Wilsontown Ironworks was established in 1779 near Forth in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.
It was only the second coke-fired ironworks in Scotland, and the first ironworks in Lanarkshire. It was at the forefront of technological advances and was the location for a number of industrial developments that went on to shape and influence iron manufacturing.
Iron, then coal, then forestry
Started by three brothers, Robert, John and William Wilson, the business later passed into the hands of William Dixon, who 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 attracted people from all over the United Kingdom 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 Ironworks is so special is because the complete iron manufacture set-up and the village for the workers are all found together, squeezed into 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 inovolves a laser scanning ground from an aircraft.
Have a look at the photo and see the details for yourself.
Why not come for a visit and see if you can trace the remains of Wilsontown Ironworks?