The Residents of New Lanark’s Utopia Socialist Community – Living In A World Heritage Site

William Simpsons has lived in the village for 17 years. The village remains home to some 200 residents whose homes are often confused for the reconstructions which lie next door. “On one occasion a tourist came into the house and I was watching TV and I said ‘Can I help you?’ And they said sorry and that was it. I don t feel any bother from the tourists.”

 

Photographer Alan Knox is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From his project ‘Uncanny Valley‘.  To see Alan’s gallery of projects click on any image.

 

A reconstruction of Robert Owen’s house. Under Robert Owen’s ownership, the village of New Lanark became an exemplar of utopian socialism, attracting world renown for the revolutionary implementation of worker’s rights including shorter working hours, social housing and education for the children of mill-workers.

A reconstruction of Robert Owen’s house. Under Robert Owen’s ownership, the village of New Lanark became an exemplar of Utopian socialism, attracting world renown for the revolutionary implementation of worker’s rights including shorter working hours, social housing and education for the children of mill-workers.

 

Mannequin outside the mill-workers homes.

Mannequin outside the mill-workers homes.

 

Reconstruction of the mill-workers living quarters.

Reconstruction of the mill-workers living quarters.

 

Full-scale reconstruction of the mill-workers homes.

Full-scale reconstruction of the mill-workers homes.

 

Mannequin displayed outside the Old Schoolhouse.

Mannequin displayed outside the Old Schoolhouse.

 

The old schoolhouse building restored to how it would have appeared in the 19th century. Robert Owen’s Institute for the Formation fo Character was opened in the building on New Years Day, 1816.

The old schoolhouse building restored to how it would have appeared in the 19th century. Robert Owen’s Institute for the Formation of Character was opened in the building on New Years Day, 1816.

 

The village of New Lanark, nestled in the Clyde Valley on the Falls of the Clyde became world renown in the 19th century as one of the earliest examples of a Utopian socialist community. Saved from near destruction after falling into decline in the mid-20th century, today the village thrives as a popular tourist attraction, having been designated a World Heritage Site in 2001 for the continued relevance of Robert Owen’s ideals and as an exemplary model of urban planning. Alongside New Lanark’s role as a tourist destination, some 250 people continue to live in the village for whom this beacon of Utopian philosophy is simply called home.

 

Model village of New Lanark. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 for its history as an example of utopian socialism, today the village receives 400,000 visitors each year.

Model village of New Lanark. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 for its history as an example of Utopian socialism, today the village receives 400,000 visitors each year.

 

Originally part of the mill, the waterhouses are now self catered apartments for the New Lanark hotel.

Originally part of the mill, the waterhouses are now self catered apartments for the New Lanark hotel.

 

Dundaff Linn waterfall.

Dundaff Linn waterfall.

 

To this day a hydroelectric power station continues to provide electricity to the village.

To this day a hydroelectric power station continues to provide electricity to the village.

 

The Falls of the Clyde have inspired artists and writers for centuries, including JMW Turner and Sir Walter Scott. The New Lanark mills depended on the power generated by the falls for electricity.

The Falls of the Clyde have inspired artists and writers for centuries, including JMW Turner and Sir Walter Scott. The New Lanark mills depended on the power generated by the falls for electricity.

 

Becoming economically unviable in the mid-20th century, the village was virtually abandoned in the 1960’s before being restored as a tourist attraction and working village in the 1980’s. Water Row is the last section of New Lanark to remain un-renovated since it’s rebirth as a tourist attraction.

Becoming economically unviable in the mid-20th century, the village was virtually abandoned in the 1960’s before being restored as a tourist attraction and working village in the 1980’s. Water Row is the last section of New Lanark to remain un-renovated since it’s rebirth as a tourist attraction.

 

Lying virtually untouched since the late 1960’s, Double Row is soon to be renovated into a museum.

Lying virtually untouched since the late 1960’s, Double Row is soon to be renovated into a museum.

 

Uncanny Valley explores the dichotomy which exists between New Lanark’s past and present, contrasting it’s dual role for visitors as an almost perfectly preserved model society with the current residents whose very homes, kitchens and living rooms are World Heritage Sites, symbols of a bygone yet persistent Utopian ideal. In the valley which lies between past and pastiche, the ruins of utopia stand side by side with it’s uncanny reconstruction, signifying the cognitive dissonance which exists between the dreams of the past and their present reality.

 

Former home of David Dunlop.

Former home of David Dunlop.

 

“In 1901 my family came here, my gran got married and she came in here with my grandfather and then my mother was born in here in 1914. I was born here in 1939, I’m the last one living that stayed in this house.”

“In 1901 my family came here, my gran got married and she came in here with my grandfather and then my mother was born in here in 1914. I was born here in 1939, I’m the last one living that stayed in this house.”

 

James Arnold, founding director of the New Lanark Trust overlooks the River Clyde from his home in New Lanark. “I think with Robert Owen his followers were called socialists because they believed in Robert Owen's social system. He coined the name socialist although it meant something slightly different. I think you have to have that interest in his philosophy and the industrial heritage. I think the combination of these two things and the very strong sense of place that New Lanark has.”

James Arnold, founding director of the New Lanark Trust overlooks the River Clyde from his home in New Lanark. “I think with Robert Owen his followers were called socialists because they believed in Robert Owen’s social system. He coined the name socialist although it meant something slightly different. I think you have to have that interest in his philosophy and the industrial heritage. I think the combination of these two things and the very strong sense of place that New Lanark has.”

 

See also:

Schengland

The Debatable Land

By Alan Knox

 


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