Records of Gourock Ropeworks Co Ltd, New Lanark Mills material

Scope and Content

The collection contains a mixture of records relating to the individual businesses of New Lanark Mills to the village of New Lanark and its relationship with the Gourock Ropeworks and Henry Birkmyre.


  • Visitors' books 1795-1962 (please note that the visitor book covering 1821-1824 is currently unavailable as it is undergoing conservation work);
  • Insurance papers, 1825;
  • Property papers, 1834-1841;
  • New Lanark population statistics, 1806-1861;
  • Register of births, marriages and deaths, 1818-1853;
  • Journal, Lanark Twist Co, 1804-1808;
  • Order books 1811-1820;
  • Sales book 1814-1815;
  • Letter books 1815-1897;
  • Monthly report books, 1803-1808;
  • Produce book ,1803-1805;
  • Account books 1873-1882;
  • Wages tickets book and extra wages books c1820-1888;
  • Salaries book, 1903-1912;
  • Cotton purchases book, 1862-1914;
  • Rent books, 1901-1941;
  • Legal papers, 1873-1963;
  • Robert Owen's diary, 1813-1822;
  • School certificate book, including names of pupils and hours of schooling undertaken each day, 1852;
  • Miscellaneous general correspondence and legal papers, 1876-1963;
  • Biography of Robert Owen, c20th century;
  • Yearly accounts, 1920-1924;
  • Artefacts 1797-1935.

This description is part of the main Gourock Ropeworks collection which has been divided into the following sections:

Administrative / Biographical History

New Lanark Mills , New Lanark, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, was founded by David Dale (1739-1806) and Richard Arkwright (1732-1792) in 1784 as a cotton spinning company. Not only did the company produce cotton, but the town of New Lanark that developed around the mills was an experiment by Dale in education and community living. Workers were well-housed, orphans cared for, yet religion was never taught or forced upon the community. The Lanark Twist Co purchased the company in 1799 with Robert Owen (1771-1858), Dale's son-in-law, as part-proprietor and sole manager. Owen continued the ideas of social development as instigated by Dale, stocking the village shop with cost-price goods, operating a nursery so that women could work and opening the New Institue for the Formation of Character where children and young people were taught music, singing and dancing. Henry Birkmyre formed a partnership with his brother-in-law Robert Galbraith Somerville in 1881 to purchase New Lanark Mills and he was actively engaged in managing the Mills and Gourock Ropeworks Co until he retired in 1895. Under Birkmyre's supervision, the manufacture of fishing nets from cotton spun at the mills was introduced and skilled operatives and patent net-looms were imported to New Lanark from Refrewshire and elsewhere in Scotland. The manufacture of nets from cotton was a comparatively recent innovation, but Birkmyre clearly sought to exploit markets created through his shipping interests. The partnership was dissolved in 1888 when Birkmyre took over sole proprietorship of the works. A new partnership was formed in 1894 between Henry and his sons William, James and John. The firm was amalgamated with the Gourock Ropeworks Co (established 1736) to form the Gourock Ropeworks Co Ltd (rope makers and textile manufacturers: 1903-1970: Port Glasgow, Renfrewshire) in 1903  . The Gourock Ropework Co Ltd became part of Bridon Ropes Ltd in 1970  when it was taken over by Bridon Fibres & Plastics Ltd. The works at New Lanark finally closed in 1967 and is now a World Heritage site. The wesbite can be found here.

Sources: Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland(London, 1994)


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received.

Access Information


Please note that the New Lanark visitor book covering 1821-1824 (ref: UGD 42/7/1/2) is currently unavailable as it is undergoing conservation work.

Acquisition Information

Gourock Ropeworks Co Ltd : Port Glasgow : c1971

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)1717) and London (NRA10832)

Alternative Form Available

Microfilms of the New Lanark visitors' book 1824-1872 are held at GB 0248 UGD 42/8

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

The bulk of this material was received directly from the creator by the Economic History Department, Glasgow University in c1971. Management of the collection transferred to Glasgow University Archives in 1975.


None expected

Related Material

GB 0248 UGD 42/9 Photographs of New Lanark Mills

GB 1499 Papers of Robert Owen including records relating to New Lanark Mills (Co-operative Union Archives)

GB 2051 William Allan's account book for New Lanark Mills 1814-1816 (Glaxo Wellcome Heritage Archives)

GB 237 D 6 110 New Lanark Institution Cash Book (Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections)

GB 243 TD 66 Plans of mills and villages (Glasgow City Archives)

GB 0248 UGD 42 Records of Gourock Ropeworks Co Ltd

The Gourock Ropeworks Co had a number of subsidiary companies whose records survive:

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/1 Records of Govan Ropeworks

GB 248 UGD 42/6/2 Records of Archibald Thomson Black & Co

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/3 Records of Gourock Ropeworks Export Co

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/4 Records of Gourock-Bridport Ltd (Montreal) latterly known as Gourock-Bridport-Gurndry Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/5 Records of Greenock Ropework Co

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/6 Records of Gourock Ropes and Canvass (Africa) Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/7 Records of Gourock Ropes and Canvass Co Ltd, Australia (including Birkmyre Canvass Co Pty Ltd)

GB 0248 UGD 042/6/8 Records of Birkmyre Brothers (Calcutta) Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/9 Records of Gourock Ropes & Canvass Ltd, New Zealand

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/10 Records of Gourock Ropes & Canvass Ltd, Argentine

GB 0248 UGD 42/6/12 Miscellaneous records relating to overseas companies

For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, see the Archon repository search page

See the New Lanark Heritage Site website for details of upcoming events relating to New Lanark, educational tours, and resources.

Material in other repositories: no material associated by provenance


Donnachie, Ian, and Hewitt, George RHistoric New Lanark : the Dale and Owen industrial community since 1785, Edinburgh: 1993 Edinburgh University Press,  .

Donnachie, IanRobert Owen : Owen of New Lanark and New Harmony,East Linton, Tuckwell Press, 2000  .

Additional Information

This material is original

Collection catalogued by Jane Jamieson, Assistant Archivist, February 1998 (lower level descriptions) and David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 8 April 2002 (fonds level description). Converted to Encoded Archival Description by Rachel Bell, Graduate Trainee, May 2011 and Emma Anthony, Business Archives Cataloguer, March 2012. Descriptions edited by Emma Anthony, Business Archives Cataloguer, March 2012 and Gemma Tougher, Assistant Archivist (Cataloguing), April 2012 and June 2012.

Geographical Names