Records of New Lanark Mills

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. Includes:

  • 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.

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

Access to records is open, however an appointment may be required. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Access to certain records within this collection may be restricted or closed for reasons of conservation or preservation. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

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 248 UGD 42/8

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives and Special Collections, please email:

Related Material

GB 248 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)

Location of Originals

This material is original

Geographical Names