Newtown is the largest town in the county of Powys, Wales. It had a population of 12,783 in 2001. Lying on the River Severn, within the historic boundaries of Montgomeryshire, the town is best known as the birthplace of Robert Owen in 1771, His former house stood on what is now the site of the HSBC Bank. The Robert Owen Museum is across the road, occupying the ground floor of the council offices. Newtown is also the home of Theatr Hafren and Oriel Davies Gallery, a major public gallery of Wales, which shows national and international contemporary art and craft. Newtown is approximately 10 miles from the Wales-England border, in a narrow valley which restricts development north and south of the town. Newtown is surrounded by small villages often referenced as the Newtown area
Newtown was founded at the end of the 13th century when Edward I of England commissioned Roger de Montgomerie to construct a centre for the hamlet of Llanfair-yng-Nghedewain. It was situated near the ford on the River Severn, below the Long Bridge and around the church of St Mary in Bettws Cedewain. This gave Newtown its original Welsh name. The foundation is intimately connected to the fate of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales, whose new administrative centre at Dolforwyn Castle near Abermule so alarmed Edward I that it was besieged. He seized Llywelyn’s lands and granted them to the Mortimers. They transferred the administration of the cantref of Cedewain and the commote of Ceri from Dolforwyn Castle to the new settlement at Newtown.
The town grew in the 18th and 19th centuries around the textile and flannel industry, stimulated by the completion of the Montgomeryshire Canal. In 1838, the town saw Wales’ first Chartist demonstration.
The town was designated as a “new town” in 1967. It has seen a large population growth as companies and people have settled, changing the rural market town character. Newtown hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1965.
Built by Pryce Pryce-Jones, the Pryce Jones Royal Welsh Warehouse remains the tallest building in Newtown. The two towering structures housed the world’s first mail order service depot.
Bear Lanes, the town’s main shopping centre, sports a Tudor-style entrance. The building was once a hotel, The Bear, which contributes to the mall’s appearance today.
A statue of Robert Owen was erected in 1956 in a small park off Shortbridge street and Gas street. A replica statue was later built in Manchester, England. The Free Library building, designed by the architect Frank Shayler of Shrewsbury, was built in 1902. The Baptist Chapel dating from 1881 is a prime example of non-conformist architecture of the period.
Newtown is currently served by Arriva Trains Wales at its station. The majority of the local bus services, both within the town and serving nearby locations, are operated by privately owned, local companies. Newtown is served by two National Express services per day; the Aberystwyth to London and its return counterpart. Two major roads cross in Newtown town centre: they are the A483 from Swansea to Chester and the A489 from Machynlleth to Craven Arms.
The Montgomery Canal originally terminated in Newtown. Following its closure in 1944, the section in Newtown was sold and subsequently built on. Canal Road and Lower Canal Road in Newtown are named after it.
Newtown A.F.C. is Newtown’s association football club, and was a founding member of the Welsh Premier League in 1992. The club was founded in 1875 as Newtown White Stars and won the Welsh FA Cup in 1879 and 1895. The club also entered the qualifying stages of the UEFA Cup on two occasions.
Newtown play at Latham Park, which has a capacity of 5,000 (1,750 seated). The stadium has a full UEFA licence, allowing under-21 international games and European games to be played there. Despite the facilities, the club struggles to attract a large fanbase, with attendances averaging around 300. In 2007, another 250 seat stand was built next to the media gantry, with future developments planned.
Newtown RFC is the town’s rugby union club which was established in 1925. It presently fields a First, Second, Third, Youth and Junior teams.
Newtown also has lawn bowls, cricket, and tennis clubs. A basketball club, the Newtown Titans was also established in 2005, before being reformed as Mid-Wales Basketball Club in 2009.