Dafydd Wyn Phillips

New Blue Plaque for Robert Owen – the Father of the Co-operative Movement

On 5 September a Marchmont Association commemorative plaque was unveiled at 4 Burton Place, Bloomsbury, in the 1830s the former home of Robert Owen – the father of the Co-operative Movement. The plaque was jointly unveiled by the Mayor of Camden, Councillor Nadia Shah, Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, Professor Greg Claeys, the world’s foremost authority on Owen, and Iain Macdonald of New Lanark in Scotland.

Owen was born in 1771 in Newtown, mid-Wales and in 1787 moved to London and shortly afterwards to Manchester. In 1799 he moved to Scotland where he established with others the utopian settlement of New Lanark which is today a World Heritage Site. According to the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, “his work there entitles him to be called the pioneer in factory reform, the father of distributive co-operation, and the founder of nursery schools.”

Such was his reputation that he was invited to advise on what should be done to meet the
industrial crisis which followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars. He recommended the setting-up of self-sufficiency communities. For the rest of his life he preached this solution of the social problems and initiated experiments, the more famous of which was that of New Harmony, Indiana, USA. His fundamental tenet was that character is fashioned by circumstances. He returned to Newtown in 1858 where he died on 17 November. He was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, where the Co-operative Movement erected a monument in 1902. When the International Labour Office was founded in Geneva in 1919, originally as an agency of the League of Nations, the gift of the people of Wales was a bust of Robert Owen by Cardiff-born William Goscombe John.

Robert Owen Blue Plaque.  Photo Credit: © Dafydd Wyn Phillips. Robert Owen Blue Plaque. Photo Credit: © Dafydd Wyn Phillips.

Dafydd Wyn Phillips

“an affable Welshman with an encyclopaedic knowledge of almost everything…. … enough information to fill a mighty leather bound tome and …. enough facts to look smart in front of friends for many a year.” – Islington Gazette

Born and bred in North Wales I have lived most of my life…

You may also like

Books About Town: Benches inspired by London & iconic books

Books about Town launched in July with benches shaped like open books popping up all over London. The BookBenches feature stories linked to London and are based on a range of iconic books from treasured children’s stories such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Peter Pan to classic adult titles including 1984 and The Day of the Triffids.

Read more

Old Bailey and Newgate Prison Archives Goes Online

1.9m legal and criminal documents have been collated from the records of institutions such as the Old Bailey and Newgate Prison held by the National Archives.

Read more