Descriptions of Welsh costume, 1820-1829
For an explanation of recording conventions, see Chronological survey.
When Mary, one of the maids, lost an article of clothing, David Davies resorted to methods which would hardly have received the official approval of his church:1 July 1820. Mary had lost her bedgown from the house which I thought to conjure. [The result was described shortly afterwards:] In the night I conjured very dreadful it came in the morning about 7 oclock Sally found it in the garden.
Diary of David Davies, University of Wales Swansea, Local Archive Collection
Williams, E.C., Davies the diarist: a Treboeth journal 1819-1833 Gower, Vol. 56, (2005), p. 64
‘the dress of the women, a blue cloak and man’s black beaver hat, makes them good figures in a landscape, though a RED cloak would be better’
Newell, Robert Hasell, Rev, (1778-1852). Letters on the Scenery of Wales; including a series of Subjects for the Pencil, with their Stations determined on a General Principle; and Instructions to Pedestrian Tourists. London: 1821, p. 61
Yn yr Eisteddfod yma, dywedodd y Llywydd, ardderchocaf Ardalydd Môn, yn ei ffordd enillgar arferol, ei fod ef yn hoffi gwyneb prydweddol o dan het ddu gryno, o’r fath a wisgai genethod yr Eryri, yn hytrach na’r cycwllau Ffrenging mawrion ag oedd ef bryd hyny yn weled yn cuddio amryw wynebau siriolwedd; ac efe a gymeradawai wisgoedd y boneddigesau Cymreig yn hytrach na’r defodau tramor presenol. Dywedir fod araeth y Llywydd Ardderchog wedi cael yr effaith ddymunadwy; ymddangosai agos yr holl foniddigesau yn helfeydd Pwllheli a Chaernarfon ag hetiau duon ar eu penau, y rhai o barch i’r Ardalydd a alwent “Hetiau Môn”
(In this Eisteddfod the honourable President, the Marquess of Anglesey in his usual infectious manner expressed his preference for a sweet face under a neat black hat as worn by the maidens of Snowdonia, than the large French bonnets to which he had become accustomed of late; and he praised the attire of the Welsh ladies than those from the continent which were in vogue at the present time. It was said this remark from the Honourable President had the desired effect; almost all the ladies who attended the Pwllheli and Caernarfon hunts wore black hats upon their heads which as a mark of respect to the Marquess they referred to as ‘Anglesey Hats’)
Anon, Seren Gomer, 1821, p. 374. [Translation by Huw Roberts]
At the well-attended and pleasant meeting of the Cambrian Eisteddfod at Carnarvon, the most noble, the Marquis of Anglesea, as president, while in his polite and fascinating manner was observing upon the appearance and fashion of the ladies, stated that he very much preferred and admired a beautiful face under a neat black hat, such as the lasses of Snowdon wore, to the large French bonnets that he then saw hiding several charming faces, and recommended the former dress of the Welsh ladies to the present foreign fashions. The advice of the noble president has had the desired effect, for nearly all the ladies at the last Pwllheli and Caernarvon hunts appeared in black hats which are, in complement to the president called ‘The Anglesea Hats’ All the beautiful faces of north Wales are likely to be soon protected by an Anglesea Hat’
The Cambrian (newspaper), 10.11.1821
… the women have clean frilled caps tied under their chins and wear over these a man’s hat of felt or coarse beaver and have shoes and stockings of black worsted, in general the rest of their dress nothing uncommon – clothes very neatly put on – the men wear what my father calls slop frocks like loose great coats cut short.
Diary of Sarah Brinkley, August, 1822, Clwyd Record Office, DD/PR/133
I cannot agree with the eulogy which some writers have bestowed on the beauty of the females. A very fine and sensible countenance, lighted up by sparkling dark eyes, may sometimes be seen, with great cleanliness of complexion ; but I think the mass of Welsh women are plain ; their forms are by no means advantageously displayed; they are concealed by an uncouth dress, which has endured among them for ages—namely, the bed-gown with sleeves, the broad handkerchief over the shoulders, the mob cap and handkerchief round the head, or the round beaver hat alone. This last, with the natural hair in ringlets, is exceedingly becoming. The men’s dress is not singular, except that by some of their own country flannels are worn. p. 16
[Later he met] ‘lads and lasses in holiday attire … the studious neatness of the dresses of all the females … and the precision with which every article of their national habit was retained in its due and proper place. p. 96
Freeman, G.J., Rev., Sketches in Wales, or a Diary of three Walking Excursions in that Principality in 1823, 1824, 1825, (1826)
Repeated in Leigh’s guide to Wales and Monmouthshire: containing observations on the Mode of Travelling …1831, (4th edition 1839), p. 9
Market day ‘and it was tolerably well attended chiefly by women who all wear black beaver hats and a mob cap which makes them look anything but pretty’
Chapman, William, Notes of a Tour in North Wales, NLW, mss. 20138 A, p. 26
It was market day – Mama purchased a Welsh woman’s muslin cap & tried on a pair of wooden shoes which are very generally worn here.
Porter, Phoebe, Diary 1824, Worcestershire Record Office, BA 3940/68(i)
The Welsh women have peculiar method of carrying their Babies – by wrapping a long piece of woollen first round the child & then passing it round their own shoulders & doubling it again over the child’s feet [siol magu]. They also ride with their children in this manner.
Porter, Anne, diary, Worcestershire Record Office BA 3940 Parcel 65 (ii) 705: 262
There is a remarkably large market place building in this town where I bought a white Welsh whittle manufactured in the place.
On our road we met numbers of Welsh women riding home from market most of them in red whittles which are usually worn in this county & with men’s hats. The female Peasantry have a very picturesque appearance & they are much prettier in this County (Glamorganshire) than in Carmarthenshire.
Porter, Anne, Worcestershire Record Office, BA 3940 Parcel 65 (ii) 705: 262
A singular novelty attracted the attention of the fashionables at Aberystwyth last season, in the person of a gentleman of fortune, who appeared daily on the Marine Terrace, dressed in a pair of Cossack-cut trowsers of Welsh manufacture, the colour dark blue, with small red stripes; being the very identical material of which the females of the counties of Merioneth, Cardigan, and other parts of Wales, from time immemorial have made their gowns and petticoats.
Prichard, Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn, (1790-1862) The new Aberystwyth guide to the waters, bathing houses, public walks, and amusements : … (Aberystwyth, 1824), p. 179
Adams, Sam, Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Prichard (UWP, 2000)
(There is another reference to trowsers made of black and crimson striped fabric worn by the son of John Wales, Ist Lord Ormathwaite in 1833)
1824, Llangystennin, Caernarfonshire
Items stolen by Charlotte Davies included:
1 Stuff bedgown 1s 0d; 1woollen bedgown 6d. Is 0d, 1 Stuff gown 10s. 0d.
Court of Great Sessions, 4/282/2, 2nd July, 1824
Peggy Williams of Ffrydiau was murdered. Her body was found with the help of John Harries the local surgeon and dyn hysbys [wise man]. She was wearing a gown, petticoat and shift.
Breconshire Great Sessions report. (Bethan Phillips, The Lover’s Graves, 2008, p. 77)
Nearly the whole of the dress of the peasantry is manufactured by themselves, they dye, card and knit their own wool, and flax, which are made up into every article of bed furniture and clothing, so that they have nothing to purchase but hats and shoes, and of the use of the latter they are very economical ; wooden clogs being used by both sexes on all ordinary occasions.
Batenham, A., The traveller’s companion in an excursion from Chester through North Wales. (Chester : [1820s]), p. 99
Welsh dress – ‘many of them preferring ease to elegance discard that necessary part of an Englishwomen’s dress commonly called stays. Most we saw were knitting socks or stockings for sale though the children & many of the women were without any.
Spurrett, Eliza, Journal of a Tour in North Wales, 22nd July, 1825, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, 7D542/1
Ann Llewellin and her children received £5/14/0, as well as a bedgown and flannel for petticoats
The Poor Law in operation in the parish of Rumney, 1825-30, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (Part 2) (1966), p. 362
1825 (on route from Holyhead to Birmingham)
[Women wore] ‘un chapeau d’homme’ (‘a man’s hat’)
Montulé, Voyage en Angleterre et en Russie pendant les années 1821, 1822 et 1823 (Paris: Arthus Bertrand, 1825), p.230. Translation by Heather Williams
1826 Caernarfon to Llanberis road
We met numbers of Welsh farmers going to market at Caernarfon, and many females also bending their way thither. If on foot, they were all employed in knitting, carrying at the same time a heavy basket on their heads, and wearing generally no shoes, but stockings, which being without the lower part of the feet were looped over the middle toe, covering the upper part of the instep, but leaving the foot bear upon the ground. Black hats and large caps were in universal wear, and ruddy cheeks and healthy countenances were apparent in all the females whom we met, whether on foot or fearlessly riding over the rough and uneven roads.
Anon, A Trip to the Suspension Bridge over the Menai Straits, to Caernarvon, the Lakes of Llanberis, Snowdon, Beddgelert, Capel Curig, Llanwrst, Conway and Beaumaris. Printed in the Stockport Advertiser, 21.7.1826 and four following weeks, now reprinted with corrections. (1827), p. 16
1826 North Wales [fiction]
In ‘the very interior of north Wales’ they encounter the natives in ‘their holiday habiliments, nice black hats and blue petticoats which constitute, indeed, the usual dress of the women, notwithstanding they are content to go barefoot’ and were ‘delighted with their unaffected simplicity’
Weston, Louisa, The Cambrian Excursion, intended to inculcate a taste for the beauties of nature; and to direct attention of Young People to sources of Mental Improvement. (London, 1826), p. 66-67; another edition, 1841
Scarcely any but the old women in Llangollen wear the round hat, but the coloured petticoat & short jacket, with the long blue cloak are generally worn.
Lady Crewe, National Library of Wales, NLW 21746 B, f. 10
The women of the lower orders poor & squalid with however good features & complexions & some of them we remarked as quite handsome, their men’s hats very becoming to them. We saw several without either shoes or stockings.
Elizabeth Ernst, Somerset Record and Archive Service, DD/SWD/10/7, p. 3
Women uniformly dress alike, viz., men’s hats over their white caps, blue or black and red gowns with short sleeves with linen arm covers, dark blue stockings and cloth habits or cloaks of a dark colour. (p. 49)
This is market day at Carmarthen, we accordingly met hundreds of Welsh women coming into town on horseback, dressed in men’s black hats, habits, coats and cloaks, with saddle bags well loaded. … met a Welsh girl, 15 or 16 years of age sitting astride a horse … her stout legs dressed in dark blue stockings. (p. 55)
I saw the good folks pass the window to Church, and the women were universally dressed in men’s hats, both rich and poor; even Ladies of otherwise the most delicate appearance, who were distinguished by some beautiful lace round their necks and riding on horses. (p. 71)
You cannot go out of your house at any time of the day [in Wales] or look anywhere but what you see, either a woman riding on horseback to market; or a lovely dark eyed Welsh girl, for they are universally pretty, riding in or out of town or leading out her horse, or adjusting her saddle or riding habit, or in some way or other occupied in connection with a horse; so that in fact a painter to represent the manners and customs of the Welsh on canvas, should never omit a Welsh female and her horse. I have made this observation in six towns and all through Wales, and it seems to me to be the strongest feature the historical traveller will meet with in his journey through the country. (p. 86)
At Tre’r Ddol saw several weavers’ looms and many black hat makers, counted 31 hats drying at one house. (p. 99)
Ruthin. Today every street was crowded with the fair and I observed all the Welsh women wearing bonnets. (p. 118)
Watercolour: ‘Dress of the Welsh Ladies, Sept 1826’. Woman wearing a long coat, buttoned down the front. (p.13)
Masleni, Thomas John, Sketch of a Tour of Scenery in Wales, 1826, NLW Mss 65a
The western side of England is inhabited by the Welsh, descendants of the ancient Britons, who, though they have long lived under the English government, still remain an unmixed race, and adhere to the customs of their forefathers. Their language is a dialect of the Celtic; but in the towns the English is generally spoken. Wales was a seat of learning at a very early period, and furnished the Anglo Saxons with an alphabet. In more recent times, it has produced some eminent literary characters.
In their persons, the Welsh are generally short and stout-limbed. The women, for the most part, have pretty round faces, clear complexions, with dark expressive eyes, and good teeth. The higher class dress like the English ; but in the more humble ranks, the national costume is preserved, which, for both men and women, is composed of home-made woollen cloth. The coat, breeches, and stockings, of the men, are always blue, and their waistcoats red; their shirts are of blue or red flannel, except in some parts of the northern counties, where they are striped: The common dress of the females in South Wales consists of a jacket, made tight to the shape, and a petticoat of dark brown or striped linsey-woolsey, bound with different colours. Young women wear mob-caps, pinned under the chin, and small round felt or beaver hats, like the men. The elderly women commonly wrap up their heads in two or three coloured handkerchiefs, over which they put a large felt hat. Both young and old throw a scarlet whittle across their shoulders, which completes their dress. In North Wales, the costume is similar, except that the Whittle is superseded by a large blue cloak, descending nearly to the feet, which is worn at all seasons, even in the hottest weather. Linen is rarely used; flannel being substituted in its place. Nor are shoes or stockings worn, except sometimes in fine weather; and then they are carried in the hand, if the owner be going any distance, and put on only at or near the place of destination, the feet being first washed in a brook.
The women of the lower order are sober and industrious; they assist in tilling the ground, and manufacture clothing for themselves and families; for to them belongs the whole process of spinning the wool, and knitting the yarn into stockings, or of dyeing and weaving it into cloth, flannel, or blankets. They are very tender mothers, and carry their children, tied upon their shoulders, wherever they go. The men are less industrious than the women, and do not work so many hours, nor with so much energy, as Englishmen.
The Welsh are religious observers of the sabbath; and the poorest cottager and his family, however numerous, are always clean and decent on that day. They still retain many of their ancient superstitions, prejudices, and customs; and are extremely credulous on many points, which persons of more enlightened understandings regard as mere illusions.
[582 words for Wales, 1165 for each Scotland and Ireland]
Aspin, Jehoshaphat, Cosmorama; a view of the Costumes and Peculiarities of all Nations, (London : Harris, [n.d. but 1826 / 1827], p. 90; New ed. 1834, p. 42)
Contains descriptions of the costumes of many parts of the world, illustrated with coloured prints.
Republished in: A View of the World as Exhibited in the Manners, Costumes and Characteristics of All Nations, Originally written by J Aspin and adapted to the use of American Schools by the Rev J J Blake, (3rd edition, New York , 1841), pp. 85-87
The women carry on their heads, their mob caps white and not tyed under the chin- round beavor [beaver] hats – bare footed but pretty featured, dark eyes … and wear bed gowns of wool and cotton manufacture.
The Carmarthenshire women are particularly upright and wear the round black beavor hats small verge and high crown – we find them all very civil and cheerful …
We stopt 3 times, at New Inn [Carmarthenshire], Llanuwen [Llanwnen] and Pennant … We asked them if they would not like to wear bonnets instead of beavor [beaver] hats – No no was the reply not if you gave me ever so much – the gown she had on, had lasted 12 years, of wool and cotton of their own weaving – it costs about 16 shillings and it is the regular dress of the country, warm and substantial.
Our Inn (the Eagle) offers us a large dining room for a sitting room which looks into the market place but the street seems without inhabitants except the females who sit knitting on the thresholds of their doors. They will knit a pair of stockings in a day and a half. They knit for the Welsh shop keepers who sell them elsewhere by wholesale. These stockings are thin & very different from those they knit for their own wear. The more I see & hear of the Welsh females, the more I find they are very particular & proud of their dress. The common people’s gowns are 4/6d a yd. but a smart country girls’ gown will cost her thirty shillings but perhaps has a little silk wove into it. But then it is so substantial that it will last her 6 yrs. … Here the women wore long cloaks over one shoulder and under the other, tied in front with their child carried within [siôl magu].
Two anonymous women from Norfolk travelled around Wales during June and July, 1827. Cardiff Central Library, 2.325
Probably Mrs Judith Beecroft and her daughter Miss Laura Beecroft.
Part published in Williams, H., Stage Coaches in Wales, (Barry, 1977), 96,
1827 (in steerage on board the steamer from Liverpool to Bangor)
There found … 3 Welsh Women with their nasty men’s hats.
Romily, Rev Joseph diary entry 12.9.1827. Morris, M G R, (editor), Romily’s Visits to Wales, 1827-1854, p. 2
1827 (or earlier), Pwllheli
… the markets are numerously attended, and to a person who has never had an opportunity of seeing a large assembly of the natives, in their holiday dress, will appear remarkably striking, and different from a scene of a similar nature in England, where the colour of the cloaks, gowns, coats and stockings, and every article of dress are nearly as various as the persons who wear them; but here, on te contrary, one uniform tint pervades the whole; the men being dressed completely in blue, which is the prevailing colour; and the women wearing blue cloaks and men’s hats with a white muslin handkerchief tied round the head and under the chin. Thus exhibiting one sombre moving mass of black and blue, in all its various shades and modifications. p. 60
Nearly the whole of the dress of the peasantry is manufactured by themselves, they dye, card and knit their own wool, and flax, which are made up into every article of bed furniture and clothing, so that they have nothing to purchase but hats and shoes, and of the use of the latter they are very economical ; wooden clogs being used by both sexes on all ordinary occasions. p. 99
Batenham, A., The Traveller’s companion in a pedestrian excursion from Chester through North Wales, including a description of the suspension bridge at Bangor, (1827 edition),
Today the Welsh lasses have thot [thought ?] proper to clothe their legs and feet. Yesterday in one walk from Merthyr we saw so much nakedness as quite to shock us. This, bye the bye is one of the means of distinction between the sexes for we never see the men (the poorest) without shoes or stockings. Reasons of the confusion is the plainness, size and strength of the women, they are almost altogether masculine. (p. 26)
September 12th Witnessed a Welsh wedding, found no peculiarity about it except the great attendance of friends – the couple in this instance were apparently poor, yet they were accompanied by about 50 people respectably dressed in their way – hats and caps, hooded cloaks, stout leather shoes and black worsted stockings.’ (p. 39)
Captain Lloyd, A Diary of Journey from Charring Cross, London, through Wales, by Captain Lloyd, 1827, NLW MS 786
‘Mr Braham also said (in fun) “that he expected to see – the Welsh Lass’s in Round Hats – blue and red cloaks etc”
Parry, John Orlando, (1810-1879) ‘A Journal of a tour in the Northern part of Wales, made in September, 1828, NLW minor deposits 293B, 18th September, 1828.
[This includes a full account of his and his father’s part in the Denbigh Eisteddfod and the quotation comes from a friend who attended a concert in the church on the Sunday evening. This is the only reference to costume in the diary, implying, perhaps that Welsh costume wasn’t worn very much at the eisteddfod, but since his father John Parry (Bardd Alaw) was born in Denbigh, they might have been so familiar with it, that it was not worth mentioning.]
[From a novel in which Graspacre an English squire in Wales, collected maidservants from each ‘let’ of his tour, and his wife refined their costumes.]
Above all things he admired the female costume in Wales, and protested, with much truth, that the poor people in England were not half so well, or so
neatly, clothed … and the Welsh female costume, she protested still more loudly against, and asked him with a sneer if he did not conceive it capable of improvement. “Oh, certainly, my dear,” would he reply, ” for instance, I would have the Glamorganshire girls wear shoes, and soles to their stockings; and convert their awkward wrappers into neat gowns; the Cardiganshire fair ones should doff their clogs, and wear leathern shoes; and the Breconshire lass, with all others who followed the same abominable habit, should be hindered from wearing a handkerchief around the head; but I know of no improvement that can be suggested for the Pembrokeshire damsel, except one—which, indeed, would be equally applicable to all Welsh girls—namely, to throw off their flannel shifts, and wear linen ones.”
It should have been mentioned before, that the squire, soon after his marriage, had made a tour of South Wales, and, as his lady expressed it, taken a whim in his head of engaging a maid servant in every county through which he passed; so that in Graspacre Hall there were to be found maiden representatives in their native costumes, of all the different shires of South Wales, except Radnor, in which, the squire said the barbarous jargon of Herefordshire, and the paltry English cottons, had supplanted the native tongue and dress of Wales. There might you see the neat maiden of Pembrokeshire, in her dark cloth dress of one hue, either a dark brown approximating to black, or a claret colour, made by the skill of a tailor, and very closely resembling the ladies’ modern riding habits,—a
perfect picture of comfort and neatness, in alliance with good taste. There would you see her extreme contrast, the Glamorganshire lass, in stockings cut off at the ankle, and without shoes; and, although a handsome brunette with fine black eyes, dressed in a slammakin [untidy loose gown] check wrapper of cotton and wool, utterly shapeless, and tied about the middle like a wheat-sheaf, or a faggot of wood : possessing, however, the peculiar conveniences that it could be put on in an instant, without the loss of time in dressing tastefully, and that it would fit every body alike, as it is neither a gown nor a bedgown, but between both, and without a waist.—There would you see the young woman of Breconshire, with her pretty blushing face half hidden in a handkerchief which envelopes her head, that at first you would fancy the figure before you to be a grandmother at least.—Her long linsey gown is pinned up behind, each extreme corner being joined together in the centre, and confined a few inches below her waste; she has her wooden soled shoes for every day, and leathern ones for Sunday, or for a dance, which, with her stockings, she very economically takes off should a shower of rain overtake her on a journey; and when it ceases, washes her feet in the first brook she meets, and puts them on again. This fair one takes especial care that her drapery shall be short enough to discover a pretty ankle, and her apron sufficiently scanty to disclose her gay red petticoat with black or white stripes, beneath, and at the sides. Then comes the stout Carmarthenshire lass with her thick bedgown and petticoat of a flaring brick-dust red, knitting stockings as she walks, and singing a loud song as she cards or spins. Lastly, though not the least in importance, behold the clogged and cloaked short-stature woman of
Cardiganshire. She scorns the sluttish garb and bare feet of the Glamorganshire maiden, and hates the abominable pride of the Pembrokeshire lass who is vain enough to wear leathern shoes instead of honest clogs; proving at the same time that her own vanity is of a more pardonable stamp, while she boasts with truth, that her own dress cost twice as much as either of the others. The Cardiganshire women’s dresses, in fact—generally blue, with red stripes, and bound at the bottom with red or blue tape—are entirely of wool, solidly woven and heavy, consequently more expensive than those made of linsey or minco, or of the common intermixture of wool and cotton, and presenting an appearance of weighty warmth more desirable than either a comely cut or tasty neatness.
On his return to dinner, a few days after the suggestion about the dresses of the maids, he was astonished to find that Mrs Graspacre had used this privilege with a vengeance; having, with decided bad taste, put them all, at their own expense, to be deducted from their wages, into glaring cotton prints. The girls were unhappy enough at this change, as well as at the expense to which they were put, and they never could enter the town without experiencing the ridicule of their friends and neighbours; the Cardiganshire maid, who considered such a change in the light of disowning her country and like a renegade putting on the livery of the Saxon, in something of a termagant spirit, tendered her resignation to her master rather than comply with such an innovation. This ungenerous invasion of his harmless rules, roused his indignation; and after venting a few “damns” a la John Bull, against draggletail cotton rags, without a word of expostulation with his rib, he desired the girls to bring all their trumpery to him, which they gladly did, and he made them instantly into a bonfire in the farm yard. He then in a firm under tone of subdued resentment, gave strict injunctions that no further liberties should be taken with their national costume; to which his lady made the polite and submissive reply, that the girls might all walk abroad without any dress at all if he chose, and go to the devil his own way.
Thomas Jeffrey Llewelyn PrichardThe Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti; Descriptive of Life in Wales: Enterspersed with Poems. Aberystwyth : printed for the author, by John Cox, 1828, pp. 45-49
(2nd edition 1839; 3rd edition 1873)
Prichard catalogued Augusta Hall’s library in the late 1820s and may have influenced Augusta Hall through his novel in which he described regional costumes.
At the market house I was much struck with the appearance of some women sitting with a small bundle of peat before them for sale and diligently knitting, a strong exemplification of poverty, patience and industry. The men are rather below the usual size of English with sharp features, thin and active, but also unwilling to follow any laborious employment; the women on the contrary are usually of good size and figure, and the younger part of them comely and appear to most advantage when divested of that unseemly bandage of black with which they shroud their features when out of the house, the black hat is the most expensive article of dress and rather becoming, the country people often go barefoot, indeed, shoes are rather an incumbrance in climbing hills and traversing rugged ground, black stockings are worn without feet but with a narrow slip passing over the upper part of the foot and bound by a loop round the second toe, there is a good reason for this, they have so much walking in bog land and their feet often wet with its yellow waters that stockings would be a great inconvenience. The women have certainly the appearance of being industrious, and may often be met with carrying a load of peat supported by a belt from the head and knitting on the way.
Anon, A journal, with sketches, of a walking tour from Kington to Aberystwyth and through parts of North Wales, 1828 and Manuscript Account of a Tour into Wales undertaken May 1828 [in north Wales], NLW MS 6716D, p. 21
I was rather astonished at entering Conway which I had not observed before, to see nearly all the women in men’s hats, I thought at first this custom must be peculiar to that town but found afterwards it was the custom throughout Wales; also there is another Welsh custom of which I did not at first take much notice of, but which Mr R remarked to me; it is, that the women of the workhouse are made to carry pails of water or milk on their heads to make them stand upright.
Clark, Charles B.,Tour of Wales in August and September, 1828, NLW MS 15002A, 14th August, 1828
1828 Holyhead harbour
The first thing that struck us in Anglesey was the costume of the women who all wear men’s hats not much to the improvement of their appearance, by no means naturally beautiful or handsome. p. 48
[went] to see the market and had a good opportunity of observing the inhabitants. There were few men in proportion to the women, the former being most probably employed at the harvest whilst their wives attended the market, there as before, mentioned all wear men’s hats and a strong dark blue cloak, so that if it were not for the cap they have under their hat, it would be difficult to say at a little distance to which sex they belong. Many of them come to market on horseback, carrying baskets on one or both arms, and those who walk generally knit stockings, going in parties of three or four.’ p. 50
Adie, A.J., ‘Journal of an Excursion for Ireland, Wales and England by Alexander James Adie, when he was aged 20.’ 1828, National Library of Scotland (NLS), Ms 24630
The Women of the mountainous parts of the country are generally of the middle size. Their features are often very pretty, but in point of figure they are in general uninteresting. They wear blue cloaks, that descend almost to their feet. These they are seldom to be seen without, even in the hottest weather, owing to the frequency of showers in a country surrounded with mountains. On their legs they have blue stockings without any feet to them: they keep them down by means of a loop fastened round one of the toes. In the more unfrequented parts the women seldom wear any shoes, except on a Sunday, or the market-day, and even on those days they often carry them in their hands as they go along the roads. Six or eight of them are frequently to be seen, after their journey from an adjacent village, seated on the bank of a rivulet, in the act of washing their feet previously to their entering the market town. During these journeys they often employ their time in knitting, and a heavy shower of rain will not sometimes Compel them to give up their work. … A few years ago a custom of wearing black clothes during the season of Lent was observed by some old persons, but it is now wholly laid aside.
Easter-Day is kept as the Sunday is generally kept in Wales, that is, with much and becoming respect to the sacredness of the day. It is also marked by somewhat of better cheer, as a festival, of which lamb is considered as a proper, constituent part. In some places, however, after morning-prayer, vestiges of the Sunday sports and pastimes remain.—It is thought necessary to put on some new portion of dress at Easter, and unlucky to omit doing so, were it but a new pair of gloves or a ribband.
Cathrall, William, History of North Wales comprising a Topographical Description of the Several Counties of Anglesey, Carnarvon, Denbigh, Flint, Merioneth and Montgomery, 1828, vol. 1, Chapter on Modern Manners, Customs, and superstitions of the Welsh, p. 359 and following
Black stockings, blue cloaks, and men’s hats, all admire,
Which appear’d to be every female’s attire.
From a poem describing a wedding in the neighbourhood of Llanberis, Caernarvonshire, written by a Gentleman who was present at the occasion, quoted by Cathrall, William, History of North Wales comprising a Topographical Description of the Several Counties of Anglesey, Carnarvon, Denbigh, Flint, Merioneth and Montgomery, 1828, vol. 1, p. 359
1829 [possibly Beddgelert]
an immense number of people returning from a large Methodist meeting that had been held in the neighbourhood. The women mostly wore a long bed gown with a handkerchief on front of the cotton print, and a petticoat made of striped white and blue stuff. They are certainly the most elegant and beautiful rustics I ever saw so tall and slender with such small waists and ankles and dark hair and eyes that they looked like ladies in disguise and had a very different appearance to the short puffy thick limbed women of Cardiganshire and Radnorshire to be seen about Cwm Elan.
Peel, William, Dyfed Record Office, Carmarthen, Ms Taliaris, 313