Wilsontown Ironworks Heritage Project

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Forestry Commission Scotland looks after the site of Wilsontown Ironworks and a large amount of land round about it.

There are many features that date from the Ironworks era in this surrounding area, such railways, mines, and dams, and we care for these features too.

The core of the site is legally protected. It has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1968.

The importance of the Ironworks to the area

Since 2002 our local ranger has been researching Wilsontown Ironworks in response to the sheer number of local people mentioning the Ironworks and their importance. Yet to visit the site you would find it hard to believe that there had been such an industry here. We had to find out more.

We now have an archive of material on Wilsontown Ironworks and in 2007 launched the Wilsontown Ironworks Heritage Project.

As part of this we have identified what we would like to do at the Ironworks and what we want to tell people about this special place.

What's happened so far?

We've been telling people about Wilsontown and sharing the information we've discovered.

We commissioned a report from John Van Laun Associates which brought all the research together into a document focussing on the site's industrial heritage.

As a result of this report, Michael Blackmore was able to reconstruct Wilsontown Ironworks circa 1808 in a painting (see above).

This has been produced as a poster and is available to purchase from our office. This work was made possible thanks to a grant from the South Lanarkshire Rural Communities Trust.

Input from the public

In 2007 we organised meetings to share the information we had compiled with historians, local people, historical societies and academics, and we outlined our hopes and ambitions for what we would like to achieve through the heritage project. As a result ,we received some excellent feedback on what people would like to see as part of the project.

Improvements at the site and for visitors

The improvements we are making are:

  •     better car parking
  •     paths that can be walked all year round
  •     safeguarding the archaeology
  •     producing a leaflet on the Ironworks
  •     adding to this website
  •     creating an audio podcast of life in the 1800s at Wilsontown
  •     providing more information for visitors about the Ironworks

Family history interest

Thanks to a recent interest in family history research, we are finding that many people discover that their relatives worked at Wilsontown. By attending family history society meetings and events we have been able to put some names to the workers and residents who made Wilsontown Ironworks what it was. In return, we can offer information about the Ironworks to help relatives understand what their forebears’ lives were like.

Group interest

Our local Ranger leads guided walks around the Ironworks, often on request from interested groups. This allows us to explain the subtle lumps and bumps in the landscape that visitors wouldn’t otherwise understand.

Revealing the past

In 2008 the Ironworks saw a significant change. An area of forest that was planted in the 1970’s was removed. The trees had been planted among an amazing cluster of bell-pits and shallow mines, and had hidden this landscape from view. 77 bell pits have been recorded here, making this one of the most wonderful places to come and view these industrial remains.

With the trees are away, the bell-pit landscape is restored and visitors get a better idea of the sweat and toil spent here in the past.

For more details about the Wilsontown Ironworks Heritage Project contact Emma Stewart at Forestry Commission Scotland on 01555 660190.