Lanark (surveyed in 1858)


The royal burgh town of Lanark is located at the point where the River Clyde merges with the Mouse Water, and is about 30 miles south-east of Glasgow. The name of Lanark is probably derived from the Brythonic word, Llanerc, which means 'forest glade'. However, the name Lannarc is recorded as far back as 1188, while Lanerch appears in 1430. Rumour has it that the town may have started off as a Roman outpost, which linked Carlisle with the Antonine Wall. Certainly, Lanark boasts a rich historical pedigree, since a parliament was held here in 978, plus legend has it that William Wallace lived in Castlegate (in the town centre) and was even married in Lanark's Church of St. Kentigern. The town was proclaimed a royal burgh by David I of Scotland in 1140. During the 1640s Lanark became a centre for the Covenanters, with the famous Declaration of Lanark (1682) confirming the Declaration of Sanquhar (1680). Traditionally a post and market town, Lanark's population in the census of 1851 was 5,008.

Town Planning

As with so many Scottish towns, Lanark is dominated by the main street that runs through its town centre. In his Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland of 1857, the Rev. John Wilson recorded that, up until 1824, the architecture of Lanark was of a 'rude, antique appearance'. From 1824 onwards, however, Wilson states that 'many of the houses have been rebuilt in a somewhat handsome fashion', mainly using materials such as sandstone and ragstone. The town's municipal buildings (Lanark was formerly a regional centre), built in a Grecian style, were built between 1834 and 1836. Lanark's gasworks, built on the western edge of the town in 1832, provided the area with lighting.

Trade and Industry

Wilson's (1857) states that Lanark's 'principal industrial occupation is handloom weaving' - although he observes that this occupation provided them with a 'very inadequate subsistence'. That weaving was then Lanark's main industry should come as no surprise, given the water-power that was available via the River Clyde. Shoemaking, handicrafts and farming also provided many of the townspeople with employment. The town also boasted three breweries, three four mills and workshops where women were employed in flowering or embroidering lace products. Weekly markets were held on Tuesday and Saturday, while agricultural fairs (especially for livestock) were held at various times throughout the year. The existence of a large number of banks and insurance companies completes this overview of Lanark's main manufacturing industries and services during the nineteenth century.


'New Lanark' is located to the south of Lanark, in the river valley near the Falls of the Clyde. This 'model' cotton mill town was established between 1800 and 1825 by Robert Owen (1771-1858) and David Dale. Owen's visionary plan was to set up a co-operative community where workers would be well-treated and provided with a good level of housing, and their children would receive a decent full-time education. Unfortunately, the project suffered financial difficulties, and Owen ended his connection with New Lanark in the mid-1820s. New Lanark's population in 1851 was 1,642, and the village comprised 337 houses.

Religious Life

One local effect of the 'Great Disruption' that so fragmented the Established Church in 1843, was that some beautiful Church of Scotland buildings were constructed in Lanark. The Parish Church of St. Nicholas, which dates back to medieval times, became the main parish church from 1688 onwards, due to the poor state of the ancient St. Kentigerns Church. Located at the top of the town is St. Mary's Church, which was built in 1859 for the Roman Catholics who lived in Lanark.

Culture and Society

In addition to setting up a subscription library, Lanark also possessed a Mechanics' Institute, a horticultural society and several benevolent institutions. The region also boasted a newspaper, the Lanarkshire Advertiser, which was published once a month. The traditional Lanimers' Fair, a week-long festival held in early June, dates as far back as 1488, and concludes with the crowning of the Lanimer Queen.