, Scottish dances, music, sculpture, university students and lecturers, films, books and TV programmes… to name a few!

See the Quaker Tapestry at New Lanark in August – but beware…. this community textile has the ability to inspire and change lives! Exhibition open at New Lanark from Tuesday 11th to Saturday 29th August.


Come along to hear Bridget tell you more about the fascinating stories of the Quaker Tapestry and anecdotes of the people who made it. It may inspire you to do something wonderful.

Bridget’s talk – Friday 28th August 2015, Robert Owen’s School for Children, 6.30 for 7.30pm. Tickets £4, available by calling 01555 661345 or online. 

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Quaker Tapestry Museum in Kendal is open February to December each year for more information about this and embroidery workshops visit the website: http://www.quaker-tapestry.co.uk

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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

 

silentmonitor

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? There’s 25% off tickets throughout May with this voucher!

Melissa – Marketing and PR Officer

 

Sources:

Robert Owen and Food – New Lanark Trust, 1989.

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

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17/04/15 Talks at New Lanark # , , , , ,

Talking ‘Full Circle’ with Docey Lewis

Talking ‘Full Circle’ with Docey Lewis

We’re delighted to welcome to the New Lanark Blog, Docey Lewis – a direct descendant of Robert Owen. Ahead of her talk at New Lanark on Friday 24th April (£4 tickets available here) Docey has blogged for us with a taster of what she”ll be discussing…

What would Robert Owen have thought of corporate social responsibility, fair trade, employee-owned companies, carbon neutral product manufacturing, zero waste-to-landfill, LEED points and so many other modern business practices?

Imagine Robert Owen’s Facebook page or perhaps picture him debating Pope Francis or having a conversation with the Dalai Lama on YouTube. What would his Tweets say?

Would he oppose GMO foods, be a vegan, or demand organic cotton for his factories?

Would he be a champion of distance learning, work globally to educate women and girls? Would he be a pioneer on social, environmental and economic frontiers? Would he have found sympathetic investors through crowdfunding on Kickstarter or Indiegogo? Would his big ideas have spread virally, globally? What would his Ted Talk look like?

(Would Anne Caroline have enjoyed better health and accompanied Robert on his journeys?)

How much the world has changed since 1799 when Robert Owen arrived on the New Lanark scene. The technology revolution may have made the world seem a smaller place, but all our connectivity, productivity and mobility have exponentially multiplied the options for how and where to make one’s life and livelihood and how to spread one’s ideas.

Robert Owen’s impact on my life started in early childhood, when two of the books my grandmother read to me were Town of the Fearless and The Bekoning Road, both involving Robert Owen’s Utopian experiment in New Harmony, Indiana. I first visited New Harmony when I was ten years old, for the dedication of Philip Johnson’s Roofless Church. My first large weaving commission was in 1974 for the New Harmony Inn. I designed the wool yarn for and wove 60 bedspreads by hand on a wide fly shuttle loom. In 1967 my mother became active with the Cooperative League of the USA and until her death in 1983, traveled the world, lecturing on Robert Owen and the cooperative movement. She also wrote a book entitled Look to the Distaff which is a compilation of Owen family letters going back five generations. She wrote long letters to me about her numerous trips to New Lanark and New Harmony. And now, I find myself not only living in New Harmony, but making regular pilgrimages to New Lanark myself.

I’m so looking forward to sharing the story of “Full Circle,” the (mostly textile) design and development work being done in partnership with our international buyers and the producer groups we work closely with in the developing world. Robert Owen’s philosophy and big ideas have informed our work and continue to inspire us.

Full Circle Logo

Full Circle Logo

 

Docey Lewis – New Lanark Guest Blogger

Tickets for Docey’s talk at New Lanark on Friday 24th April are available to purchase by calling 01555 661345, emailing trust@newlanark.org or online.

Docey Lewis

Salleri Monastery School (Our program supports the meals for the boarding students)

Weavers@EAPFactory - The weavers are at our main woven wall covering factory in Kathmandu

Weavers @ EAPFactory – The weavers are at our main woven wall covering factory in Kathmandu

VocationalSchool- EAP (Everest Art Paper--our partner business in Nepal-- is in partnership with the World Food Programme and Himalayan Health and Environmental Services Solukhumbu (HESS) on running short term training programs

Vocational School- EAP (Everest Art Paper–our partner business in Nepal– is in partnership with the World Food Programme and Himalayan Health and Environmental Services Solukhumbu (HESS) on running short term training programs

HempYarnKnotters - Some of our cottage industry subcontractors for yarn preparation

Hemp Yarn Knotters – Some of our cottage industry subcontractors for yarn preparation

OwenLewis@vocationalschool - Training center in the mountains of Solukhumbu (Owen and I volunteer there 1-2 times per year); we design the curiculuum, teach, and then hire the trainees

Owen Lewis@vocationalschool – Training center in the mountains of Solukhumbu (Owen and I volunteer there 1-2 times per year); we design the curiculuum, teach, and then hire the trainees

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25/01/12 New Lanark World Heritage Site # , , ,

Video presentation by Prof. Chris Williams about Robert Owen

Professor Chris Williams, from Swansea University’s College of Arts and Humanities, speaks of his book, Robert Owen and His Legacy, co-authored with Professor Noel Thompson of Swansea University. Robert Owen (1771-1858), a radical thinker and humanitarian employer, made a major contribution to nineteenth-century social movements including co-operatives, trade unions and workers education. He was a pioneer of enlightened approaches to the education of children and an advocate of birth control. He established utopian communities in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and is often thought of as a leading early British socialist.
Short video presentation by Professor Chris Williams from Swansea University on the life and legacies of Robert Owen – click this link to view video.

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09/11/11 Education and Learning , New Lanark Visitor Centre # , , , , ,

Visit to New Lanark by Thornlie Primary School

Leslie's card from Thornlie Primary School

Leslie's card from Thornlie Primary School

Primary 5/6 from Thornlie Primary School in Wishaw visited New Lanark Visitor Centre to learn about Robert Owen and working conditions in the mill village in the 19th Century. On their return, the entire school got involved, from primary 1 to primary 7, to present their ‘New Lanark Assembly’.
Topics ranged from toys and games in the past, the Rights of the child, dancing, seasons, and food, and a chat show between David Dale and Robert Owen, accompanied by humorous songs.
Leslie from New Lanark Visitor Centre was lucky to be their Tour Guide when they visited and was invited to the school as their guest at the ‘New Lanark Assembly’. Miss McMillan, who was full of enthusiasm, led the assembly, and Nathan, Chloe and Kali, compered it, providing a slick and effervescent presentation. Leslie was delighted to have been invited and said, “The assembly leaves me with lovely memories, and the flowers and card that they gave me are beautiful. It was an absolute pleasure to be their Guide when they visited and to see the whole school participating.” The photograph shows the front of the card Leslie received from the school.

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13/10/11 New Lanark World Heritage Site # , , , ,

Back to school in Utopia

Day 2 and a visit to the University of Southern Indiana. We started the day with a productive meeting with the University Senior Management team. It was wonderful to meet Dr Bennett and Mark Rozewski on their home soil after their visit to New Lanark earlier in the year. We were then given a tour of the campus by Missy Parkison, HNH Community Engagement Manager and Cady Tabeling, a wonderful student ambassador and intern at New Harmony. We were impressed by the modern campus and the amazing facilities on offer for students. It almost made us want to go back to our student days! We ventured into the student bookstore (to buy a USI Eagles hoodie for one unnamed but sports mad husband) and came across an amazing range of USI memorabilia, including a USI garden gnome!!!! Every home should have one!
During the afternoon we were treated to a tour of the Rice Library and archives by Jennifer Green, Reference and Archives Librarian. The archive contains the largest collection of communal studies material in the USA and some fantastic artefacts from the tri-state area. The library was purpose built in 2006 and offers students a wonderful setting in which to study (it even has its own Starbucks!)
This evening we were honoured to be invited to a reception hosted by the former Director of Historic New Harmony, James Sanders and his sister Doris at Hidden Acres Farm. This lovely evening provided us with the opportunity to meet some of New Harmony’s and USI’s staff, friends and benefactors. On a lighter note, they had the best chocolate brownies we have ever tasted and we are eating the leftovers as we are typing this post! We have had another amazing day and extend our sincerest thanks to all those who have helped make us feel so welcome. (We apologise for bringing the rain over with us!)

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12/10/11 New Lanark World Heritage Site # , , , ,

Welcome to Utopia!

Weeks of planning, 3 airports to pass through, 18 hours of flying and we have made it to New Harmony, Indiana! After spending Monday evening getting settled into our beautiful guest house, today, Tuesday, was our first full day in utopia. We began the day with a visit to the Richard Meier visitor centre, the Atheneum. This beautiful modernist building is a perfect example of how the future meets the past in New Harmony. We were then taken on a tour of the town by our fantastic guides Melissa and Marlene. Our tour included the Double Log Cabins, pre-Harmonist dwellings; the Lenz House, a typical Harmonist dwelling and the Granary, formerly the grain store for the town, then Richard Owen’s laboratory and now a beautifully restored function space. Look more closely at the photos of the Granary- all of the beams are held together with wooden pegs- no nails whatsoever were used. The Granary also contains seismic monitoring equipment stored below ground which is linked to a computer in the building. Scientific exploration now as in Owen’s time! We then visited Thrall’s Opera House. This was originally built as a dormitory, then converted into a theatre and was also a garage for many years. It has now been restored to its former Victorian Concert Hall grandeur.
Our afternoon was spent with Collections Manager Amanda and Collections Assistant Heather who gave us a tour of the amazing collections housed in New Harmony. We were lucky enough to see a huge mixture of artefacts, documents and photographs that track the rich history of the town. From thousands of print letters used in the towns print shop to ‘Dutch Biscuits’, a form of insulation brought by the Harmonists and consisting of wooden bars wrapped in straw and clay, the items are as diverse as the history of the town. We visited the collections store, the archives store, the 1830 Owen House where we saw amazing silhouettes and also Community House 2. Community House 2 was formerly a dormitory and is now undergoing a major redevelopment to become a visitor centre interpreting the history of the town.
The evening was spent with the New Harmony Interpreters Association, firstly at their meeting and then in the traditional post meeting venue of the Yellow Tavern! We have had a fantastic first day and everyone has been so welcoming. Another busy day tomorrow- stay posted! Jane & Aynsley

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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.

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