Site of Cambrian Woollen Mill, Newtown

PWMP logoSite of Cambrian Woollen Mill, Newtown

newtown_cambrian_woollen_millLand east of the River Severn here was occupied by the Cambrian Woollen Mill, commemorated by the road names Cambrian Gardens and Mill Close. After the First World War it was a training centre for disabled ex-servicemen (see below).

The mill was producing tweeds by the early 1870s, using modern machinery. At its peak, it was reputedly Wales’ largest woollen mill, employing over 300 people. The picture of the complex is shown here courtesy of Powys Archives.

It was possibly the first in Wales to produce tweeds (as opposed to flannels and shawls). Scottish tweed weavers and designers were brought in, causing some resentment from local workers.

In 1875 trouble flared after the company introduced new looms, along with English workers familiar with the machinery. When managers began to train Welsh apprentices on the looms, the Englishmen went on strike. At the end of the shift, the first Englishmen to leave the factory were pelted with stones. The rest were kept inside to prevent a riot. Work resumed the next morning, but only because police – including the chief constable – were on hand.

Mid Wales’ textile mills struggled against competition from larger rivals in Lancashire. The Cambrian mill closed in the 1880s but was restarted by Lord Sudeley. He lost money before selling the mill in 1905 to a Mr James, who installed electricity and modernised the mill but hanged himself in 1906 after running into debt.

One morning in May 1910, fire caused major damage to the Cambrian mill. Later that day, a wall collapsed onto bystanders who had come to view the ruins. Local man Pryce Wilson was killed, along with Ivor Roberts, aged four. Ivor’s nursemaid, who had taken him with her, was one of several injured.

One of the mill’s last managers was John Rawson, who hailed from Jedburgh, Scotland. His son Robert was killed while serving with the Highland Light Infantry in 1916. He was being carried, wounded, on a stretcher when a shell killed him and his stretcher bearers. Robert previously lived in Newtown with his wife Elsie.

The mill had closed by the First World War, during which at least two former employees died. William Mills and William Price both died in 1915 and are buried in Greece.

The war left 14,000 wounded ex-servicemen in North Wales (including Montgomeryshire) learning to live with disabilities. In 1919 the North Wales Joint Disablement Committee agreed to establish a training centre at the Cambrian mill site. Separate training schemes were set up for war widows who needed new skills to earn a living.

Postcode: SY16 2AW    View Location Map