Newtown (Welsh : y Drenewydd) is located on the banks of the River Severn in Powys Mid Wales. Travelling on the A483 through Mid Wales you will find Newtown between the towns of Welshpool to the north and Llandrindod Wells to the south.
The town owes it's existence to the troubled history between the Welsh and the English and in particular the building of the castle of Dolforwyn in the 13th Century.
In 1273 Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn the Last, was testing the limits of the English King Edward 1. Llywelyn had built a number of forts within his stronghold of North Wales and the Welsh Prince set about the building of Dolforwyn Castle, at Abermule some 5 miles north of Newtown, on the very doorstep of Edward's domain.
The English monarch could not tolerate this threat to his authority and ordered Llywelyn to cease building Dolforwyn Castle. Llywelyn refused and the Welsh castle was completed in 1277. The English reacted and Dolforwyn was attacked and captured by Roger Mortimer after a fortnight's siege. The Mortimers, a powerful marcher family then laid claim to the castle and surrounding lands. Llywelyn's "new town" of Cedewain to the west of the castle was suppressed under the English, and in 1279, Roger Mortimer founded the present market town of Newtown some 5 miles south of Abermule on the banks of the River Severn.
In the 18th and 19th centuries with the rapid expansion of hand-looms and the arrival of the Montgomeryshire Canal, Newtown expanded around the textile and flannel industry. In 1838, the town saw Wales' first Chartist demonstration.
Newtown is most proud of being the birthplace of Robert Owen (1771), the social reformer and one of the founders of socialism and the cooperative movement. The son of a saddler and ironmonger he was the sixth of seven children and he was educated in the town. His mother came from one of the prosperous farming families and Robert Owen served in a draper's shop before crossing the border and settling in Manchester.
Newtown is the largest town in Mid Wales, and on the Tuesday Market Days the bustling main street has a wide variety of stalls from fruit and vegetables to old iron tools and farm implements.
As you would expect from an established market town there is a wide selection of shops in Newtown. As an alternative to shopping there are a good number of pubs and cafes to while away an hour or two, and there is a pleasant walk from the main street via the Severn suspension bridge into Dolerw Park, a green and pleasant space on the banks of the River Severn. For the more energetic, the Severn Way long distance trail passes through the town of Newtown.
Rather sadly, Newtown claims a connection with MP Lembit Opik and his ex weather-girl-friend Sian Lloyd. The couple have now parted and Opic now dates one cheek of the 'Cheeky Girls'. The latest update on this is ...no, we will not go there
There are a number of interesting museums in Newtown including the W H Smith Museum, the Robert Owen Museum, the Textile Museum, and the Oriel Davies Gallery.
WH Smith Museum: The Newtown branch of WH Smith at 24 High Street is a unique example of an original WH Smith shop. In the 1970's the shop was restored to its original condition - circa 1927. Modern fittings and fixtures were removed to reveal the original tiles, mirrors and decorations, still in good condition. Shop fittings were restored, replacement book displays were created, under floor heating installed, and the modern lighting was replaced with 1920 style fittings. The restoration was such a success that three years later the company museum was established upstairs in what was formerly a W. H. Smith Lending Library. The small museum traces the history of WH Smith, from its beginnings in London, in 1792, to the present day. Using storyboards, models and memorabilia, it charts the fascinating progress of a family run business that has flourished for over two centuries, to become one of today's biggest British companies and a household name.
W.H.Smith Museum, 24 High Street, Newtown, (01686) 626280
Robert Owen Museum: The Robert Owen Museum tells the remarkable story of Robert Owen, born in Newtown in 1771. Owen was a village boy who hobnobbed with royalty: a shop assistant who became a factory manager; an educator with little education; a rich man who fought for the poor; a capitalist who became the first "socialist”; an individualist who inspired the Co-operative movement.
Robert Owen Memorial Museum, The Cross, Broad Street, Newtown, (01686) 626345
Newtown Textile Museum: The Newtown Textile Museum is housed in an early 19th century weaving shop. The building is a fine example of a typical early 19th century weaving shop. It consists of two floors of six (now three) back-to-back cottages and two large rooms on the second and third floors running the full length of the building. The exhibition looks at the process from wool to yarn, it tells the history of the woollen industry in Newtown, the consequences for the town and its people and it includes other related industries such as tanning and clog-making.
Newtown Textile Museum, Commercial Street, Newtown (01686) 622024
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
Newtown sits among good walking and there are many walks criss-crossing the countryside including pleasant walks along both the River Severn and the Shropshire Union Canal. A new shared-use, walking cycling and wheelchairs route follows the River Severn from the Trehafren side of Newtown and connects to the existing riverside by a new footbridge. Cyclists will appreciate being able to cycle from Newtown to Abermule, some 6 miles, in a completely traffic-free environment. Indeed walkers are well catered for in Newtown as the Severn Way, one of the longest way-marked walking trails in Britain at 210 miles (338 kms), cuts through the town.