New Lanark
Utopian Village of the Industrial Revolution

A Utopian Socialist Village

The village of New Lanark was founded in 1786 by David Dale as a completely new industrial settlement, and is one of the most celebrated examples of a Utopian socialist society during Europe’s Industrial Revolution. Under the management of Robert Owen, the village operated cotton-spinning mills powered by water from the River Clyde in Southern Scotland, and underwent great social improvements, such as progressive education, factory reform, humane working practices, and garden cities.

Life at New Lanark

Owen utilized all profit from New Lanark businesses to finance various social and educational reforms designed to improve the quality of life for his workers. In doing so, children were not permitted to work in the cotton mills, and the village saw the incorporation of the Institute for the Formation of Character, which included the first infant school in the world and provided evening classes. New Lanark villagers had access to free medical care, reduced working hours, and a savings bank account. By 1820, New Lanark became the largest cotton-manufacturing center in the country at that time, with a population of around 2,500.

Closure of the Mills

The cotton-mills continued in production for nearly 200 years, until 1968. In response to changes in technology, the water wheels which drove the machinery were gradually replaced by water turbines, and the mills produced their own hydro-electricity from 1898. The village has survived with few physical changes; it was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2001, and is now designated as an Outstanding Conservation Area under the care of an independent charity, the New Lanark Trust. The village still has a resident population of about 180 people who live in beautifully restored Georgian buildings.

The Scottish Ten

New Lanark is one of the ten sites included in the Scottish Ten project, a partnership project between CyArk, Historic Scotland, and Glasgow's School of Art's Digital Design Studio. In August 2009, a team from Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art scanned the site as part of the Scottish Ten. The Scottish Ten ambitiously strives to create accurate digital models of Scotland's five UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites and five international heritage sites over the course of 5 years. Along with New Lanark, the remaining four Scottish World Heritage Sites are the Heart of Neolithic Orkney; the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh; and St. Kilda.


00:30 / 01:00