Now a plush hotel in beautiful surrounds, the New Lanark Mill Hotel was started life as a socially progressive cotton mill
What was once the iconic 18th Century Cotton Mill (No 1) is now the New Lanark Mill Hotel, located in the New Lanark World Heritage site.
And although it’s now known as a picturesque tourist spot and luxurious place to stay, the site was the location of one of the UK’s most pioneering social projects, protecting workers rights in the early 1800s.
Mill owner, Robert Owen, having seen ‘the dark satanic mills’ in England, was determined that Scotland’s New Lanark Mill would benefit the workers as much as the company.
As well as reforming the cotton mill’s production and administration he instituted a reform of how workers and their families treated – including putting in place the equivalent of a workplace crèche, so women could work on site without worrying about the care of their family. Essentially, he was the creator of infant child care within the UK.
His primary concern was the wellbeing of his staff, and he campaigned hard to institute the then unheard-of 8 hour work day, when 10-16 hour work days were the norm. His motto was “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”
The workers’ village included 12 ‘divisions’ who had spokespersons who met regularly with Owen, and all households were checked to make sure they were clean. Workers were given allotments to grow fresh fruit and vegetables.
Unlike many other mills at the time no child under 10 was allowed to work and New Lanark had its own schools, both completed in 1816.
The remarkable education system, which was radical for its time, was immortalised in the painting by R Scott of a children’s dance class. Owen also instituted evening classes for older children and adults.
With quality produce not always available a village store was created, enabling workers to access affordable goods using tokens or tickets. Some historians propose this was the foundation for the later creation of the co-op movement.
Owen’s vision for New Lanark is widely regarded as the first instituted development of worker’s rights, as the entire project focused on staff as well as the mill’s profits. In Owen’s mind the mill could not be a success if workers were not given support.
The rich social heritage of the site is widely celebrated today with the 38 bedroom New Lanark Mill Hotel standing proudly amongst the various historic attractions celebrating the legacy of Robert Owen.
Nestled in the stunning South Lanarkshire countryside Glasgow and Edinburgh are within an hour’s journey from the hotel.
Book your stay at the New Lanark Mill Hotel to experience the rich social and cultural heritage.