Mike Rix took us back in time to the long C19 on our tour of Newton. Starting under an ancient black poplar tree, in a car park which we learnt was formerly the Severn riverbed, he told us about the evolution of the flannel trade in mid-Wales. Newtown being known as the Leeds of Wales.
We left the carpark for the Pryce Jones Royal Welsh warehouse. Located close to the railway, Pryce Jones developed the world’s first successful mail order business. The vast building has retained its fire doors and stained glass. Outside it was decorated with roundels celebrating international exhibitions in which the firm had participated.
We walked on to see a marker defining the town boundary and learnt of the conflict between the Reverend Evors of Newtown Hall, landlord and mill owner and local workers which culminated in a chartist riot put down by soldiers.
We saw evidence of blocks of weavers’ lofts flanked by a manager’s house in late C18 buildings and were regaled with theories about the origin of the street known as ‘The Frolic’.
We saw the layout of the earlier market town and the ruins of St Mary’s church. Here were the grand tomb of the influential social reformer, Robert Owen and a plaque to Thomas Powell, a leading chartist.
After the opportunity to review an historical map of the town over lunch, we crossed the river to the suburb of Penygloddfa. which was the main weaving district. Here we visited the Textile Museum housed in a terrace of back to back houses with two large weaving floors running the length of the terrace.
This fascinating museum had working looms to demonstrate how the flannel was produced. The nearby canal and later the railroad connected the production to the wider market through Shrewsbury and Oswestry.
We left with our eyes opened to the history of the town and other industrial heritage. We strongly recommend visiting the museum.