Celebrating 20 Years As World Heritage Sites

Image courtesy of Imagen Photography Ltd

Three of the UK’s World Heritage Sites, comprising of globally significant textile mills and their industrial villages, are celebrating 20 years of UNESCO inscription this year, since they were inscribed on 13th December 2001.  Taken together, these three sites show how Britain moved from cottage industries to a factory system which changed the world.  The Derwent Valley Mills are where the factory system began; New Lanark is where a paternalistic system developed into a utopian community; and Saltaire is a large and complete complex which prepared the way for other future industrial model villages.

World Heritage Site status is one of the most powerful international tools for heritage preservation and one of UNESCO’s most successful programmes. World Heritage embodies the great humanist idea that people of all cultures and faiths can unite around the conservation of places of Outstanding Universal Value.

Over time, the World Heritage Convention has become the most universal instrument in heritage conservation globally.  Thanks to the Convention, hundreds of communities have preserved their natural environment and enhanced their cultural heritage, in order to pass it on to their children, and to honour their ancestors.  Heritage unites us regardless of our background and culture. Today, we unite for heritage, as the challenges to preserving our heritage become more complex. As a driver for robust economies and stronger societies, sustainable development provides citizens with decent jobs and a future to look forward to. 

World Heritage is not just a list of marvellous sites – it is a vision for peace with the power to change the minds of women and men and to shape a sustainable future for all. It is about mobilizing heritage as a force for creativity, innovation and sustainable development.

Heritage is not a luxury — it is a precious asset. Everyone should be encouraged to make their best efforts for the promotion and preservation of our shared heritage. Every tourist and visitor should respect and cherish these irreplaceable World Heritage sites. There will be no global sustainable future for humanity without the engagement of each one of us.

13th December 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of World Heritage status for  the Derwent Valley Mills and Saltaire in England and New Lanark in Scotland.  To commemorate this milestone, the three sites have joined together in a programme of shared celebrations over the course of the year.  More information on all events can be found on the respective sites’ websites.





UNITED KINGDOM. Derwent Valley Mills (C ii, iv) The Derwent valley in central England contains a series of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cotton mills and an industrial landscape of high historical and technological significance. The modern factory owes its origins to the mills at Cromford, where Richard Arkwright’s inventions were first put into industrial-scale production. The workers’ housing associated with this and the other mills is intact and illustrates the socio-economic development of the area.

UNITED KINGDOM. New Lanark (C ii, iv, vi) New Lanark is a small village in a beautiful Scottish landscape where a model industrial society was created in the early nineteenth century by the philanthropist and utopian idealist Robert Owen. The imposing mill buildings, the spacious and well-designed workers’ housing, and the dignified educational institute and school still survive to testify to Owen’s humanism.

UNITED KINGDOM. Saltaire (C ii, iv) Saltaire, West Yorkshire, is a complete and well-preserved industrial village of the second half of the nineteenth century. Its textile mills, public buildings and workers’ housing are built in a harmonious style of high architectural quality and the urban plan survives intact, giving a vivid impression of the philanthropic paternalism of the Victorian age.

While restrictions have been eased, please remember to follow the latest COVID-19 guidelines in order to enjoy these events in a safe and responsible manner.