Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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New Lanark Mills

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1786 the New Lanark Mills were erected by David Dale, in conjunction with Richard Arkwright, from whose mills in Derbyshire everything in the new establishment was minutely copied. Dale's motivation was partly to provide alternative employment for destitute Highlanders who had been cleared from their crofts (perhaps from the estates of his Campbell of Jura relatives) as part of the Highland Clearances. Others thought he had taken a typical business opportunity when a ship-load of would-be emigrants to America were stranded at Greenock.

1792 Spinning mules were driven by a water-wheel for the first time at New Lanark (in 1790–92)

1799 Dale's daughter Caroline married Robert Owen - a Welsh entrepreneur of a similar background to his own. Part of the marriage settlement included selling the New Lanark Mills, village and lands - for £60,000 repayable over 20 years - to a partnership including Owen.

1800 Owen moved to Lanark to take the post of manager of the New Lanark Twist Company, with a ninth share in the profits.

1806 Dale died; Owen formed a new partnership. New Lanark became an experiment in philanthropic management. Owen reduced both vice and punishment while improving living and working conditions, expecting in return an increase in output from the workforce. Despite initial resistance from his workers and continuing suspicion from his partners, Owen was remarkably successful in all these areas.

Owen continued to pay full wages during an American cotton embargo, which won him support from the workforce.

1813 Owen outbid his partners at an auction of New Lanark and formed a new partnership with the philanthropist Joseph Fox, future lord mayor of London Michael Gibbs, William Allen and two other Quakers, Joseph Foster and John Walker, and the philosopher Jeremy Bentham.

1816 Owen reduced the working day from 11.75 hours to 10.75 hours and made many other changes. Expensive goods in the company store were replaced with better ones at wholesale prices. He started infant education which led to the opening of the Institute for the Formation of Character.

1824-5 Robert Owen visited the USA, during which time his son, Robert Dale Owen, deputized for him as manager of the mills[1]

See New Lanark World Heritage Centre.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Biography of Robert Owen, ODNB