The arrival in 1785 of David Dale and the construction of his first cotton-spinning mill changed Blantyre’s environment literally overnight. The quiet, peaceful, rural community disappeared as the industrial revolution took its grip on the town. A second spinning mill was constructed in 1791 causing another surge in the population. Half the population at this time were employed at the Blantyre Mills. Dale’s original partner, John Kay, the inventor of the flying shuttle, dropped out of the partnership and was replaced by Henry Monteith who expanded the works for the third time. Dale, in his turn, sold out to Monteith in 1792 and it was to remain in the Monteith family until 1873. Many improvements were carried out, including the construction of a self contained village with toll gates situated at the junction of Station Road with Rosebank Avenue and Knightswood Terrace controlling entry and egress. These gates were closed at 10.00 pm each evening. By 1794 the roads had improved and the Works village had become larger than the main town centre at Kirkton, High Blantyre. By this time the people of Blantyre were referring to the area at the mills as “The Village”, something that exists even to this day.
Business boomed at the Works so much that, in 1813, a weaving factory containing 463 looms, driven partly by water and partly by steam engine, was opened. A school and chapel were built in 1828. The village had a company-owned shop, and it was effectively a complete new town owned by the company. Many workers lived to a great age and in one case a mill mechanic was still working at the age of ninety four. The only other industry in the parish at this time other than the cotton mills and farming was the mining of large deposits of limestone and ironstone at Auchentibber. The demise of the mills was caused through the decline in the cotton industry. Production ceased at Blantyre Mills in 1903 and the company was liquidated in 1904.
The work in cotton mills was heavy and often dangerous, quite often women and girls would choose to work on the surface of the mines as they considered it easier work. The hours worked in the mills were both long and hard. Even after the Cotton Factory Regulation Act of 1813, children over the age of 9 at the Blantyre mills were expected to start work after having breakfast at 5.30am and then work until 8pm. After this time from 8.30pm until 10.00pm they were able to go to school, which was located on the premises and provided by the mill owners. The building housed 24 families including the family of David Livingstone. The building has been preserved as part of the Scottish National Memorial to David Livingstone.