Photographer's Note

A picture taken yesterday during my weekly countryside walk with friends, this time during a walk which took in the ruined industrial village of Wilsontown in South Lanarkshire. Here two of my intrepid friends are heading across a little bridge towards the ruined remains of what was once the Wilsontown Inn, the only subtantial remains of what was once a vibrant and busy town built around an ironworks.

In the 1770s, Robert Wilson had a small coal mine here. The idea of starting an Ironworks occurred to him after he and his brother William by chance found some pieces of ironstone in a stream whilst out on a walk across the moorland. In 1779 they and their other brother, John, set up an ironworks here despite the fact that their family had mainly been merchants and lawyers.

This was only the second ironworks in Scotland to use coke, a new super-fuel that made it far more productive than the old charcoal-fired foundries. The land around was honeycombed with simple mines called "bell pits" to supply the coal and iron ore. A village of over 2,000 people grew up around the Wilsons’ business, attracting people from all over the United Kingdom to work in the noisy foundries. Coal mining, iron-making and the workers’ village were all squeezed together into the small valley, making Wilsontown one of the most unusual and interesting industrial sites in Scotland’s history.

Major breakthroughs that revolutionised iron-making were developed at Wilsontown before the works closed, due to financial difficulties, in 1842. A colliery continued mining coal nearby until 1955. Today there are few signs of all that heavy industry: the old buildings were unsafe and had to be demolished, leaving flowers and trees to cover the ground. This old Wilsontown Inn, which must have helped to slake the thirst of many workers in the foundries over the years, is pretty much all that remains above ground although there is still evidence of old mineworkings.

Nowadays, Wilsontown consists only of a very few modern houses in open countryside about half a mile from this spot.

I have included a view looking back from farther up the path as a workshop and a larger version of this picture can be seen on "beta" TE here.

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Additional Photos by John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1812 W: 411 N: 6540] (26496)
  • Dumfries and Galloway photo
  • South Lanarkshire photo
  • Dumfries and Galloway photo
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