Textile Town

Newtown has been integrated into global (or at least international) networks of trade and culture for a very long time – notably through its textile, agriculture and forestry industries.

Obvious examples here are world famous Pryce Jones Royal Welsh Warehouse mail-order company and more recently the Littlewoods/Shop Direct and Laura Ashley businesses. Less obvious might be the Montgomeryshire Oak shipped down the Montgomery canal and used to build Nelson’s navy against Napolean Bonaparte

With the passing of time Newtown has come to be associated, along with much of mid Wales, with the boom in textile production that was central to the industrial revolution.

Newtown was a centre of a woollen cloth production, first as a cottage industry common in the region, then becoming slowly more industrialised as ‘weaving shops’ (of the sort seen at the Newtown Textile Museum) were built in the early 1800s. Larger factories were built, first powered by water from the Severn, then by the middle of the 19th century by steam, leading to a massive expansion in the size and number of people living in the town. Allied to this was the rise in Pryce Jones global mail order empire, making use of the new railway connections to Newtown and the creation of a postal service to send parcels all over the world.

As textile production shifted to other places and other countries, and as Pryce Jones suffered from the effects of the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s, so the fortunes of Newtown as a home of textile manufacture began to wane.

Just three decades later Newtown became associated with the fortunes of another iconic textiles and design company – Laura Ashley…