Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Look on this as a brief introduction to Montgomeryshire. I was interviewed for Post Cynta and Newyddion yesterday about what amounts to the redesign of Welshpool. Not that many Welsh speakers in Welshpool! Its big stuff for a comparatively small town - incuding a new livestock market, a new Tesco, a new hotel, a restaurant area, lots more retail space, a new one-way traffic system and a local council redevelment plan on top. Most of it will be finished within two years. I've welcomed the plans, though I admit to concerns about possible impact on current businesses. But a lot of thought's been invested in the design to minimise the downside as far as possible. I was wearing my President of CPRW hat, and the BBC's John Meredith, a fine man, set out to challenge me about the downside. There remains the incorrect perception that the CPRW is always against change. On balance, I think the redesgn is positive.

Most of my visitors are strangers to Montgomeryshire, and don't know her as intimately as I do. I've never lived anywhere else, never will, and am very proud of her. It was a terrible mistake that Montgomeryshire was not established as a unitary authority in 1993 (and it was a Conservative Government wot done it!). I still display my disgust by wearing a Montgomeryshire badge with pride and bloodymindedness. Anyway, let me share a little of her with you.

She's big, with not many more than 50,000 residents - but growing fast. When I was a boy, the population had fallen to around 36,000, mainly as a result of changes in farming practices. There had also been work in lead mining and the handling of sheep wool. Also noteworthy was the employment associated with the presence of one of the world's greatest entrepreneurs, Pryce Pryce-Jones. From the 1970's on, Government intervention encouraged people to move back to Montgomeryshire, particularly Newtown (which was designated under the New Towns Act). I was much involved in this redevelopment of the economy of Mid Wales.

Today, the largest town is Newtown. Next comes Welshpool. Then its Llanidloes and Machynlleth, followed by Llanfyllin and Llanfair Caereinion. Much of the population growth in along the the 'international' border with England, at places like Arddleen, Four Crosses, and Churchstoke. Recently, Montgomeryshire has grown through acquisition - the Tanat Valley being welcomed into her embrace. I was born on a farm near Castle Caereinion, and moved two miles down the road to Cil Farm, Berriew on marriage. From an industrial standpoint, Mongomeryshire is an extension of the West Midlands, and looks to Shrewsbury for many of its services. Dominating Montgomeryshire are mountains and the valleys of the rivers Severn and Vyrnwy. The Severn is born in the West of Montgomeryshire, in the Plynlymon mountains, while the Vyrnwy is best known for the spectacular Lake Vyrnwy, which was built over 100 years ago to supply water to Liverpool. It still supplies 80% of Liverpool's water today. And for as long as even centenarians can remember, Montgomeryshire has sent Liberal Democrats (or their predecessors) to Westminster (except 1979-83). Like 'Old Man River', I finish on a low note.


James D said...

That was a lovely read. Typical media confusing anti-sprawl with anti-urban.

Just one thing -- perhaps you meant 60,000, not 50,000. According to the last census, the population of Montgomeryshire was 59,474.

It is a pity that Montgomeryshire looks east, but not surprising given how post-Beeching one has had to change trains in Shrewsbury to do something as simple as go from Welshpool to Wrexham.

Dewi Harries said...

I hate to admit it but I'd never heard of Pryce Pryce-Jones. Fascinating bloke - invented mail order. Thanks Glyn - nice post.

Dewi Harries said...


Perhaps not such a nice bloke after all.

P-Man said...

Prompted by you Glyn I looked up Pryce Pryce-Jones - changed the world of retailing by starting up the world's first mail-order supply business. WoW!

Glyn Davies said...

James D - You are probably right about today's population. I was speaking as it was 15 years ago. Its growing faster than I thought.

The Berwyn Mountains and the Radnor Hills have something to do with it as well.

Dewi - Newtown has a wonderful industrial history. In Pryce Pryce-Jones and Robert Owen, two of the most influntial thinkers ever. And that's before we include the Owen Owens of Garthgwynion.

There was a downside, but not particularly for the time.

P-man - The life of PPJ and Robert Owen should be taught to every young person in Montgomeryshire - and Owen Owens - and Laura Ashley.

Anonymous said...

The best thing that could possibly happen to Montgomeryshire is the return of a Tory MP in the next election! Especially bearing in mind the present incumbent - he's a blot on the Mont landscape

Anonymous said...

You fail to mention Welshpool's claim to be the Capital of the world-wide milk-bar empire! Glyn, you have probably seen this but for others here's a link to a great and quirky site...about a great and quirky Maldwyn insitution


Glyn Davies said...

When I was a child, Billy Griffiths the Woodlands was spoken of in awe. He started the National Milk Bar chain. Recently the Woodlands has been in the news again. It was where the spate of major farm fires that have been in the news started.

Welshpool also has Powis Castle, the light railway and a superb example of a cockpit.

penlan said...

The life of Robert Owen was taught to me as a schoolboy in Swansea.I hope he is not forgotten in the schools of Montgomeryshire.

Iolo Williams said...

thought you were going to revert to a Welsh blog?
Still in English.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Montgomeryshire is so closely linked and reliant on Shropshire, perhaps we should declare UDI from Cardiff and form the "Duchy of Offa's Dyke and the Marches" or DODAM for short. I'd vote for that!

Glyn Davies said...

Penlan - Don't know, but he should be taught. He was one of the most innovative business managers in history - much the most famous son of Newtown

Iolo - You are right of course - but the reason I do want to return to Welsh blogging is to learn to write through practise. I wouldn't expect anyone to want to read what I write.

Roman - I don't go as far as you, but I intensly dislike the artificial separation that is being created along Offa's Dyke since devolution.

Iolo Williams said...

Iolo - You are right of course - but the reason I do want to return to Welsh blogging is to learn to write through practise. I wouldn't expect anyone to want to read what I write.

Me being rather pedantic, but it was YOU who said that you were going to.