Last Sunday, while the rest of the country was apparently basking in glorious spring sunshine, Terry, my parents and I all got wrapped up in our winter woolies and headed to the little village of New Lanark, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We’ve actually visited New Lanark a few times now, but it’s always an interesting place for a Sunday stroll, and they’ve added a couple of new attractions since we were last there, so when my parents’ told us they’d bought us some tickets from Groupon, we were excited to go along and see what was new.
I’ll leave the history lessons to Wikipedia, but for those of you who just want the quick version (Er, you do know that I’m totally incapable of providing a quick version of ANYTHING, don’t you?) New Lanark is an 18th century mill town, on the banks of the River Clyde. It’s interesting, not just because of the giant cotton mill at its heart, but because its founder, Robert Owen, was a philanthropist who wanted to put an end to the terrible conditions working class Brits typically lived and worked in back then. To do this, he created New Lanark: a purpose-built community created to house the mill workers and their families in tenement buildings set around the mill, and with their own church, shop, school etc.
To those of us NOT from the 18th century, the conditions still seem pretty squalid. The village itself is beautiful, and is set in stunning countryside, but entire families (large, extended families, too) were crammed into one small room, with children as young as 10 sent to work in the mill, like in a novel by Charles Dickens or something. As awful as it all sounds, these people considered themselves the lucky ones: unlike many people of their class, they at least had homes and jobs – and what’s more, they had free healthcare, clean accommodation (there were teams of inspectors who made sure hygiene standards were up to par), fresh, affordable food from the local co-operative store… It was way ahead of its time, basically, which makes it a really fascinating place for a visit.
I’ll tell you one thing, though: I’ve never been so grateful to have been born in modern times. And not just because of the shoes, either.