Descriptions of Welsh costume, 1840-1849
For an explanation of recording conventions, see Chronological survey.

This page includes relevant competition entries from the Abergavenny Eisteddfodau.

1840 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
The platform was entirely occupied by ladies, many of whom were attired in full Welsh costume.
Competition 12, prize given by the Ladies of Abergavenny. A prize of 5 guineas.
For the best specimen of Welsh woollen, woven in any of the national stripes or checks, to be dyed and manufactured within the district of Gwent or Morganwg. The merit will be determined entirely by the brilliancy of the colours.
The object of this prize is the improvement of the dying of the Welsh woollens which are now frequently deteriorated by the mixture of worsted, introduced on account of the superiority of its colour; but which in consequence of its shrinking, when wetted, in a different proportion to the wool, greatly injures the substance and appearance of the fabric, while the best Welsh woollens, as to texture are generally dull and muddy in colour.
N.B. The introduction of foreign wool, or of worsted of any kind, will exclude from competition for any of the Prizes for Welsh woollen.
Mr John Daniel stated that the judges were unanimous in their opinion that the specimens far surpassed any sent in on former occasions. They regretted extremely that the best specimen was disqualified from not being woven in one of the national checks or plaids; it was of great beauty, and contained 26 colours.
Prize winner: Mr William Jones, Machen.
Competition 13, prize also given by the Ladies of Abergavenny. Medal worth 2 guineas, premium of 3 guineas.
For the best specimen of Welsh woollen with reference to texture to be made under the foregoing restrictions. The competitors to be resident within the district of Gwent and Morganwg.
Prize winner: Mr William Jones, Machen.
Competition 14, Prize also given by the Ladies of Abergavenny. Medal value 1 guinea and a premium of 2 guineas.
For the best Black Beaver hat, dyed and manufactured in the county of Monmouth.
Awarded to Mr Thomas Johnson, hatter, Abergavenny.
NLW MS 13962E, 98b, bilingual poster; Cambrian (newspaper), 17.10.1840, 31.10.1840; The Welshman, 9.10.1840.

1840 [Machynlleth to Aberystwyth]
…it was fair day and we were much amused with seeing the county people journeying to [Machynlleth] some on horseback, others walking, most of the women to do [?] some by themselves and some behind a man. They were all very neatly dressed and wore hats which are very becoming and their caps are beautifully quilted and arranged under them …
Sarney, Elizabeth, A journal of a tour through Wales and Herefordshire, undertaken in September 1840, 1840, 22892 A, ff. 14-17

1840s (written in 1880)
[The central episodes of the book describe the growth of the Rebecca movement, the clandestine meetings, and the secret preparations, which culminate in the attack on the Pontarddulais turnpike. There is a graphic description of the rioters gathering on Fairwood common to don their disguises:]
A little way on Fairwood we stopped to blacken our faces and put on our women’s dresses in the soft July twilight. We certainly were a queer-looking lot of women with black faces.I remember I thought the Welsh flannel bedgown I had on was the most disagreeable garment I had ever worn in my life. We were all there mounted-having each got one of the rough ponies that are always grazing on Fairwood.
Dillwyn, Amy, The Rebecca Rioter: a Story of Killay Life, vol. I, pp. 198-199[Novel]
Published in two volumes by Macmillan in 1880, and later serialized in The South Wales Daily Post.
Godfrey, Howard, Rebecca revisited: A note on Amy Dillwyn’s story of Killay (1880), Gower, Vol. 37, 1986

1840 Holyhead
It is more expensive to keep a wife in Wales than in Ireland by at least the value of a beaver hat—the Irish women wearing nothing but a cap in the open air, and the Welsh both cap and beaver. A common round hat, crowded over a muslin frill, is, I must say, as unbecoming a head-gear as could well be contrived—yet so dresses every peasant dame and lass in the land of Glendower.
Willis, N.P., Jottings Down in Wales, American Miscellany of Popular Tales, Essays, Sketches of Character, Poetry … by Transatlantic Authors (London, 1840), pp. 310-311

29.6.1841 Bangor church
It has an odd effect to see the women with their high-crowned, round hats on in church;
2.7.1841 Beddgelert area
The women, in point of costume, have no resemblance to English women. Besides the round hats which they almost all wear, and which, though not unbecoming, give them a peculiar air, a great many, though not all of them, wear a sort of sandal on their feet, without soles, I believe, but with something bound round their naked feet, the nature and purpose of which I could not exactly make out.
Greville, Charles, writing from north Wales in 1841. The Greville Memoirs, 1840-1860, eds. Lytton Strachey and Roger Fulford, (Macmillian, 1938)

1841 [leaving Wales from Rhayader]
In the people we remarked the true John Bull bearing and the women certainly looked more feminine from the absence of the ungainly beaver hat. In short it was “England, dear England” and dear enough we soon found it to our cost.
Anon, ‘Welsh Journal, 1841’, NLW MS 748B, pp. 95-6

1842 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
Competition 13, prize given by Mr Berrington of Woodland, Glamorgan, 1 guinea and a purse.
For the best specimen of Welsh woollen with regard to texture.
Competition 14, prize given by the same, 1 guinea and a purse.
For the best specimen with respect to colour. The object of this prize … dull and muddy in colour. [same as the 1840 eisteddfod]
Competition 15, prize given by Gwenynen Gwent [Lady Llanover] and the committee for 1841, medal worth 2 guineas, premium worth 3 guineas.
Best specimen of scarlet cloth for a cloak, not under 3 yards wide.
Competition 16, prize given by Mr Watkins of Abergavenny, Mr Price of Abergavenny and Mr Barber worth 3 guineas.
For the best woollen whittle in colours and in the National stripes or chequered patterns, not less than 2½ square, fringe included. No other than real Welsh woollens and Welsh patterns will be admitted.
Competition 17, prize given by Mr David Thomas, £1 10s in a purse.
For the best Lady’s black beaver hat made and dyed in Gwent and Morganwg.
Competition 18, prize given by Mr David Thomas, £1 in a purse.
For the second best Lady’s black beaver hat.
NLW MS 13962E, 98c-d, posters in Welsh and English; Cambrian 8.10.1842 (Ball), 22.10.1842 (prizes)
Illustration of bards with harps in the tent of the ‘Welsh Bardic Festival’ (The Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society), held on 12th October. The procession to the town included a Band of musicians playing national marches, the performers attired in scarves of national plaid. Several banners of the society were emblazoned with the Red Dragon of Cadwallader, the Plume of feathers etc. A platform carriage bearing six harpers had postilions dressed in Welsh woollen plaid caps and jackets.
Prizes were awarded for specimens of National manufacture.
Illustrated London News, 22.10.1842, p. 377-8

The Welsh, as a relic of an ancient Celtic people, possess remarkably few external traits of their original. They have, like the Irish, become Anglicised in costume, and we should in vain search amongst them for the breacan or chequered clothing of their Scythian ancestry. The general material of dress is home-made, or at least a common kind of woollen cloth and flannel. Blue is the general colour of attire. The women wear close fitting jackets, and dark brown or striped linsely-woolsey petticoats. The most remarkable part of the Welsh costume is the hat worn by the women. All females, in parts of the country not modernised, wear round black hats, like those of men: and this fashion is supported to a small extent by ladies of the higher rank. This use of the hat is not Celtic : the fashion is derived from England, and is only two or three centuries old.
William Chambers and Robert Chambers, Chamber’s Information for the People, 1842, pp. 588-9. [There are much longer entries for British costumes through the ages and on Irish and Scottish costumes.]

1842 Caernarfon
Saturday being the day of the market at Caernarfon, we saw many of the female peasantry in their bettermost attire … and we could not but be struck with the beauty which seemed generally to be their attribute. The females of the peasantry in Wales attain their beauty early, and matured neatness of form, brilliant eyes and white teeth are accompanied by a girlish softness of countenance …
We thought the round beaver hat worn by the females a handsome attire and relieved as it was by the mob cap beneath it, very becoming.
Anon, A journal of a tour to Chester and North Wales, 1842, and a tour to South Wales, 1852. The tours were made in the company of ‘Mr. Thomas Hunt’. NLW, mss. 4946 C, p. 7

1843 Bangor
How refreshing it is to meet with clean people again, as you do in Wales,—after having been in Ireland; not to offend the Scotch by extending the comparison further. The Welsh are industrious: this is evidenced by the appearance of their farms, houses, persons, and everything about them. I noticed one woman carrying a bundle on her head and knitting as she went along; to which, if she added profitable meditation, she was certainly making good use of her time. Barefooted women, of which you see so many in other parts of the kingdom, to your disgust, are seldom seen here,—at least I noticed few, or none; but it strikes you singularly to see them wearing men’s hats—a common practice among the peasantry, though not universal. This is not attributable to negligence of propriety; it is Welsh taste.
Mitchell, John, 1843, Notes from over sea: consisting of observations made in Europe, in the years 1843 and 1844, Volume 1, (New York, 1845), pp. 219-223

south Wales

The recent results of the special commission, and the still undiminished disorder and outrage in South Wales, [The Rebecca Riots] render this an opportune moment for resuming our illustrations of the localities and characteristics of the country and its people, from sketches made by our artist, who has just returned from the disturbed districts.
Next are three characteristic groups of the peasant population. The Swansea market women wear hats in shape between the hats of the time of Charles I and those worn in England in the present day; they also wear the many-coloured shawl very gracefully, and in every variety of mode; yet numbers of these women are shoeless. Generally speaking, they are good-looking and of elegant carriage; those portrayed in our engraving usually come to market on horseback, sitting between their baskets, and sometimes cross-legged.
The Carmarthenshire peasant women, as well as the women of South and North Wales generally, are remarkable for their fine figures: the girls carry water-pitchers and baskets on their heads, balancing them without holding; some of the pitchers have the classic forms of antiquity. The farmers usually ride to market on small horses, which are well-shaped, strong and active creatures.
The “Rebaccaites,” or “Beccas,” in the second group, are men disguised in women’s large caps and hats, and having their faces blackened: sometimes they wear a women’s bed-gown, a sheet, or their own coat turned inside out; the more grotesque, the more complete the disguise. They also wear bunches of fern and feathers in their hats; and they carry guns, pick-axes, shovels, sledge hammers, cow horns, etc. With what dexterity they use these weapons and implements, recent events have but too plainly shown. These several groups may be relied on for fidelity, having been sketched by our artist on the roadside.
Illustrated London News 11.11.1843

1843 Llandough
I saw certain of the population in the street … little flabby figures, brown as a berry; fat, squat, wide-flowing; their clothes, of almost no colour (such is the prevalence of time and poverty), hung round them as if ‘thrown on with a pitchfork’’
Froude, James Anthony, Thomas Carlyle, A History of his Life in London 1834-1881, 2 vols, vol.1 (1884), p. 302

1843 Neath,
… ridiculous Welsh bodies, all the women of them now with men’s hats, a great proportion of them looking very hungry and ragged.
Froude, James Anthony, Thomas Carlyle, A History of his Life in London 1834-1881, 2 vols, vol.1 (1884), p. 308

1843 Abergwili, Carmarthen
‘Saw ragged Welsh characters in torn hats’
Froude, James Anthony, Thomas Carlyle, A History of his Life in London 1834-1881, 2 vols, vol.1 (1884), p. 310

1843 Carmarthen
‘the women wear the Welsh dress and the ????? speak Welsh. The girls are very pretty and look bright and tidy in their hats and whittles
Lewis, Lady Harriet Frankland, Tour journals, 1841-1863, NLW MS 16582C, 25th October, 1843

1843 Pwllheli
The market is held on Wednesday and Saturday; and from the circumstance of there being no town but this, of any consequence, for an extent in one direction of nearly twenty miles, 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, it will appear remarkably striking, and different from a scene of similar nature in England, where the color of the cloaks, gowns, coats, stockings, and every article of dress, are nearly as various as the persons who wear them: but here, on the contrary, one uniform tint pervades the whole; the men being dressed chiefly 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.
Parry, Edward, Cambrian Mirror : Or A New Tourist Companion Through North Wales (1843) and subsequent editions, (p. 159, 1851 edition)

The national dress or costume of the men (if ever they had any) is not now in use; that of the women, however, is still very peculiar. … One of the most striking parts of the women’s dress is the black beaver hat, which is almost universally worn and is both picturesque and becoming. It is made with a very high crown, narrowing towards the top, and a broad, perfectly flat brim, thus differing entirely from any man’s hat. They frequently give thirty shillings for one of these hats, and make them last the greater part of their lives. The body dress consists of what they call a bedgown, or betcown [sic] as it is pronounced, which is a dress made quite plain, entirely open in front (like a gentleman’s dressing gown), with the sleeves a little short of the elbow. A necessary accompaniment to this is an apron, which ties it up around the waist. The bedgown is invariably formed of what they call flannel, which is a stuff formed by a mixture of wool, cotton, and sometimes a little silk. It is often striped black or dark blue, or brown and white, with alternate broad and narrow stripes, or red and black, but more frequently a plaid of several colours, the red and black being wool, the white or blue cotton, and often a narrow yellow stripe of silk, made in plaid patterns of every variety of size and colour. The apron is almost always black-and-white plaid, the only variety being in the form and size of the pattern, and has a pretty effect by relieving the gay colours of the other part of the dress. They in general wear no stays, and this, with the constant habit of carrying burdens on the head, produces almost invariably an upright carriage and good figure, though rather inclined to the corpulency of Dutch beauties. On their necks they usually wear a gay silk kerchief or flannel shawl, a neat white cap under the hat; laced boots and black worsted stockings complete their attire. In Carmarthenshire a jacket with sleeves is frequently worn by the women, in other respects their dress does not much differ from what I have described.
The women and girls carry (as before mentioned), great loads upon their heads, fifty or sixty pounds weight, and often much more. Large pitchers (like Grecian urns) of water or milk are often carried long distances on uneven roads, with both hands full at the same time. [This is similar to the comments made in the Illustrated London News for 11.11.1843.] They may be often seen turning round their heads to speak to an acquaintance and tripping along with the greatest unconcern, but never upsetting the pitcher. The women are almost invariably stout and healthy looking, not withstanding their hard work and poor living. These circumstances, however, make them look much older than they really are. The girls are often exceedingly pretty when about fifteen to twenty, but after that, hard work and experience make their features coarse, so that a girl of five-and-twenty would often be taken for nearer forty.
All that I have hitherto said refers solely to the poorer class, known as hill farmers. In the valleys and near the town where the land is better, there are frequently better educated farmers, who assimilate more to the English in their agricultural operations, mode of living, and dress.
From ‘The South Wales Farmer: his modes of agriculture, domestic life, customs and character’ written in 1843, published in Alfred Russel Wallace, My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, London, 1905, vol I, pp. 207-222
1823 – 1913. Born in Llanbadoc, near Usk, Monmouthshire. After education in Hertford and London, he moved to Kington in 1839, and then moved to Neath where he lived until 1848. He was in Llanberris and Dolgellau for a month in the 1860s (1866?).


Peasants in their National Costume with the round hat and mob [cap], so becoming to their full faces, are hastening to Llanidloes market with their loads of peat …
The Welsh are a religious people, everyone was hastening to some place of worship and soon the crowded town was wrapped in the silence of the Sabbath. Then the youngsters indulged themselves with a turn on the parade, buxom lassies they were with the high-crowned hat so happily adjusted and the full-eared caps, so particularly adapted to the handsome Cambrian features.
This was market day. We were delighted to see the concourse of country dames in full national costume and to hear the full tones of this noble language.
Anon, An Account of a Tour in Wales, 1844, NLW MS 10566, ff. 45, 54

Another circumstance to be remarked is that the Welsh hats for Women are getting out of fashion and bonnets very much in vogue. This may probably arise from their greater intercourse with strangers and this I will say was an improvement however national characteristic hats may have become.
Said to be Anon, Lancashire Record Office, Preston, Ms DDX1282-4

1844 [Carmarthenshire]
[An English visitor, Anne Beale, wrote a fictional account, though based on observation, of the purchase of a hat by a young girl from the Llandeilo area of Carmarthenshire. It was used as a source by Samuel Griswold Goodrich, for his Manners and Customs of the Principal Nations of the Globe, (Boston: 1845) ], without acknowledgement, other than ‘A traveller’
‘Rachael gently places a good beaver hat on her head … What is the price of that? Fifteen shillings came the reply’. Her father said that it was less than a woman is worth. The shopkeeper said that it was as soft as silk or satin. They bought it for 12/- and also choose a black and red flannel. (p. 62)
We will … follow this troupe of Welshwomen, fresh from market. How well they ride!… No wonder that the French were alarmed into a retreat from the Welsh coast, at the sudden approach of a phalanx of Welshwomen in their red cloaks and shawls.
[On the horse] sits a jolly farmer’s wife with a round face and a broad hat. Each cheek is armed with a very stiff cap, the borders of which nearly meet under the chin. A scarlet cloth cloak falls from her shoulders and almost covers part of her steed; ; beneath the cloak, a dark striped petticoat of coarse woollen material reaches nearly to the shoes, which are very substantial and if they do not shape, at least protect the feet they contain. . … Behind, on the same horse, sits a well-looking girl about eighteen, the age at which the Welshwoman mature into prettiness. There is more attention to appearance observable in her costume. Her rounded figure is shrouded by no cloak, but a neat, crimson handkerchief is pinned tightly over her shoulders, and as the loose outer skirt of her gown falls back, it reveals a petticoat of fine material striped with red. (pp. 69-70)
She also witnessed a Hollantide Fair where ‘the mingled sound of the Welsh guttural and laughter arises out of a black stream of hats; for a bonnet is as rare here as a Queen Anne’s farthing.’ (p. 124)
The heroine, on her wedding day: ‘That Broad-brimmed, high crowned, shining hat conceals none of her beauty … whilst the full border of her lace cap, with its broad white satin strings, displays to advantage her delicate face. A white shawl, pinned over a new Welsh flannel skirt and petticoat, white gloves and a white satin bridal favour complete her … costume’. (p. 301)
Beale, Anne (1816-1900), The Vale of the Towey ; or Sketches in South Wales (1844), pp. 109, 616, republished as Traits and Stories of the Welsh Peasantry (1849)

1844 Bangor
The costume of the Welsh peasant whom we saw on our way struck us as picturesque: the various colours of their dresses, their baskets and large umbrellas and bright handkerchiefs were so like those of France that we seemed to recognise old acquaintances. The great difference, however, is that instead of the high pointed cap and wings of Normandy, and the square headgear of Guienne, all the Welsh women wear black beaver hats, like men’s, which, though not pretty, have a neat appearance, and, with a white frilled cap beneath, and a rosy healthy face to set it off, the effect is not displeasing after a time, though, at the first glance, the aspect of the black hats is ungraceful, particularly in North Wales where they are large and high: in the South they are flatter and the rim rounder and broader, so that they have not so masculine an air. The coloured jackets, worn by girls, are generally of pink cotton, and are clean and gay looking, but ill-made, and wanting the neatness which always distinguishes the French peasants’ costume in all parts of the kingdom. Lively groups of young women, some on horseback, riding double, had met us on their way to Bangor market, as we left the town, and on our return we encountered them again, straggling back to the different villages scattered about amongst the mountains.
Costello, L.S., (Louisa) Falls, Lakes and Mountains of North Wales, (1845), p. 96-98 The above quotation was also published in ‘Littell’s Living Age, vol 6, issue 63, 26 July, 1845 (New York), and in Graham’s Magazine, vol 43, no 5, Nov, 1853, p. 573,

1844 Bala
Were quite struck with the pretty dress & head-dress of the women and did not pass one that was not knitting as fast as her fingers could go. The stockings for sale are wonderfully cheap & good & are the principal article of trade in the place.
Friday 19th: Spent a quiet day & only went out for ½ hour to the little mount above the town where the women sit in the summer with their knitting. Were quite delighted with the cheerful smiling countenances of the women and wished we could make the Monmouthshire cottagers as industrious with their knitting needles and as neat in their dress. The hats & caps with the nice short bedgowns and Welsh petticoats have such a comfortable pretty effect and we did not meet one woman who appeared in poverty or who was not dressed with neatness. We made purchases of a number of stockings which in Bala are very cheap.
Rolls, Elizabeth, Gwent Record Office, F/P4 57, pp. 5-7
Transcribed by Liz Pitman

Merthyr Tydfil

The race of people which we found here, is very much the reverse of handsome; the women wear men’s hats on their heads, or black straw hats, and along with this, a very awkward, ungraceful dress. I was reminded once or twice of the women of Unalaska, mentioned in “ Cook’s Voyages.” (p. 231)
There, one is quite in Wales; … the dress is different. It was market day in this dirty little village, … The women’s dresses were of cloth, and they wore men’s hats with caps under them; the men mostly wore old frieze coats. (p. 234)
It is impossible to avoid remarking, that the people on these sea coasts of Wales, both in their countenances and figures, afford obvious poofs of a higher race and nobler blood than those which are found in the interior. The dress also is somewhat more civilised. That of the men is especially remarkable for the small grey flat felt hat which they wear, whilst the ugly black round hat of the women has not yet wholly disappeared. Whether or not this custom may have any connexion with the tendency we have observed among some of the women to emancipate themselves from the dominion of the men, is perhaps a question. (p. 244)
Carus, Carl Gustav, The King of Saxony’s journey through England and Scotland in the year 1844, (London, 1846)

1844 Dolgellau
Attended the Quakers meeting at Tydden-y-Garreg two miles from Dolgellau, the only members were three females all above 80 years of age … Two of the Friends dressed in the costume of the country, with taper crowned hats on their heads, were seated before a peat fire. {one, Lowry Jones, could speak Welsh}
Matthews, John and Hannah, ‘Journal of a Tour in North Wales in the Summer of 1844’, NLW MS 23063C, f. 98r

The Welsh, as a relic of an ancient Celtic people, possess remarkably few external traits of their original. They have, like the Irish, become Anglicised in costume, and we should in vain search amongst them for the breacan or chequered clothing of their Scythian ancestry. The general material of dress is home-made, or at least a common kind of woollen cloth and flannel. Blue is the general colour of attire. The women wear close fitting jackets, and dark brown or striped linsely-woolsey petticoats. The most remarkable part of the Welsh costume is the hat worn by the women. All females, in parts of the country not modernised, wear round black hats, like those of men: and this fashion is supported to a small extent by ladies of the higher rank. This use of the hat is not Celtic : the fashion is derived from England, and is only two or three centuries old. [Based on William Chambers and Robert Chambers, Chamber’s Information for the People, 1842, pp. 588-9]
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. [mostly derived from 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)
The Welsh market women are exceedingly good riders; … They wear large red cloaks and shawls; and a ludicrous incident once occurred of a body of French invaders being seized with panic and retreating to the coast, at the sight of a phalanx of mounted Welsh wives descending a hill. [On the horse] sits a jolly farmer’s wife with a round face and a broad hat; each cheek discovers the flap of a very stiff cap, the borders of which nearly meet under the chin. A red cloak falls from her shoulders and almost covers the horse; beneath the cloak, a dark striped petticoat of coarse woollen material reaches nearly to the shoes, which are very substantial although ill shaped. … Behind, on the same horse, sits a ruddy-faced, strapping girl of about eighteen, the age at which Welsh females mature into prettiness. There is more attention to show in her costume. Her rounded figure is shrouded by no cloak, but a neat, crimson handkerchief is pinned tightly over her shoulders, and as the loose outer skirt of her gown falls back, it displays a petticoat of fine material striped with red.
[Section in italics based on Ann Beal’s Traits and Stories, 1844, p. 69]
Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Manners and Customs of the Principal Nations of the Globe, (Boston: 1845), p. 88-91 (and subsequent editions)

1845 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
[Procession to the hall included a miniature printing press] worked by two lads dressed in Welsh woollen clothes [and a loom]. … It seemed as though the surrounding country had sent its entire population to the Eisteddfod, while the Welsh costume gave an interesting feature of singularity to the crowded picture.
The Cymreigyddion Festival. – The Procession through Abergavenny
Chorus Singers (two women in Welsh hats and a man)
Harpers (woman in Welsh hat playing a harp, a man playing a harp and a man standing)
Interior of the Cymreigyddion Hall, Abergavenny
Illustrated London News, 25.10.1845, pp. 264-266; Cambrian (newspaper), 19.9.1845 (announcement); 26.9.1845 (re hall); 3.10.1845; 24.10.1845 (prizes, no mention of fabrics).
Rees Thomas, weaver of High Street, Swansea, Prize won for the production of the best specimen of Welsh Fancy flannel. (Missed out of earlier reports)
Cambrian (newspaper), 5.12.1845

1846 The Toilette in Wales
The Ancient costume of Wales greatly resembled that of Ireland; cloaks or mantles were always worn, and the feet were generally naked. The Rev W Bingley, speaking of this country, says: – “The women wear long blue cloaks that descend almost to the feet. They are seldom to be seen without them. In north Wales they all have hats similar to those of the men, and blue stockings, without any feet to them which they keep down by a kind of loop that is put round one of the toes. In the unfrequented parts they seldom wear any shoes, except on Sundays.”
[This is a reasonably accurate quotation from Bingley.]
There are chapters on the costumes of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but the one on Wales is the shortest, and consists almost entirely of quotations. Much of the text is about early (mediaeval and Tudor) costume.
Wilton, Mary, (Egerton, Mary Margaret, Countess of Wilton), The Book of Costume, or Annals of fashion … (1846), p. 191, another edition 1847.

1846 Llanover, Monmouthshire
Wedding of Daughter of Lady Llanover to J Arthur Jones, on the 12 inst.
‘The path through the churchyard was lined with young females in the Welsh costume.’
The Bristol Mercury (Bristol, England), Saturday, November 21, 1846
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 21.11.1846

1846 Bethesda
On reaching Bethesda (a village near the slate quarries) a great number of people attending market and laying out to best advantage their hard earnings of the week; the women here invariably wear high top’d, broad brimm’d hats of very good beaver, with a broad band fastened with a brickle, which looked very grotesque and pleasing.
Doveston, S., Miss, A Few Remarks on a Journey to Shropshire and North Wales, Cardiff Central Library, MS 3.149

Builth Wells

Smart Damsels from the South and West, in fashionable attire mingle with the steeple-hated maids and matrons from the inner parts of the principality. p. 254
Lively groups in their best native costumes … increase the uncommon character of the scene [and lend it] a genuine air …
Knight, C., The Land we live in … (4 vols), (1847-1850), vol 1.

1847 Milford Haven
On board the Victoria and Albert, Milford Haven, Saturday August 14th
Numbers of boats came in and out, with Welsh women in their curious high-crowned men’s hats; … A very pretty dairymaid, in complete Welsh costume, was brought on board for me to see.
Queen Victoria, Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands, from 1848 to 1861, (1868), p. 71

On my first visit to Wales … the first to greet me … was my cousin Betsy. She had adopted the costume of the country and wore a mob [cap] with long ears, loosely pinned, which covered her chin and over that a beaver hat. I found great fault with her dress. p. 31
At an auction … you would be sure to see Peggy with her red mantle on her shoulders and knitting in her hands. p. 45
Nancy in her cloth coat and jacket, her head and face buried in handkerchiefs, under a large beaver hat. p. 59
Lane, Amy, (of Clifton), Sketches of Wales and the Welsh, (1847)

‘Highly amused at the appearance of several old ladies who instead of the regular Welsh hat had some old men’s hats minus brims.’
Goodall, Josiah, Journal of a Trip through North and South Wales, 1848, NLW, MS 676 (Facsimile)

Llantrisant [Glamorgan]

I remarked here too, what I was forced to remark in most of the remote districts – viz the apparent untidiness of the woman’s style of dressing. The clothing in itself is good, warn and substantial ; but either the absence of stays (not in my estimation an absolute requisite in the arcana of feminine elegance in dress, but conducive to it in the absence of better methods), or slovenliness, or want of tact, gives them the appearance of personal neglect; so that a young woman, who may be as perfect as a Vatican Venus, has no more shape than a matron of 50; while the apron strings circling the loosely ordered waist of the gown makes one fancy that the body is severed in two … Add to this the everlasting kerchief round the head and face, no matter what weather, and the comeliness of feature is thus rendered nugatory, …
{Brief comments on farmhouse interiors.} (p. 11)
Their home manufacturers consist of flannels of world wide celebrity, that together with a strong homespun cloth or linsey-woolsey, they use for clothing. (p. 14)
Merthyr Tydfil
I beheld groups of young girls strangely clad and that so much alike as to give their garments the air of costume. [i.e. a traditional costume] (p. 19)
{shown around the Penydarren works}
I had been struck with the number of girls that were employed around the kilns and furnaces … They were tall well grown girls and clad in thick, warm but dingy clothing.
The dress of the women in Merthyr is of a substantial description, and mostly of flannel; the greater proportion are well dressed habited in expensive, though not gaudy attire. This is especially seen at funerals … The hat is not much worn by women of Merthyr, but this ancient costume is still retained in Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire. In this last mentioned county it served well with the red cloak on one occasion to deter the French invaders on the coast of Fishguard.
Costumes in Merthyr are not imported from Paris, and a “Gazette of Fashion” does not exist for them. One may laugh at the Bretoin and Normandiase head-dress, but the woman’s “hat” of Glamorgan is the most hideous and unbecoming thing in creation; thought they consider it the height of ton [sic] to wear a hat that is fabulously high in the crown, broad and flat in the brim, and as much in the style of Mother Shipton’s as it is possible to arrive at. Their garments are warm and the material rather expensive woollen stuffs; but, for comfort and durability, are not surpassed by any textile fabrics whatever. The men dress plainly, but comfortably in substantial broad-cloth and homespun, elegance being sacrificed to ease and durability. The girls wear what takes the look of a costume – a woollen frock, covered with a linen or brown Holland pinafore reaching up to the very neck, and the head covered with the same. By the bye, too, the same ungraceful mode of wrapping the head in a thick kerchief, beneath the heavy hat, appear to prevails [sic] among the Merthyr women. pp. 43-45
Clarke, T.E., A Guide to Merthyr Tydfil and the travellers Companion in Visiting the Ironworks, (1848). Repeated in Roberts, Edwin, A visit to the iron works and environs of Merthyr Tydfil in 1852  (London : 1853)


I took a walk through the town … but discovered nothing worthy of remark, or to distinguish this from an English town except the costume of the women and the occasional sound of the Welsh language, the women wear broad brimmed, steep crowned hats and with bare legs and red shawls they look like personifications of the fabulous Mother Shipton. p. 7
The majority of the female portion of the congregation were dressed after the London fashion; many, like myself were visitors and the remainder belonged to the elite of the place; those ladies who wear the broad brims without a doubt preferred to worship in the melodious accents of their native tongue.
Anon, [Charles Lucey of Clapham], Journal of an excursion to Wales and Ireland, August, 1848, NLW MS 23064 i, p. 21

1848 Aberystwyth
The women, for the most part cleanly dressed, with their wares either upon stalls, behind which they sit, or in a basket over their arms, are clad in woollen or cotton gowns with their black worsted stockings drawn up tightly and evenly, thick-soled black leather shoes or boots, without a speck of dirt or dust upon them, shining almost as brightly as if they had been varnished … This bustle will sometimes continue till six o’clock in the evening; at which hour those who occupy the regular market-stands, and come from a distance, pack up, and return to their several abodes, many carrying their little ones, who are fastened by a belt to their backs, and others knitting stockings as they walk along.
S.S.S. (possibly Sophia S Simpson) Notes on a Tour Through Wales in 1848 published in ‘The Visitor or Monthly Instructor’, 1848
(Williams, M., (1951-2), National Library of Wales Journal, vol. VII p. 78-80)

1848 (15th anniversary, Abergavenny Eisteddfod)
The 11th & 12th of October 1848
The procession on the first day included a Welsh woollen loom in active operation. ‘The leek (formed of satin, pearls and silver,) was conspicuously placed in the dress of all ladies and gentlemen ; the former attired in the Welsh hat and costume. The postillions also wore leeks, and were dressed in Welsh jackets, etc. The Princess Calimaki … also paid the complement of wearing the Welsh hat and cap.
A very beautiful and ornamental arch … [a] representation of a Welsh girl was shown in the act of knitting stockings. …
This institution also encourages the native manufactures of Wales, which we all know have, under its care, increased beyond belief. … allow me to express my gratification at seeing so numerous an assemblage before me – in meeting here the men of Gwent and Morganwg, as well as many of our countrymen of North Wales ; … Many of the ladies, both English and foreign, who have honoured us with their presence, have adopted the native costume of Wales ; and here I would remark that, if all others knew how extremely becoming that costume is, and how enchanting they would appear in it, I believe that the dowdy and unbecoming bonnet would be discarded for ever and the Welsh hat be henceforth adopted in its place. (Great applause and laughter). …
The next prizes were for those for Welsh woollens.
A Prize of ten guineas, by the Right Hon, the Earl of Abergavenny, for the best specimen of Rodney Woollen, not under 10 yards long and 1½ wide.
Mr Wm Watkins, draper of Abergavenny, the judge, said –
For this … prize there are several very excellent specimens … there are two so nearly equal that I have brought them here that they may be seen … by those who are always the best judges – the Ladies. … In judging specimens such as these there are a few points to be considered: 1st the quality of the material; 2nd the colouring ; 3rd the workmanship; 4th the weight ; and 5th, the pattern. In a square inch of [one] there are in the warp (cotton) 20 [threads] ; weft (wool) 80 [threads].
Won by Mr Wm Jones, of Machen (Crynwr).
A prize of three guineas, by the countess of Abergavenny, for the best specimen of Welsh scarlet cloth, sufficient for a cloak … awarded to Mr Samuel Harris, of Gwenffrwd (Ioan Goch).
A prize of three guineas, by the countess of Abergavenny, for the best specimen of colours of Welsh yarn, dyed in Gwent, Morganwg, or any other part of South Wales.
Awarded to Mrs Charles Price, of Brecon (Twm Sion Catty).
A prize of three guineas, by the countess of Abergavenny, for the best pair of undyed black woollen knitted stockings.
[The judge] Mr Watkins said: For this and the following prizes I have received a dozen pairs. The best is Elizabeth Watkins (Nany Sych). If the peasantry in Wales, and in England too, were supplied with such excellent home-made articles as these I believe they would answer their purpose much better than those they now get.
A prize of two guineas, by Mrs Gwynne Holford, for the second best ditto, ditto. Awarded to Gwchyddes (a female weaver), Emma Hywel.
A prize of one guinea, by Mrs Rhys Powell, for the third best ditto.
Awarded to Cymraes Hen, Mrs Griffiths.
A prize of five guineas of Welsh Woollen for a Dress, not under 12 yards long by 1 yard wide.
Awarded to Mr S Harris of Gwenffrwd. [?]
A prize of three guineas, by Lady Morgan, of Tredegar, for the best coloured Welsh Woollen Whittle, in the national stripes or checks.
Awarded to Mr Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd (Ab Harry)
A prize of three guineas, by the late Miss Williams, of Cwmdu for the best specimen of Welsh Blue Cloth, sufficient for a Cloak.
Awarded to Mr Samuel Harris, Gwenffrwd (Ab Shencyn).
A subscription prize of one guinea each by the following [7] tradesmen of Abergavenny: … for the best specimen of Welsh Woollen, not under nine yards long, adapted for waistcoats, in the old national patterns.
Awarded to Mrs Samuel Harris, of Gwenffrwd (Morgrugyn).
A Prize of five pounds by Mr Ieuan ab Howell, of Doncaster, for the best prize specimen of Welsh Woollen for a dress, not less than 12 yards long and 1 yard wide.
A very beautiful specimen : different in texture to the Rodney Woollen, the warp and weft being made of beautifully fine and soft mountain wool. Awarded to Mr Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd (Owain Glendwr).
Mr Watkin then desired to remark that it might be supposed that there was not much competition, in consequence of the same person having received so many prizes, but he begged to state the competition had been very great, and that Mr Harris having been so often successful, was the consequence of his Woollens being the best, and not a consequence of want of candidates.
[Mr Harris was the weaver of Gwenffrwd Mill, Llanover]
A prize of three guineas, by Mrs Maddocks, of Tregunter for the best beaver hat. Mr Restall, hatter, of Abergavenny.
[Mr Restall sold a hat to Lady Llanover in 1879, Gwent Archives, D1210.519]
A prize of two guineas, by Mrs Keymes Tynte, of Cefn Mably, for the second-best beaver hat. Mr Davies, Crickhowel.
[Anon, but possibly by Lady Llanover] A few observations on the manufacture of Welsh Woollens may not here be out of place. The woollens for which prizes are given are of a peculiar sort – made in the Principality alone ; and as there are many spurious imitations in the same patterns – but of very inferior quality – the object is to encourage the genuine material made of the wool of the native sheep (which is particularly soft and fine) as well as to preserve the ancient patterns (or rather checks and stripes) of the Principality, of which there are a great variety; but which, from very few of the principal families having kept up their use for their tenants and retainers (as in Scotland), are in danger of becoming lost, or merged in the numberless new fancy patterns constantly invented. It has been remarked by travellers that the ancient checks and stripes of the Cymru (still preserved and used by the natives) are so completely Oriental in their character, and in the arrangement and distribution of colours, that they might have been supposed to have been brought from the east at this day [sic] but there is another reason for the encouragement of the real Welsh woollens, of far more importance than that of the traveller or the antiquarian. This manufacture is carried on by the native rural population – generally in secluded situations – and does not involve many drawbacks generally attached to the word “manufacture.” A stream of water, with a waterwheel to turn some simple machinery, and a hand-loom, is all that is required ; and consequently, instead of a dense population crowded into a mass of buildings, without air or exercise, the Welsh weaver’s domicile might be taken for a large farm house with ten or twelve healthy children from neighbouring cottages, who are employed in picking wool and spinning during the day, and are generally fed by the master weaver who with his wife cooks for them, dines with them, and generally has not only a good garden, but often a small farm, attached to his dwelling. The material thus produced is, of course, not intended to rival the productions of the complicated and expensive manufactories of England or Scotland : nor is it desirable that any change should be attempted- but merely that the present healthy and useful method of preparing an excellent material for clothing should be encouraged, and prizes given to those who most excel in this craft. The material is most valuable for the poor, as it washes and improves in texture after being washed, and is exceedingly warm and substantial- while it can be made fine enough to be both useful and ornamental for any purposes of ladies’ dress, and also for waistcoats, shooting jackets etc. In former times, the Welsh farmers cultivated flax sufficient for the supply of their own families, and flaxen thread was used in some of the lighter fabrics for clothing mixed with the wool. The cultivation of flax has been discontinued almost entirely during the last 50 years, and where wool alone is not used, cotton thread has been substituted for flax, but is not nearly as durable. It is a question which has of late occupied much attention- whether the great diminution in the cultivation of flax has not been a serious evil to Great Britain generally, and the result of an ill founded prejudice on the part of landlords that it exhausts the ground : however this may be, it is certain that the flaxen thread mixed with wool in Welsh woollens produces a much stronger material than cotton with wool.
[List of prizes, some already given, for various competitions and some not specified.
The list included the following (which is almost identical to the wording of the prize at the 1853 eisteddfod which included the words struck through in the following) :
Gwenynen Gwent [Lady Hall], £5 for the best specimens of Welsh woollens (not less than three inches square each) in the real national checks in the real national checks and stripes, with the Welsh names by which they are known, and with any account of them which can be added; no specimens to be included which have not been known for at least half a century, whether of wool alone, or of wool with flax or cotton. The object of this prize is to authenticate the real old checks and stripes of Wales, and to preserve them, with their real Welsh names, distinct from new fancy patterns.
Fifteenth eisteddfod of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion by Cymreigyddion y Fenni, 1848, Extracted from the Hereford Times of Saturday October 21, 1848. (Printed at the [Hereford] Times Office, Hereford.) [16 A4 pages of small type reporting the speeches and adjudication of prizes in detail. It was not the 15th eisteddfod, but the 9th, held on the 15th anniversary of the first.]

1848 Caernarfon
At a chapel in Caernarfon, the congregation included ‘Women with large broad faces, high Black fur hats, broad brims, caps with ruffles three inches wide and checked blanket shawls.
Olmstead, Lemuel G., Rev, (American), Private Collection
Williams, Peter Howell, The causes and effects of tourism in North Wales 1750-1850, Thesis (Ph.D.) Aberystwyth, 2000, p. 427

1849 (probably), north Wales
The women with masculine faces and large bell-crowned men’s hats, tied with a blue ribbon, made an odd appearance. They seemed a kind of compound of the sexes—not Amazons, for those had beauty—but a centaur race, in which the equestrian was exchanged for a feminine ingredient, while the upper portion remained still unchanged, presiding over the inferior half.
Dickinson, Andrew, My first visit to Europe: or, sketches of society, scenery and antiquities, in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and France, (New York, 1851), p. 35