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The Town and Trade of Lanark

From the earliest recorded history of Lanark, it has always been referred to as a market town. In addition to hosting 4 annual fairs the town maintained a weekly market for items such as wool, hides, corn, meal, butter, cheese and livestock.

By the end of the 18th century, Lanark had grown into a town boasting a population of 2260. It was governed by a Provost, Baillies, Dean of Guild as a Supreme Magistrate, and by 13 councillors distinguished into merchant and trade councillors. Besides these, there were Deacons of crafts – skinners, shoemakers, weavers, tailors, smiths and masons, each being a corporation with exclusive privileges.

By 1850 the town had more than doubled its population and besides the traditional market functions, had a lot of new industries and became renowned for high quality wool and linen products. The shoe making industry of this time was particularly famous, employing 120 people and exporting all over the world.

With the advent of the Caledonian railway in 1850, a new industry appeared, that of tourism. Hotels and restaurants sprang up at the railhead to accommodate the influx of tourists and Lanark was very soon a thriving Victorian holiday resort. During this period (1850 – 1900) the population of the town grew to approximately 6440, due mainly to the popularity of the countryside to the Victorian gentry.

The vast majority of the town’s trades and industries have all but disappeared, and the town could now be classed as a “dormitory” town.

With the re-organisation of Scottish local government in 1975, the Royal and Ancient town of Lanark is today a royal Burgh in name only.


Information extracted from “The Royal Burgh of Lanark Heritage Trail and Historical account” by Robert J. B. Steele and Robert W. Ramage.

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