Wilsontown is one of the best-presented (and most accessible) industrial archaeological landscapes in Scotland. Until recently, however, it was almost forgotten.
Most of the original buildings had been demolished and forest covered much of the land. It was hard to believe that the Wilsontown Ironworks, which opened in 1779 near Forth in Lanarkshire, was once the hub of the local community, employing more than 500 men at the time of its closure in 1842.
Apart from locals, very few people know about the ironworks’ history. So we set about finding out and recording as much of it as we could. This led to the foundation of the Wilsontown Ironworks Heritage Project in 2007.
Although most of the buildings were demolished in 1974, some features are still visible, such as the blast furnace, coke kilns and a number of bell pit mines. By using aerial laser scanning, we were able to discover much more and provide a permanent record of the site. The records will help us safeguard the archaeology for the future.
Improving the visitor experience
One of our first tasks was to reveal an amazing cluster of doughnut-shaped spoil heaps left by shallow bell-pit mining:
We also provided new interpretative materials, including a leaflet, information panels, web pages and a series of audio podcasts about life in 1800s Wilsontown. And we created a better network of paths so that people of all abilities can enjoy the historic landscape.