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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Robert Owen

Social pioneer Robert Owen (1771-1858), born in Newtown, Montgomeryshire, was a self-made man.  He served an apprenticeship to a linen draper at Stamford.  When he was eighteen Robert went to Manchester.  He joined a cotton firm using the revolutionary new cotton-spinning machinery
Owen was appalled by the workers' working and living conditions and wanted to help. His opportunity came when he became manager of New Lanark mills in Scotland, near the Falls of the Clyde.   

Many of the workers at the mill were child parish apprentices; some were from the Edinburgh poor house and charities in the city.  Owen vowed to end the use of parish apprentices when he began running New Lanark.You can find out more about Owen's amazing experiment at New Lanark,  his controversial social and religious theories, and his influence on the co-operative movement in my latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World. My book The Children History Forgot also discusses Owen's care for the workers at New Lanark, the school he founded there, and his influence on the factory reform and 'Ten Hours' movement. 

Images from author's collection

Orphan School, Edinburgh, Views of Edinburgh and Its Vicinity, 1819. Children from the workhouse and charities like this one were employed in the mills at New Lanark.  

The Falls of the Clyde.  Water from the river Clyde powered the New Lanark Mills. Ladies’ Cabinet of Fashion, Music and Romance, 1837. 

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