The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution began around 1760. It led to many of the biggest changes of the Victorian era.

The Industrial Revolution introduced new machines, new industries and new jobs...even for children.

The Industrial Revolution is the name for a time of great change in industry, technology and science:


  • Instead of people or animals, some industries began using water and wind as sources of energy.
  • People started using coal for fuel instead of wood or peat. Coal gave out more heat and allowed better quality iron and steel to be made.
  • Coal was also used to heat water to make steam for the newly invented steam engine.
  • Oil and natural gas were used for heating and lighting.
An engraving of women and children working in a coal mine, 1848


  • New machines were invented that could work much faster and on a bigger scale than human hands.
  • The spinning jenny and power loom allowed the textile industries to grow.
  • The steam engine could provide more energy for large factories.
  • The steam locomotive and railways meant that travel was quicker and people, raw materials and goods could be transported more easily.
A woman operating a spinning jenny in a factory


  • Before the Industrial Revolution craftspeople made things in their own homes or in small workshops. The new factory system meant people had to go to a place of work where they would work for a shift.

  • Instead of making something from end-to-end, factory workers would each work specific machines that carried out different stages of a manufacturing process.

Inside New Lanark mill, where many people worked side by side on large machines


  • Factories and industries needed more raw materials and made more products. These all needed to be transported.
  • Horse-drawn transport was not fast enough and could not cope with the amount of freight that needed to be moved.
  • Canals were introduced to deal with this issue. Canal boats could move large volumes of goods.
  • Roads were improved, especially with the introduction of macadamised road surfaces that were stronger and smoother.
  • Later, the invention of the steam train and railway made travel and transport much quicker, more reliable and better able to carry heavy loads.
The Industrial Revolution changed Scotland and the lives of Scottish people. Many Scottish landmarks, like the Forth Rail Bridge, shown here under construction in 1889, were a result of new discoveries in science, technology, industry and engineering.


  • Engineering improved through a mix of new materials and better scientific understanding.
  • Stronger stone buildings like the Bell Rock lighthouse, giant concrete bridges like the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and iron and steel structures like the Tay Bridge and Forth Rail Bridge all became possible.
  • Big civil engineering projects like the Caledonian Canal and the Loch Katrine scheme that provides Glasgow with its drinking water would not have been possible without the Industrial Revolution.
Improvements in engineering made buildings like the Bell Rock lighthouse possible.