Newtown, known in Welsh as Y Drenewydd, lies on the River Severn. It was founded in the thirteenth century and flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries around the textile and flannel industry - indeed, it was known as the' Leeds of Wales'. It received a further boost during that time with the arrival of the Montgomeryshire Canal.
The town is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Robert Owen in 1771. Known as Britain's first Socialist, Robert Owen (1771 - 1858) was born over a saddler's shop in Broad Street, Newtown. At the age of ten he began work in the town's flourishing textiles industry, and worked his way up. He became a self-made man, eventually running and owning some of the largest textile factories in Britain.
Robert Owen is recognised for having sowed the seeds of socialism long before Karl Marx. The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard of the abandoned St Mary's Church in Newtown sums up his philosophy: 'It is the one great and universal interest of the human race to be cordially united and to aid each other to the full extent of their capacities.' Owen's former house is now a museum.
Newtown's textile industry went into decline after the town saw Wales' first Chartist demonstration in 1838. Following the decline of that industry, agriculture became the area's main income generator.
The town was given the status 'new town' in 1967, and as a result, has seen a large population growth, changing the rural market town character of the town as companies have established themselves in the area and a new influx of people have settled.
Today, Newtown is a busy regional town. It boasts an important art gallery in Oriel Davies. Gregynnog, a stunning country house built by Lord Davies of Llandinam, and now in the ownership of the University of Wales is nearby. It holds a well regarded arts festival every summer.