Celebrating 20 years as World Heritage Sites

Mills and Model Villages. Saltaire, New Lanark, Derwent Valley Mills. Celebrating 20 years as World Heritage Sites.

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 13 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.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport at Bradford Council, said: "Saltaire is a real jewel in the crown for Bradford and has gone from strength to strength in the twenty years since it gained the UNESCO accreditation.

"This year Saltaire World Heritage Site has benefited from an exhibition organised by Saltaire Collection and Saltaire History Club in May, Saltaire Festival put on a fantastic 10 day event in September and Saltaire Inspired have organised the Living Advent Calendar for December where 62 windows in houses, shops, schools and churches in the village will be illuminated with festive scenes.  

"We are very grateful to all the committed community groups that make Saltaire World Heritage Site such a vibrant place for residents, businesses and visitors."

Maggie Silver at Salts Mill says,

"All of us at the Mill love welcoming visitors to share the splendour of Saltaire and the beauty of the local environment. We’ll continue our work together with the loyal support of local people, being good neighbours and the help and enthusiasm of Bradford City Council."

"New Lanark is delighted to be participating in the 20 anniversary celebrations with Saltaire and Derwent Valley Mills. Following in the ethos of Robert Owen, we understand the importance of sharing our internationally important heritage and stories with as wide an audience as possible. The culmination of our celebrations will be the ‘New Lanark: A Living Legacy’ conference which will takes place from 1 to 3 March 2022, and will welcome speakers across the globe to explore the intertwined themes of the legacy of Robert Owen, the relevance of this legacy today, and the importance of preserving our heritage for the future."
Jane Masters, Head of Heritage & Development, New Lanark Trust

Councillor Barry Lewis, the Chair of the Derwent Valley Mills Partnership:

"It’s an appropriate moment to reflect on our achievements in this period and celebrate the importance of the site. Heritage isn’t just about looking back and celebrating the past. It’s also about enriching our lives and learning lessons from what has gone before. One of our core stories is the use of waterpower to mass produce cotton - the first mechanised mass production of any commodity in the history of the human race. In the present day, as we seek out new power alternatives, the Derwent Valley Mills has shown that great things can be achieved with a carbon-free, inexhaustible power source. I am grateful to all those organisations and individuals who work to help us shape this remarkable place."

13 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.