A Little Bit of History... 


The Clydesdale Inn was Lanark’s first hotel for tourists though the initial idea was more to do with a gentleman’s club. The Inn started out in this manner with the local gentry taking fifteen shares at £50 each with Lanark Town Council having six shares in addition. It meant that the Inn was effectively Council property till it was sold to Clive Cox’s grandfather in 1908. He became the first private owner. 

By 1790 the money was raised and building work began , this was completed within budget two years later . Amongst the gentlemen who had shares in it were the Carmichaels , who had promoted the idea in the first place and David Dale, the founding father of New Lanark. After David Dale handed over control of New Lanark to his son in law Robert Owen, he too became a share-holder. All the shareholders met every year to look over the accounts after a sumptuous dinner where much wine and port was consumed. However, it was not long before the Clydesdale Inn became more than just a gentleman’s club, it became the most important hotel for tourism in Southern Scotland. The Falls of Clyde were one of Britain’s greatest natural attractions as they still are today. The visitors would also have paid a visit to New Lanark. In its early days the Clydesdale was known as the New Inn. It was called this when Dorothy Wordsworth, her brother William and their friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge came to the town on August 21st 1803. 

Using the Inn as their base they enjoyed visiting all the falls, however not all of the party were impressed by the catering at the Clydesdale. Though Dorothy enjoyed the singed sheep’s head – a Scottish delicacy, William was less impressed by it as he drew attention to ‘ the baleful stare of the sheep’s head.’ It was in the early 19th century that the Inn was used to house French officers during the Napoleonic Wars. The officers were allowed to wander freely around the town and several of them struck up relations with the local ladies. One of these was Captain Barard who married Miss Jean Currie, daughter of the Procurator Fiscal in Lanark. Ten days after the marriage he heard that Napoleon had escaped from Elba and he immediately left to join his regiment . However, he did return to his wife after the battle of Waterloo and had a long career as a French teacher. 

After the Napoleonic Wars the Clydesdale was extended in 1821 by the creation of the Assembly Room for dancing. During its construction a number of skeletons were found. These are presumed to be the remains of dead friars as the Friary lay on the site of the Clydesdale Inn. Charles Dickens was one of the prominent visitors to Lanark. He came to the Clydesdale in August 1841 under the assumed name of Nicholas Nickelby. He had his beard trimmed by a local barber who managed to discover his real identity and he let people see the clippings of Dickens’s beard for sixpence! There is also an account of Dickens visiting a bookshop at the bottom of Hope Street and asking for a suggestion for a good book to read only to be recommended one of his own works! 

In 1844 a major meeting took place in the Clydesdale Inn to form the Caledonian Railway Company, which became the largest railway company in Scotland before being joined to the North British Railway to form the London and Scottish railway company in 1929. The chairman of this inaugural meeting was William Lockhart of Milton Lockhart. Prior to the railways however the Clydesdale Inn was the main place for coaches coming through Lanark to stop. It was a major hub for the mail services as well. Gradually the toilet facilities in the Clydesdale began to improve and in the 1850’s flush toilets were put in the building. The Clydesdale was the first place in Lanark to have proper toilet facilities. These were designed by the famous Yorkshire engineer called Thomas Crapper. The Clydesdale played an important part in the Lanimers as it was a tradition on Lanimer Day to throw rolls into the crowds of Lanarkians from the balcony over the front door. This was done to help to sustain everybody for the day ahead. During the late nineteenth century the Inn became very popular with the officers of the Lanarkshire Yeomanry. They would dine in the Clydesdale and then they would disperse the members of the Yeomanry who had been at their annual camp. 

This tradition was to be continued by William H Cox after he had taken the Inn over from the Council in 1908.In August 1910 William Cox played host to the judges and officials of the Lanark Aviation Meeting which was the World’s third International Airshow as well as being the Airshow that launched the creation of the RAF. This was definitely the Clydesdale’s greatest hour which was marked by a dinner for the participants and officials on August 13th 1910. This was recreated on exactly the same day as the original dinner on Saturday August 13th 2010 . This was made possible by the staff of the Clydesdale Inn who dressed up in period dress, decorated the assembly rooms and reproduced the menu down to such fine detail as the jelly. In the 20th century Field Marshall Montgomery dined in the Clydesdale after he had inspected the Polish soldiers and the Cameronians, both of whom fought with bravery and distinction in World War II. After the War The Clydesdale was the first place in Lanark to host live TV programmes. 

But gradually the Clydesdale fell into decay till JD Wetherspoons took it over in 1999 and ran it with success till it was sold to Hawthorn Leisure in 2014. For the past twenty years it has been popular as a place to eat and drink which is very much due to the excellent staff , dedicated to providing a great service to the customers. Hopefully Kieran, Rachael, Jimmy & the team will preserve the best aspects of what has been achieved over the past twenty years. We should take pride in almost 230 years of history embodied in the Clydesdale Inn. 


Ed Archer, August 2020