The Industrial Revolution in Scotland: New Lanark


Figure 1.-- Here we see the millgirls coming from work at New Lanark in the early 20th century. Child labour laws were in effect by then. All of the millworkers were women or teenagers. The same was true of the Belfast linen industry - cheaper labour still.

Observing the impact of the Industrial Revolution and the factory system on people there were several different reform movements which developed. Some of these reforms took a political approach. Another was the creatian of utopian societies. One of the utopian communities develooed in Scotland. New Lanark was created when two Glasgow financiers (David Dale and Richard Arkwright) purchased land on the River Clyde. It was at this location that they founded their mill and a new village--New Lanark (1785). Dale as was not unsual at the time, relied heavily on children, especially orphan children who were very inexpensive to obtain. An estimated 800 of his 1,100 employees were children. Unlike many such employers, he provided 2 hours of education. (This was before free public education existed, but it was beginning to develop in Scotland.) He also built reasobable housing for his employees. A Welshman Robert Owen married Dale's daughter Caroline (1799). Owen and Quaker partners thus took control of New Lanark. Owen was an idealist inspired by the Enlightenment. He was particularly taken with the idea of individual self-improvement and education. Owen believed that the education of individuals would benefit the larger soiciety. Owen decided to administer New Lanark as a social experiment. Owen sought to show the social benefits that resulted when employees were treated fairly and he sought to demostrate that employers could still make profirs. Owen cut back on working hours and upgraded worker housing. He established a creche (day care) for working mothers. He also provided workers free medical care as well as sick pay--virtually unheard of at the time. He used mill profits to build a village school. He even saw recreation as important and organized dances and socials. He offered self improvement through adult education evening classes. Owen founded the Institute for the Formation of Character (1816). Owen sold his share of New Lanark to Quaker partners (1824). Owen is especially well known to Americans. He brought his family to America and founded a utopian community there--New Harmony, Indiana. Owen eventually returned to Britain, but his son Robert Dale Owen stayed behind at New Harmony. He was a teacher and an important spokesman for the abolition of slavery. His father persued the campaign for industrial and social reform after his return to Britain until he died (1858). Owen's experiment at Lanark had an important but difficult to quantify impact on social policy in Britain and the British labour movement. It also influenced the co-operative movement. Social legislation, the trade union movement , garden cities, as well as education were also impacted. [Taylor]

Industrial Revolution in Scotland

The Industrial Revolution began in England during the mid-18th century. Most of the early developments centered in the textile industry, primarily cotton textiles. The developments gradually spread to other countries, the first was Scotland. This was of coursr Scotland and England were joined in the United Kingdom. The common language and the fact that the English midlands where the Industrial Revolution began were relatively close to Scotland. The early Industrial Revolution centering on the textile industry centered on the Clyde Valley.

Reform Movement

Observing the impact of the Industrial Revolution and the factory system on people there were several different reform movements which developed. Some of these reforms took a political approach. Another was the creatian of utopian societies. One of the utopian communities developed in Scotland.

Foundation

New Lanark was created when two Glasgow financiers (David Dale and Richard Arkwright) purchased land on the River Clyde. It was at this location that they founded their mill and a new village--New Lanark (1785). Dale as was not unsual at the time, relied heavily on children, especially orphan children who were very inexpensive to obtain. An estimated 800 of his 1,100 employees were children. Unlike many such employers, he provided 2 hours of education. (This was before free public education existed, but it was beginning to develop in Scotland.) He also built reasobable housing for his employees.

Robert Owen (1771-1858)

Robert Owen came from humble origins. He is one of the most notable figures of the Industrial Revolution, in fact better known that the inventors that made the Industrial Revolution possible. Owen is known for his social and educational reforms and thus is rather surprising that he is better known than the inventors. Robert's father was a Welsh saddler and ironmonger. Robert was a clever boy and did well in school, but his father did not allow him to continue his education beyound age 10 years. His father found him a job working with a drapers in Stamford, Lincolnshire. He worked there for 3 years and at age 13 found employment workin with a London draper. At age 16 he moved again this time to Manchester where he worked with a wholesale and retail drapery (1787). Robert as a boy thus learned a great deal about textiles. He thus was very impressed when he learned about Richard Arkwright textile factory in Cromford. Owen at only 19 years of age borrowed 100 and in parnership with engineer John Jones began manufacturing spinning "mules" to supply the new mills. This partnership ended (1792) and Owen began working as manager of Peter Drinkwater's Manchesterv spinning factory. As manager of a factory in Manchester, Owen met many of the key ehntrepreneurs at the hear of Britain's industrial Revolution. One of those was David Dale, who had set up the Chorton Twist Company in New Lanark, Scotland. At the time, this was the largest cotton-spinning business in Britain. Owen and Dales became friendly and Owen eventually married his daughter Caroline (1799). Dale's death this left Owen in control of the New Lanarl mill. Owen and Quaker partners thus took control of New Lanark. By this time Owen had made substantial amounts of money and with Caroline's inheritance he was a wealthy man. At this point in his life, his priorities changed. Rather than making even more money, he shifted his focus on how to address the social problems that had accompanied the Industrial Revolution. Owen began thinking about how to change the environment of workers and how to imprive their situation through education, improvements in the factory sustem, and changes in the poor law as well as legisislation to protect workers--especiall child and women workers. Owen was an idealist who was strongly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, but his experiences as a manager and entrprenuer gave him a practical outlook. He was particularly taken with the idea of individual self-improvement and education. Owen believed that the education of individuals would benefit the larger soiciety. His controlling in terest in New Lanark gave him a mill ahd community that he could use as a laboratory for his Village Svheme ideas. At New Lanark profit was not the major objective, but rather mutual co-operation. Owen after New Lanark came to the United States where he founded a Community of Equality at New Harmony, Indiana (1824-28) in Indiana. He then tried a to establish a colony in Mexico based on communitarian principles, but failed. His son remained at New Harmony, but Owen returned to Britain to campaign for social reform.

Social Experiment

Owen decided to administer New Lanark as a social experiment. Owen sought to show the social benefits that resulted when employees were treated fairly and he sought to demostrate that employers could still make profits. Owen cut back on working hours and upgraded worker housing. He established a creche (day care) for working mothers. He also provided workers free medical care as well as sick pay--virtually unheard of at the time.

Commercial Operation

New Lanark was from its beginning a commercial enterprise. The commercial success of New Lanark was an important part of Owen's considerable prominence. If New Lanark had lost money there woukdc have been much less interest in Owen's writing and social philosopht.

New View of Society (1816)

Owen was reappointed director of New Lanark (1814) and it is at this time he was able to put his ideas into full force. Own set down his ideas in writing and published them as New View of Society (1816). The work reflects Owen's Enlightement ideals mixed with his very practical experienes as an entrepreneur and industrial manager. It was a plea for extensive social reform. Importantly from a boy that had largely been denied an education, the central fact of his social message was the importance of education. Unlike most other utopian thinkers, Owen actually had a community he could test his theories on and show off to interested parties. This practical demonstration was an important part of Owen's success as a proponent of social reform. New Lanark was esopecially important as it was a demonstration of how a existing community could be reformed.

Education

Own used used mill profits to build a village school. One author describes teacing in the village school. "In addition to this elementary instruction, those over two were given dancing lessons and those four and upwards taught singing. Military-style exercises were also a major feature of both schools, and the sight of youthful marches led by fife and drum was frequently remarked upon by contemporaries, especially the upper class dignitaries who much approved of such discipline. Conformity in the children was further reinforced by a 'beautiful dress of tartan cloth, fashioned in its make after the form of a Roman toga'. However, like the kilt and plaid worn by older boys this was thought by some of Robert Owen's partners to encourage sexual promiscuity. According to Captain Donald Macdonald of the Royal Engineers, who like the laird, Archibald Hamilton of Dalzell, had become a convert to the New System and who accompanied Robert Owen on the visit of inspection to Harmonie in 1824-25, the New Lanark dresses and plaids were part of the baggage. Owen showed them to fellow passengers and apparently had them copied in New York to be displayed there and in Washington along with his plans and models of the Village Scheme. The dress code for the new communities was another subject about which Robert Owen said little about unless pressed to do so." [Donnachie]

Recreation and Self-improvement

Own even saw recreation as important and organized dances and socials. He offered self improvement through adult education evening classes. Owen founded the Institute for the Formation of Character (1816).

New Harmony

Owen sold his share of New Lanark to Quaker partners (1824). Owen is especially well known to Americans. He brought his family to America and founded a utopian community there--New Harmony, Indiana. Owen eventually returned to Britain, but his son Robert Dale Owen stayed behind at New Harmony. He was a teacher and an important spokesman for the abolition of slavery.

Social Reform

His father persued the campaign for industrial and social reform after his return to Britain until he died (1858). Owen's experiment at Lanark had an important but difficult to quantify impact on social policy in Britain and the British labour movement. It also influenced the co-operative movement. Social legislation, the trade union movement , garden cities, as well as education were also impacted. [Taylor]

Modern Museum

New Lanark had dteriorated badly by the mid-20th century. A major effort was made to restore the buildings during the 1970s. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Institute and School have been fully restored. A Regency style classroom has been set up on Lancasterian lines. Replica visual aids can be examined by visitors. School groups can schedule visits during which they dress in the tunics worn by Owen's pupils and exrepience actual 19th century classes. The New Lanark website offers a virtual 360 degreee tour of the classroom. http://www.newlanark.org/attractions.shtml). See, also, the New Harmony website and the Robert Owen Memorial Museum.

Sources

Donnachie, Ian. "Education in Robert Owen's new society: The new Lanark Institute and schools," Infed website, accessed June 20, 2004

Taylor, Helen. "New Lanark - A model industrial community," Scottish Textile Heritage Online, site accessed June 20, 2004.






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Created: 7:04 AM 6/21/2004
Last updated: 1:01 AM 6/22/2004