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Robert Owen, the son of a Newtown saddler and ironmonger, became one of the most successful mill owners of the Industrial Revolution with a reputation as the producer of fine cotton. It was not as a successful and respected businessman that he left his mark on history, but as one of the most prominent social reformers of the period, a pioneer of modern British socialism and a source of inspiration to the co-operative and trade union movements.

Robert Owen Museum
Locket of Robert Owen. The Robert Owen Museum

The Robert Owen Museum in Newtown, Wales, commemorates the great social reformer and ‘rational religionist’ Robert Owen, in the town where he was born and died. It is the only museum devoted specifically to Owen’s life and work, striving to show the development – and ongoing relevance – of his efforts and ideas.

Foundation stone, Robert Owen museum by Penny Mayes CC BY-SA 2.0

The Museum is located close to where Owen was born in 1771, and houses a collection of objects, printed material, and imagery relating to his life. From humble origins, Owen went on to exert significant influence in the realms of cooperation and secularism, with many of those inspired by him promoting and embodying the humanist values he exemplified. George Jacob Holyoake, Margaret Chappellsmith, Emma Martin, and Frances Wright were all active in the Owenite movement, drawn to its radical reimagining of society along egalitarian, cooperative lines.

Interior of the Robert Owen Museum, Percy Benzie Abery. Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales

One group in Rochdale, inspired by Owen’s principles, established the famous cooperative store at 31 Toad Lane in 1844, pioneering the worldwide cooperative movement. The Rochdale Pioneers Museum, opened in 1931, tells their story.

Newtown’s Robert Owen Museum is free to visit. Not everything the Museum owns is on public display, so contacting ahead of time is advised.

See also

Website of the Robert Owen Museum

Some of the Museum’s artworks

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