Founded as a market town at the end of the 13th century, with a market in operation since Medieval times, Newtown grew strongly with the expansion of the woollen industry in the early 19th century. It was an international hub for the flannel industry. The old Flannel Exchange survives to this day as an entertainment venue. Social reformer and industrial pioneer Robert Owen was born in Newtown in 1771 and left to seek his fortune ten years later. He returned to the town shortly before his death on November 17th 1858. Owen’s ideas have had worldwide influence and became the cornerstone of the international co-operative movement. There is a museum dedicated to Owen’s memory in the town centre.
Newtown is also famous for the birth of the mail order retail business which local entrepreneur Pryce Jones started in the mid nineteenth century by despatching goods to Britain and Europe from Newtown. His Royal Welsh Warehouse still dominates the townscape. Amongst his customers were Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale. It is believed that the parcel post in Britain was started as a result of a suggestion made by Pryce Jones to the Postmaster General. The town’s connection with the textile industry was revived in the 20th century when businesswoman Laura Ashley established her home furnishing and clothing company in the area.
Newtown is now home to the Textile Museum, the Oriel Davies Gallery, entertainment venue Hafren, local sports facilities and an attractive town centre set against the backdrop of the beautiful Severn Valley. In addition to its many attractions, as the largest town in central Wales, Newtown provides the ideal base to explore the surrounding countryside. There are nature reserves, canal paths, the Severn Way and nearby, Gregynog Hall and Gardens.