A View of New Lanark

Background

Robert Owen took over management of the mill at New Lanark in 1799. He was determined to make it in every way an exemplary community. He quickly introduced measures 'to bring the greatest comfort and improvement to the numerous population to whom it afforded employment.' He also recognised that the same measures were intended to improve the profitability of the business.

Owen was a strict disciplinarian. He introduced random searches of workers to reduce theft, and regular notes were made of employees' mistakes. Workers could be dismissed for being absent without leave.

Outside the workplace, he enforced a curfew in which nobody was allowed out after 10.30pm during winter without the manager's permission. Owen also set up regular patrols to catch and fine drunks.

Owen did much to promote the welfare of his employees. They were paid monthly but could obtain credit through a system of tin tokens. He introduced a contributory Sick Fund and Savings Bank, which by 1818 had deposits amounting to £3000. Before a nationwide welfare state, such social provision would only be found in utopian pockets of society. He insisted on homes being cleaned weekly in order to improve housing and sanitation in the village.

Taken from: History of Lanark, a guide to the scenery etc.
Author / Creator: W Davidson
Publisher: Shepherd & Robertson
Date: 1828
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 10370.bb.6