ROBERT OWEN (1771-1858)

Robert Owen was born in Newtown, Montgomeryshire on 14 May 1771. The son of a saddler and ironmonger, he became one of Britain's foremost social reformers and industrialists, inspiring the co-operative and the trade union movements.

A bright and athletic child, Robert Owen became a 'pupil-teacher' when he was just 7 years old. He left Newtown at the age of 10 to start an apprenticeship with a draper in Stamford, Lincolnshire. Three years later, he moved to London and then to Manchester, the center of the developing textile industry.

At the age of 21, Owen was the manager of a cotton mill employing 500 workers. Elected to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1793, Owen discussed social and economic issues with leading figures in society.

 

A highly skilled and respected entrepreneur and a master cotton spinner, in 1794, Owen and partners formed the Chorlton Twist Company. In 1799, Owen and his partners purchased the New Lanark Mills in Scotland from David Dale. From the outset, Owen resolved to modernise the mill and improve the living and working conditions of his employees.

Robert Owen married Anne Caroline Dale, the daughter of David Dale in 1799. They had 4 sons and 3 daughters.

Owen left New Lanark in 1825 and developed co-operative communities, first in New Harmony in the USA and then later at Queenwood in Hampshire. Neither was successful, but Owen continued to promote his ideas through his writings and lectures until he died.

In 1832, Owen opened Labour Exchanges to facilitate trade between all the small co-operative businesses that had sprung up in England. In 1834, he led the short lived Grand National Consolidated Trades Union.

Robert Owen returned to Newtown in 1858, where he died on 17 November.


Anne Caroline Dale Owen

Newtown, Montgomeryshire 1848
 
Harmony Hall, afterwards Oueenwood College