Lanark’s Closes led to a network of workshops and small businesses. Now they lead mainly to carparks, such is progress! I can’t help thinking, as an artist, that it is small businesses that help keep communities alive and vibrant. Lanark thrived as a market town for 600 years due, I am sure, to these small businesses.
Ritchie’s Close shows a tin smith at work, the tools of his trade around him. If you look closely, a door opens to a school room, once also in this close, with two children on their way to school. A tin kettle boils on an old stove and a tin mug sits on the windowsill.
Thomson’s Close shows both a public house and a coil of rope from the rope works that it led to. And yippee, I had managed to get a unicorn into the drawings. Happy me. The magpies fight over a bit of string, or is it a worm?
McKenzies Close shows the weaving trade. Textiles have been hugely important in Lanark since Medieval times, with Unesco World Heritage site, New Lanark, just down the road. A spider’s web echoes the spinning theme.
Wide Close and Bernard’s Wynd both show the shoe industry. Next to the elephant in Wide Close a family look out from a shoe shop, and Bernard’s Wynd has the word ‘Cobblers’ in the window. I can’t resist a bit of humour in language. Bull’s Close, home to the community bull, has a sign with the words ‘Beware of Bull!’
By this time I had given myself the challenge that the name of each close should be somewhere in each drawing.
Supplying stout shoes to Glasgow and America – wouldn’t it be wonderful to see regular markets in the Castlegate again? They’ve been held there since Medieval times after all!
As I hope you can tell I had a lot of fun with these illustrations. The original drawings are for sale at The Tolbooth Lanark, if anyone would like to invest in a bit of Lanark’s history.
A lovely bonus to this illustration project has been getting to know Ronnie Cruwys of Drawing the Street who too has a passion for history and the clues of what went before us in our built environment. Ronnie has painted the backs of the closes. We hope to see you at Close (but not too close) Encounters!