Wilsontown Ironworks was founded in 1779 near Forth in South Lanarkshire.
It was only the second coke-fired ironworks in Scotland, and the first in Lanarkshire. It was at the fore front of new technology and was the site of a number of changes that went on to shape iron manufacturing.
Iron, then coal, then forestry
The works were started by three brothers, Robert, John and William Wilson. Later, the business passed into the hands of William Dixon. He managed the works until it closed in 1842. Coal mining continued until 1955. The next industry to come here was forestry, in the 1970s, which continues to this day.
A village of 2000 people evolved at the Ironworks. The industry brought people from all over the UK and from further away. A wide variety of jobs were created and it is likely that even women and children were employed.
An unusual combination of village and works
One of the reasons that Wilsontown is so special is the joining of work and village. The whole iron set-up and the homes for the workers are all found together, squeezed in to a small valley. This is unusual in other Scottish Ironworks.
Fading traces of the works
After its closure, traces of the magnificent ironworks gradually faded from the landscape. Some remains were finally demolished in 1974 by the Forestry Commission as they were deemed unsafe.
Read more details of the history timeline at Wilsontown.
Today there is only a wee hint that something once occupied this quiet spot, however, forestry work in 2008 revealed a large number of bell pits that have previously been hidden from view. There are more details of this on the Ironworks Heritage Project page.
Lasers used to uncover remains
Foresters have used the latest technology to reveal the features that are hard to see with the naked eye at the Ironworks. Amazing photos now show all the shapes of bell pits, buildings and railways in fantastic detail. The technique is called LiDAR (light detection and ranging) and involves a laser scanning ground from an aircraft.
Why not come for a visit and see if you can trace the remains of Wilsontown Ironworks?