History of a ‘New Town’
Y Drenewydd/Newtown is the largest town in Montgomeryshire and Powys.
It was established as a 'market town' by Edward I in the 13th century. From the early 1800s about 800 people lived in the town, but it then experienced rapid expansion. It became an international hub in the textile industries at the heart of the industrial revolution. At the end of the century it became known as the home of the world's first mail order company - Pryce Jones and the Royal Welsh Warehouse Company. Around this time about 7,000 people lived there, many of them moving to the area for the skilled jobs available.
After World War I its fortunes began to wane, factories closed and the population began to decline, hitting an estimated low of about 4,700 in 1937. Things reversed during World War II when it became home to one of the network of wartime 'shadow factories' making aircraft frames and gun barrels (now 'The Lion Works'), a prisoner of war camp and a military training camp, including for the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
By 1961 the population had again dropped, to just 5,000 people. This reflected what was described as 'the problem of mid Wales' (ongoing rural depopulation) and led ultimately, along with some dramatic flooding of the town centre, to the designation and development of Newtown as a 'New Town' in the 1970s. With that came redevelopment, expansion of housing and factory space, new businesses and jobs (including the main Laura Ashley factory), and an influx of new people. Newtown is currently home to about 11,500 people.
Like many small market towns, Newtown has a long and fascinating history. On these pages (which are a work in progress!) we will use a range of methods to provide an overview of this history and of the significance of Newtown, not just for the people that have lived there but how it has had an influence on places much further away. The pages on this site are a starting point with much more to come.