Foundation Stone.

Foundation Stone

Portrait by John Cranch

Robert Owen by John Cranch

 

Robert Owen was one of the most influential thinkers and social reformers of his time. The Robert Owen Museum in Newtown, Montgomeryshire houses a collection of objects, pictures and written material relating to the life of Robert Owen. The Museum tells Owen’s story and is in the centre of Newtown just a few feet from where Owen was born. Robert Owen was born in 1771. At 10, he was sent to London to be apprenticed as a draper and by his early twenties he was a successful manager in the mills of Manchester. The working conditions there appalled him. He believed character was formed by experience and that the dreadful environment of child workers would inevitably lead to damaged and dehumanised adults.

 

So when, in his late twenties, Owen became a partner and manager of a large cotton mill at New Lanark on the River Clyde, he decided to create a model environment. He improved the factory and village, built a school and provided a shop where quality goods could be bought at a fair price. The school curriculum included music, dancing and nature study. Visitors came from all over the world – even the Tsar of Russia.

 

Owen campaigned and lectured throughout his life. In 1812-13 he wrote “A New View of Society” which explained his vision. He tried to repeat the success of New Lanark when in 1824 he created a model community in New Harmony, Indiana. The ideal was a village based on co-operation and profit sharing. New Harmony and similar experiments by his followers did not succeed as he had hoped. But his ideas continued to have influence and one group of followers in Rochdale set up the famous Co-operative shop in 1844 and pioneered the world wide co-operative movement. Owen returned to Newtown at the end of his life and died there in 1858. Factory reform and universal education were achieved in the 19th century, and Owen’s vision for fairness and social progress remains a source of inspiration today.

 

In 1784, Lord Powis’s daughter, Lady Henrietta Herbert, married Edward Clive, the eldest son of Clive of India. Their marriage led to the union of the Clive and Powis estates in 1801, and in 1804 the earldom of Powis was recreated for the third time for Edward Clive. Powis Castle and Estates were inherited by Henrietta and Edward's eldest son (also called Edward Clive) when he turned 21. In accordance with his uncle’s will, the younger Edward Clive duly changed his name to Herbert. The Clive fortune paid for long overdue repairs to the castle which were carried out by Sir Robert Smirke. The garden and park were also improved. Part of Clive of India’s fine collection of old master paintings, French and English furniture, and Italian curiosities, were brought to the castle. The final alterations to Powis Castle were undertaken at the beginning of the 20th century by G. F. Bodley for George Charles Herbert, 4th Earl of Powis (1862–1952) whose wife improved the garden which she felt had the potential to be `the most beautiful in England and Wales’. She died after a car accident in 1929 and Lord Powis also lost his two sons (and heirs) in the First and Second World Wars. In the latter war, the Welsh Girls' School was evacuated to the castle from Ashford, Middlesex. On his death in 1952, he bequeathed the castle and gardens to the National Trust. He was succeeded by his cousin, Edward Herbert (1889–1974), fifth Earl, whose widow, the Countess Powis, remained living in the dower house, and was succeeded in turn by Christian Victor Charles Herbert the sixth Earl.

 

They welcome groups, preferably with a few days notice. The Curator will gladly arrange to be on hand, or to give a short talk. The Museum becomes congested with around thirty visitors, so they advise that larger groups split. The Curator will allow researchers access to items not on display by prior appointment. The Robert Owen Museum is easily found, being on the ground floor of the Town Council building in the centre of Newtown, opposite the Town Clock. There are two car parks within easy walking distance. It is ten minutes walk to the railway station. There is a two-hourly train service from Birmingham. Other things to see in Newtown include Robert Owen's Tomb and Statue, and the Textile Museum. The museum is wheelchair accessible. Assistance dogs are welcome.

 

Location : The Robert Owen Museum, The Cross, Broad Street, Newtown, Powys SY16 2BB

Transport : Newtown (National Rail) 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 81, 86 and National Express stop nearby.

Opening Times :Monday to Friday 11:00 to 15:00.

Tickets : Free

Tel. : 0686-625544