LlanidloesThe ancient market town of Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire lies almost in the very centre of Wales, at the junction of the Severn and Clywedog rivers. ‘Afon Hafren’ means River Severn. The longest river in Britain, it rises from peat bogs flanking the Hafren Forest, high above Llanidloes. Nearby is a deep pool, used by generations of shepherds to wash their sheep.
When the Owen family moved to Llanidloes the town's principal trade concerned the traditional Welsh flannel industry, flannel being much used to make clothes in those days. It depended heavily on the plentiful supply of local wool and it was said of the local flannels that they have
a softness of texture arising from the quality of the wool, which renders them exceedingly well adapted to be worn next to the skin of the most delicate invalid. I was told by a long-time resident of Llanidloes, a local historian, that when James and his family first moved to the town their house in Lower Green was one of a series of terraced houses that shared a communal first floor where the processing of wool, spinning, etc., took place. In 1845 local residents would have been shocked and saddened to hear of the suicide of the Llanidloes mayor, Edward Hughes, who was the owner of a local flannel factory. In 1850 the flannel trade in Llanidloes employed 800 skilled hands. The largest factory in Llanidloes, the Cambrian flannel factory (left), was opened in 1852.
The other local industry, mining, was to expand greatly while the Owen family was there. Three important lead mines were built nearby, employing over 1,000 men; one of them, the Van Mine, was the largest in the world. A railway link was opened in 1859 to transport the ore. It had become part of the Mid Wales Line by 1863 and was incorporated into the Cambrian Railways in July 1864. Interestingly, from 1865 to 1870 the stationmaster was the bardic poet John "Ceiriog" Hughes . Between 1870 and 1878, Montgomeryshire produced between 7000 and 9000 tons of lead ore per year but production rapidly declined therafter. With the growth in population - it rose to 4939 in 1881 after which it too declined - more constables were appointed to help James.
[The next page contains pictures illustrating places in Llanidloes and some aspects of life there in bygone days. >>]