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Water Houses, New Lanark

A Category A Listed Building in Lanark, South Lanarkshire

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Latitude: 55.6633 / 55°39'47"N

Longitude: -3.7829 / 3°46'58"W

OS Eastings: 287938

OS Northings: 642530

OS Grid: NS879425

Mapcode National: GBR 220Y.SP

Mapcode Global: WH5SJ.VXS9

Plus Code: 9C7RM678+8R

Entry Name: Water Houses, New Lanark

Listing Name: New Lanark, Water Houses

Listing Date: 28 September 1999

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 393789

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB46471

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Lanark

County: South Lanarkshire

Town: Lanark

Electoral Ward: Clydesdale North

Traditional County: Lanarkshire

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1809-10, converted to residential use, 1996-98. 2-storey (1 storey at village side on man-made mill terracing), 25-bay, angled terrace of former stores and picking-houses adjacent to the River Clyde and straddling the tailrace, terminating in piended N block, positioned at right angles to the rest of the terrace. Roughly coursed sandstone rubble with cream droved ashlar dressings. Long and short quoins. Generally regular fenestration to W with tabbed margins. Irregularly-spaced single and 2-leaf timber-boarded doors to E.

NORTH TERMINAL BLOCK: 2-bay gable to river; 4 bays on return to W over segmental-arched culvert. N end abutted by battered walls of mill terracing with decorative iron railings, and river embankment wall.

Predominantly 16-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows. Grey slate roofs. Ashlar-coped skews. Ashlar-coped stacks.

Statement of Interest

The water houses were constructed over the tailrace, which was formed to prevent back-watering, and occupy a very prominent position just S of the mills, being visible from may different points and are thus important components of the village and mill complex. They appear in various early representations of the village and can be dated approximately from these: they are not present in Robert Scott's drawings of the site penned in 1799, but are shown in John Winning's illustrations of 1818.

The Water Houses were used as raw and waste cotton stores and picking houses, and were also used for mule spinning. Prior to their construction a record made in 1793 shows that more than 100 women worked at picking cotton in their own homes. Cotton picking, scutching or blowing by machinery was first done in Houston Mill, Johnstone in 1797, so knowledge of these may well have prompted the construction of the Water Houses at New Lanark. It is likely that these buildings were constructed as part of Owen's efforts to increase the productive capacity of the mills.

Only a portion of the Water Houses survive as originally built. The part fronting Mills 3 and 4 burned down in 1919. At the SE end of the terrace, the walls of a 5-bay fragment of this remain opposite Mill 3.

New Lanark was a pioneering cotton-spinning village, which became a model for industrial communities that was to spread across the world in the 19th and 20th centuries and is recognised as being of outstanding importance historically and in visual terms because of its completeness and its physical form. Elements of sophisticated early town planning are evidenced in the orchestration of the various components in the village, from the mill weir, its lade and tunnel to south, to the tunnels and sluices leading off to the individual mills, the crucially generous circulation spaces, gardens, tailored walks and viewing points realised from the start. It is surrounded by an incomparable natural and designed landscape, the mill buildings sitting on the natural terrace to the east of the River Clyde in this deeply incised, wooded river valley.

Built to exploit the water power offered by the Falls of Clyde, the mills were in operation from 1786 to 1968. The mill village is made up of industrial, residential and community buildings, dating predominantly from between 1786 and the 1820s. It was founded by David Dale, a Glasgow merchant, in conjunction with Richard Arkwright, a trailblazing inventor of the cotton spinning industry whose patents enabled operation on a considerable scale. Dale's humane philosophy, realised from the start in the buildings of New Lanark, was expanded by Robert Owen, who took over management of the mill village in partnership from 1799. Owen created an environment where child labour and corporal punishment were abolished, and provided workers with good homes, education and free health care as well as affordable food. He had a profound influence on social developments such as factory reform throughout the 19th century.

Within World Heritage Site inscribed 2001.

List description updated 2010.

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