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Back Wishaw History

Wishaw History

History
Wishaw, named either after 'the road through the wood' or the 'wee shaw (wood)', is a principal town of North Lanarkshire Council, the fourth largest council seat in Scotland. Formerly a burgh of Motherwell, Wishaw has a rich history embedded in industry.

The original settlement can be traced back until the 1820s where Lord Belhaven built a distillery in the open Lanarkshire countryside. The placing of this distillery was important for several reasons. Firstly due to the water produced by a burn flowing through peat moss, which gave the whisky a delicate flavour. Secondly the distillery, and the houses for its workers where built on the lines of one of the few Roman-era roads running through Scotland, offering an already established transport route. This small village eventually developed into the town now known as Wishaw.

With the growth of the village came the growth of industry of which Wishaw, and the Glasgow Iron and Steel Company that was housed in the town, became world renowned for. In the latter years of the 1800s, the Wishaw works was ground-breaking in its reusing of gas to power in the lighting of the foundry. This multiple and efficient use of energy led to visits from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and American steelworkers alike.

Combined with Motherwell in the 1920s, to form the Burgh of Wishaw and Motherwell, the town reaped the benefits of the growing industrial prowess from the west coast of Scotland. This success, and the levels of work brought by the Second World War and its desire for steel, continued into the the 1950s with building of the Ravenscraig works. These huge works, which subsequently outlasted the incorporation between Wishaw and Motherwell which dissolved in 1975, where home to the largest continuous casting production in the world, earning Wishaw and its surrounding area the
nickname 'Steelopolis'.

Even the decline of this industry in Britain has not halted the prominence and importance of Wishaw's steelworks to its residents, or the country as a whole. A new development on the site of the Ravenscraig works is proposed to be one of the largest in Europe with around 400 acres or land being regenerated, 3500 new homes and a new college campus being built on the site of the old works.

© Ciaran Mackie 2009