Robert's income grew very fast and he was able to buy a fairly large house instead of being in lodgings. He also started to travel extensively for the Company.
For the Charlton Twist Company he went on many business trips to Glasgow with a friend who had a Sister, who lived in Glasgow. She introduced Robert to Caroline Dale whose Father David Dale was a prominent banker and industrialist in the New Lanark cotton mills. Caroline was sufficiently taken with Robert and in conversation asked if he would like to see her Father's mill in New Lanark. Robert was generally shy of ladies but jumped at the invitation to see the factory as he had heard this was generally held to be a model of its kind.
When Robert went to see it he did not share her enthusiasm as the mill was ran by James Dale, half Brother to David Dale who was growing old and with no Son. He was getting less vigorous in attending to it's affairs. Robert was between 25 and 26 by then and the friendship with Caroline grew into a romance despite him being unsuitable as he was Welsh, not a Scot nor a member of the Church. But gradually he won David Dale's affection and respect and was able with his Manchester partners to buy the four textile factories in New Lanark for £60,000. This came under his control in 1799 and in the same year he married Caroline and went to live in New Lanark.
Robert replaced James Dale with Robert Humphries as working Manager whom he knew from Bank Top Mill. From then cost and quality were closely controlled and wages and time-keeping were monitored efficiently. His approach to stock control, supervision, absenteeism and persistent drunkenness earned Robert a reputation. However his methods paid off and made his business more profitable expanding into new markets and abroad. Robert was managing Mills and in charge with his business partners.
In 1807 he came to terms with a group of wealthy philanthropists including Jeremy Benthan the philosopher and William Allen the Quaker who were prepared to give him a free hand and only required 5% return on their capital.
In the meantime Robert and Caroline's Child was born. The first-born died in infancy but they went on to have 7 more childern; 4 Sons and 3 Daughters. First in 1801 Robert Dale Owen, 1802 William, 1805 Anne Caroline, 1805 Jane Dale, 1807 David, 1809 Richard Dale and 1810 Mary. Their childhood was spent in New Lanark.
Caroline was a loving wife and mother and the marriage was a happy one despite their religious differences. Like her father Caroline had a deep Christian faith and prayed that Robert would convert but he believed all religious sects to be fudamentally wrong and a source of conflict in society. However he never interfered with his wife's religious instruction of their children.
The Chiltern Twist Company expanded rapidly but Robert was not only concerned only with making money. He was also interested in creating a new type of community in New Lanark. He believed that a person's character is formed by the effect of their environment and was convinced that if he created the right environment he could produce rational, good and human people.
Robert argued that people were naturally good but they were corrupted by the harsh way they were treated so he set about changing conditions in New Lanark to support his belief in the factory by refusing to employ children under the age of 10. He restructured the organisation so as to minimise pilfering and he apposed a physical punishment in the factory. Instead he introduced fines and dismissals.
David Dale Owen originally built a large number of houses close to his factory in New Lanark. By the time Robert arrived there was a total of 2000 people and they called it The Village. He was then the new owner and as there were children at the age of 5 working this is were he stopped them as they were working 15 hours a day. He built a school as Robert was convinced that education was critically important to the development the type of person he wanted.
The first school was a nursery and an infants schools. Then a school was provided for the older children to attend part of the day. Robert set about changing the conditions in New Lanark to support of his beliefs. Outside the factory were he went to Glasgow to look for 50 orphan children from the age of 10 to be employed in the factory and he clothed them.
Robert shortened the hours to ten working hours a day and abolished all punishment but for fines. The Village was called The Community and with clean pavements and streets he built additional rooms for workers and one room houses. Shopkeepers replaced their wares with good coal, clothes and pure food which he bought in bulk and he even persuaded the Villagers to try buying collectively. He did this realising initially they thought his motives suspect and it was 1806 before he gained their complete confidence by paying full wages.
Robert's interest was however mostly in the children. He believed that the character of men, women and children depended on education and he built more schools to take in children from outlining Districts that could walk to school. The schools were then used all day and evening classes provided for the community on all subjects.
We think of schools today as Robert did over 180 years ago. Roberts father-in-law David Dale even started a school in 1790. It was a well structured system at the time.
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