1850s

Descriptions of Welsh costume, 1850-1859
For an explanation of recording conventions, see Chronological survey.

1850s St Dogmaels
At St Dogmael’s some 30 years ago, nothing else was in fashion with young or old and it was a really pretty sight to see the apple-cheeked maidens wearing the high beaver cones over clean ribboned caps, crossed shawls, flannel aprons and low shoes tripping it to church on a Sunday. Where these hats have disappeared to nobody knows. They are nearly as extinct as the great plesiosaurus. Occasional specimens may still be found at Llanover or at Swansea Market on a Saturday.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Friday, September 30, 1887, (from An English Novelist’s Travels in Wales – Charles Reade? See article by Mr A.H. House in the new number of Atlantic Monthly)

1850s Llangollen
{The subjects of this story when at Llangollen, met a peasant child.} She was oddest-looking little figure in the world, bare-legged and wearing a black wide-awake hat and red petticoat. (p. 8)
The door stood open  and an old woman, wearing a high-crowned black hat and busily knitting stockings sat by the fireplace. … {the English girl who had been caught in a storm was offered} a coarse but tidy coarse woollen frock, a black wide-awake, a calico pinafore and a pair of thick leather shoes with wooden soles. (p. 30)
Pont Aberglaslyn
28th On our way we met an old Welshwoman riding on a horse … she looked so odd in a man’s black hat and white handkerchief tied round her face ; and I am getting used to this droll costume now, for all the poor women wear black hats or wide-awakes, and striped coloured skirts, with wooden shoes and grey stockings. And oh! How quickly they knit stockings as they walk along ; they never look at their work … (pp. 58-59)
Caernarfon
We saw some girls in the meadow milking, one … looked such an odd figure with her bare red legs, and uncombed hair partly covered by an old black hat and wearing a pink and white cotton bodice and coarse blue skirt. How different to the neatly dressed, tidy village girls in England.
[At Caernarfon Castle]. A curious old Welsh woman sits at the entrance with a table of books, toys and pictures for sale. Sylvine bought a doll dressed in Welsh costume, with the high black hat. Mademoiselle [bought] a pair of worsted stockings for her father … .p. 118
Betham-Edwards, Matilda, Holidays Among the Mountains: Or Scenes And Stories of Wales, (1861?) set in 1850s (see p. 157), (Fiction –written from the point of view of young girls on a visit to north Wales with their parents, governess and maids. It is a moral tale, possibly based on a real visit.)

1850 Swansea [French]
‘ayant sur la tête un chapeau d’homme ou du moins les débris de ce qui en fut un, soit en paille, soit en feutre, chapeaux ronds à forme très-haute, quand ils ne sont pas défoncés’ (‘on their [women’s] heads a man’s hat or at least the remains of what used to be one, either of straw, or of felt ; round, very tall hats, when they haven’t caved in’) [Chapeaux hauts-de-forme’ = top hat. But I have translated it literally, as he does not quite use this form.]
‘chapeaux noirs’ [‘black hats’] remind him of ‘ménagères du Delta du Rhône’ [housewives from the delta of the Rhône],
Amadée Pichot, L’Irlande et le pays de Galles (Paris, 1850), vol. 1, pp. 150, 167
translation by Heather Williams

1850s
The greater number of the servant girls employed at Aberdare in the [eighteen] fifties were Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire girls, and nearly everyone of them wore the old Welsh tall hat.
Alexandra, D.T., Glamorgan Reminiscences, (1915), reprinted by Stuart Williams, (1973), p. 39

1849-51
Merthyr mines
… girls clad in rather a tightly fitting canvas dress, with sleeves, reaching from the bosom to below the knees, gathered round the waist, and worn over a woollen petticoat, … A small bonnet of coarse black straw (flattened at the crown from the habit of carrying home coal for firing, and other burdens of the head), beneath which, and with a corner pendant over the back, is worn a handkerchief of some bright colour, black woollen stockings, and thick quarter boots, complete the costume of these hard-working females. p. 18
Swansea
I there saw women, dressed in the linsey-woollen garments of the country, loading … barrows. I questioned one of these women. She wore a red and white Welsh plaid woollen gown, gathered up behind, black petticoats, sleeves of blue cotton, a white apron, a neat cap, and jaunty Welsh hat. p. 191
Gorn Mine, near Llanidloes
[Description of crushing, washing and dressing ore.] A girl of 15, breaking ore, was neatly dressed in a blue frock, spotted pinafore, yellow cape and blue cloth bonnet. She earned 5d a day.
All were single women whom I saw working the jiggers. They were dressed, some in linsey-woolsey garments, of a cut peculiar to the country with straw hats, others in cotton gowns and bonnets. All of large stature and masculine frame. They all wore wooden shoes. p. 223-224
Ginswick, J., (1983) Labour and the Poor in England and Wales: Letters to Morning Chronicle, 1849-1851
The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Friday, June 14, 1850

1850
The Beauties of Wales – Anglesey
‘Camp meetings at these places … enlighten the tourist very much in regard to Welsh costume and Welsh manners’
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 17, 1850

1850
The costume of the women is ungraceful, and injurious to the figure; and the national hat, which resembles that used in the Tyrol, is fast going out. The garments of the men are to a great extent homespun : women universally knit every spare moment.
Cliffe, Charles Frederick, The book of North Wales, 1st edition, 1850

1850 [dress in woollen districts (of England?)]
We have from Bamford a description of the clothing and food of the population of the woollen districts. The working dress of the women was a blue flannel bedgown with sleeves to the elbow, a petticoat of the same material, with an apron, sometimes of linen, to match. Young women wore their hair down their back, while married women wore mob-caps. Their hose were of white or black woollen yarn. Shoes were strong, well fastened with leather straps and buckles. For outdoor wear they used a silk handkerchief over the head or a broad-brimmed gipsy hat of felt or chip covered with silk. In the winter they brought out the best article of apparel they had, which was an ample crimson cloak of fine wool, double milled, with a hood attached.
Description based on Bamford, Introduction to the works of Tim Bobbin, 1850. Transcribed from: Moffit, Louis Wilfrid, England on the Eve of the Industrial Revolution …  (1925), p. 269

1850 Swansea [French]
‘ordinairement coiffées d’un chapeau de feutre, [‘Chapeau de feutre’ = literally felt hat, but also used to mean trilby] ou pour le moins d’un chapeau de paille’, (‘[women] usually wearing a felt hat, or at least a straw hat’)
Amadée Pichot, L’Irlande et le pays de Galles (Paris, 1850), vol. 1, p. 143
translation by Heather Williams

1851 Carmarthen
The 82nd regiment is quartered at Carmarthen, and being market day we were enabled to see the peasants costume to great advantage the conical hats worn by the women looking quite picturesque.
Rolls, Georgiana, Gwent Record Office, D361.F/P.8.112, 17th [October?]
Transcribed by Liz Pitman

1851, north Wales
Patriarchal innocence and simplicity of character are still, however, to be witnessed, even in the more thickly-populated towns; and the high-crowned beaver hats and linsey petticoats of aged dames may be seen in profusion on market-days.
Cathrall, William, Wanderings in North Wales : a road and railway guide-book, comprising curious and interesting historical information … (1851) p. 16

1852 Wales
[The Cymry] wear the best of clothes. The cotton prints of Manchester, the flimsy clothes of Leeds find no admission into Cambrian homes, for the Kymro will have West of England cloth, and his wife the best of ??????[looks like Elascow] stuffs. Irish men and women dress any how; English and Scots gaudily and tastefully; but the clothes of the Welshman are plain and good, and the dress of my fair countrywomen is the very embodiment of neatness.
Stephens,  Thomas, An essay entitled ‘The Working Men of Wales, compared with those of England, Scotland and Ireland’, which was awarded a prize at the Porthmadog eisteddfod, 1852, NLW MS 933B, p. 317

1852 Welshpool
The women generally wore printed calico jackets, gathered at the waist, with a few inches only of skirt, and blue or gray worsted stuff petticoats, falling to within a few inches of the ankle — a picturesque, comfortable, and serviceable habit, making them appear more as if they were accustomed to walk and to work, and were not ashamed of it, than women generally do. Most incongruously, as a topping off to this sensible costume, a number of women had crowded their heads into that ultima thule of absurd invention, a stiff, narrow-brimmed, high-crowned, cylindrical fur hat. What they did with their hair, and how they managed to keep the thing on their heads, I cannot explain. They did do it, notwithstanding something of a breeze, as well as the most practiced man, and without showing evidence of any particular suffering.
Olmsted, F.L., Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England, (1852), p. 183

1852 Bangor
[Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Prince of Wales (in Scottish costume), visited the Menai Bridge.]
The women have turned out in their best hats, and as the weather is magnificent, there is no distressing drawback upon the loyal enthusiasm, from any apprehension that these singular head-pieces will get damaged.
The Times, 15.10.1852

1852 Bangor
Two young ladies, – the Misses Sidebottam, nieces to Miss Roberts of the George Hotel [Bangor] dressed in the Welsh costume [were presented to the Queen]
North Wales Chronicle 15.10.1852

1852
What are the origins of Welsh Hats? I have consulted bards and scholars … some say we remember the time when women wore ordinary felt hats manufactured from their own wool; one or two travelling hatters occasionally settled at Bangor who made and sold beaver hats. … The fashion is going out: all our young people adopt the English bonnet with the English language. The flat hat with a broad rim is still retained in Mountain regions
Anon, Notes and Queries, vol 5 no 134 (22.5.1852), p. 491

1852 LIVERPOOL EISTEDDFOD
Visitors to the hills and valleys of Wales may see the people still adhere to their ancient institutions, retaining their ancient costume delighting to exhibit their ancient peculiarities, the Welsh women not ashamed to wear the Welsh hat which he [the president, Rev D James, Dewi o Dyfed] hoped, they would ever retain (applause).
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Friday, March 12, 1852

1852 Kidwelly
Excursion to Carmarthen on the new railway line
The habits of the people here too were more thoroughly Welsh than at any other part of the line. In all the other stations the high steeple hat of the Welsh females seemed to maintain but a doubtful struggle with the English bonnet confined as the more primitive head-dress was for the most part to the aged women; but at Kidwelly, the station was lined with young and interesting looking females who were all adorned with the high felt hat and the other peculiarities of the Welsh costume as if the authorities had been determined here to make a complete display of the primitive habits and manners of the country.
The Morning Chronicle (London), Monday, September 20, 1852

1852
Cardiff Docks
The population [of Cardiff] was numerous more particularly about the docks; many adult females and children were barefooted. The greater part presented admirable subjects for the pencil, and the day (Saturday), being the market day, the numbers were rapidly increased by a peasantry very respectable in their looks, and equally picturesque, who entered the town, many of the females riding, some double behind a horseman.’ f. 14
Neath Fair
The costume of many of the females was the male hat of higher crown and broader rim than worn in north Wales with a frill on the side of the face and a striped shawl of many colours. f. 16v
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

1853 Abergavenny
In October, Spencer, Carry and I went to Llanover to Sir Benjamin and Lady Hall for the Eisteddfod at Abergavenny … just as Carry and I were putting on our things to go to Abergavenny, there was a knock at the door and Lady Hall’s maid entered carrying two frightful linstey [sic –linsey] petticoats and bodices, two Welsh chimney-pot black hats with coarse mob caps and said, ‘If you please, her Ladyship wishes you and Miss Lucy to wear the Welsh costumes today at the Eisteddfod’ … Tizzard exclaimed, ‘Oh Ma’am you will surely never put on such ugly things and take off your own beautiful dress and pretty new bonnet! And Miss Lucy, Oh! She must not make herself such a guy. ‘No’ I cried, ‘we will not’, But Carry … said ‘Never mind Mamma, we had better do as Lady Hall wishes and perhaps all the other ladies will be dressed in these costumes.’ … Tizzard … came back saying all the ladies were furious but were putting on the Welsh dresses which Lady Hall had sent to each of them. So Carry and I took off our pretty dresses and put on the frights. The hat was much too large for me and was so heavy it did nothing but come down half over my nose, and the linstey so hot, I never was more uncomfortable and I vowed I would never wear such horrible things again to please any Lady Hall, nor did I and all the other ladies agreed with me and we returned our linsteys and hats etc to her Ladyship that same evening and made her very angry.
Mrs Lucy of Charlecote (1803 – 1889) Mistress of Charlecote, The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy, (London, 1985), pp. 95-97

1853, Abergavenny Eisteddfod
The [10th] Eisteddfod and twentieth anniversary of the first Abergavenny Cymreigyddion was held on Wednesday and Thursday last week, 12th and 13th October
Judge of woollen manufacturers Mr Morgan Williams of Merthyr Tydfil; judge of Welsh hats: Mr Henry Thompson of Abergavenny; judge of the Welsh dyes : Lady Hall of Llanover; judge of spinning and knitting: Mrs Herbert of Llanarth. …
Prizes
Competition 34 Mrs Hanbury Leigh £10 for best specimen of Welsh Rodney woollen at least, 5 x 1 1/2 yards, the wool to be Welsh and no worsted to be admitted among the materials, the warp to be of cotton or linen and the woof [sic] to be of cotton and yarn.
Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.
Competition 35 The Earl of Abergavenny, 10 guineas for the best specimen of Welsh dyed scarlet cloth, made of Welsh wool, 5 x 1 1/2 yards, special reference to brilliancy of colour
Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.
Competition 36 Viscountess Neville, £3 for the best specimen of Welsh dyed blue cloth made of Welsh wool, 5 x 1 1/2 yards, special reference to brilliancy of colour as well as texture
Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.
Competition 37 Lady Love J Parry of Madryn, £2 for the best specimens of Welsh yarns in various bright colours … this prize to be decided entirely by the superiority of colours.
Awarded to ?
Competition 38 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. Open to all Wales, including Gwent and Morganwg. – No award
Competition 39 Mrs Maddocks of Treguater, a prize of £5 for the best Welsh woollen in any of the national stripes or checks not less than 12 yards long and ¾ yards wide.
Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.
Competition 40 Mrs Kemys Tynte of Cefyn Masly, 3 guineas for the best white Welsh woollen whittle; especial reference to lightness and fine texture.
Awarded to John Hywel of Mynyddyslwyn
Competition 41 Mrs Gwynne 3½ guineas for the best hanks of wool of fine white yarn spun from Welsh wool by the hand of a Welsh cottager at home ; not to contain less than six pounds of wool.
Awarded to Charles Price, Samuel Harris and Joseph Jones.
Competition ? Mrs J Hiley Morgan, one guinea for the best knitted pair of gloves made of Welsh black sheep’s wool, undyed, by a Welsh girl under 20 years of age.
[not in the Cambrian Journal account]
Competition 42 Lady Chetwynd, 2 guineas for the best Welsh hat, manufactured in Brycheiniog, Gwent and Morganwg.
Awarded to Mr Restall of Abergavenny
Competition 43 Miss Roche, the Gwenddolen prize of £1 10s for the second best ditto.
Awarded to Mr Restall of Abergavenny
Competition 44 Mrs Gwynne Holford £2 for the best knitted pair of stockings of Welsh black sheep’s wool, undyed.
Competition 45 For the second best ditto
Cambrian Journal, 1854, pp 55-60; The Musical World, 1853, pp. 677-678
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, October 29, 1853

1853 [South-east Wales]
Before the foundation of this Cymreigyddion y Fenni [Abergavenny], it is true we had weavers of woollen, knitters of stockings, but now the Welsh woollens of this neighbourhood, and indeed the whole of Gwent and Morgannwg, in consequence of the encouragement given by the prizes awarded from time to time, are twice as good as they ever have been before, and fit to be worn by those whom we are proud to call the patriots as well as the aristocratic females of our own dear native land; and there is also a larger demand in consequence of the vast improvement in the brilliancy of the colours.
James, Rev David, warden of the Welsh Institution of Llandovery.
Cambrian Journal of 1854, p. pp 41-60 including speeches, prizes and winners, proposed prizes for the next year and financial summary.
Cambrian (newspaper), 21.10.1853

1853 Bangor
It happened to be market day and we therefore had an excellent opportunity of seeing plenty of country girls in their national costumes; I confess that I cannot say much for the beauty of either; the high, ugly hat stuck on the top of a cap having large frills on each side of the face being invariably the covering for the head, while the dress was made of a coarse flannel or linsey-woolsey kind of stuff.
[Bailey, Walker], A Journal of a short walking tour in North Wales 1853, NLW MS 12044, 28.7.1853

1853 [Caernarfon]
[Brief description of a Welshwoman who wore a blue pocket handkerchief over her hat with drawing.]
There was one nice little Welshwoman, the very pink of neatness, she was attired in the blue plaid of the country with a cap as white as snow and her hat which crowned it, was most cannily enveloped in a blue pocket handkerchief – to keep the seawater from it, I suppose. She sat there on the boat with the composure of a little Duchess but no drawing of mine could do the little dear justice.
Pearson, Augusta, A Spinster’s Tour through North Wales, 1853, Ed. Anon, Gomer, 1988, p. 20

1853, (from a novel) [Description of a maid in a Welsh village]
The Square, stout, bustling figure, neat and clean in every respect, but dressed in the peculiar, old fashioned costume of the county, namely a dark-striped linsey-woolsey petticoat, made very short, displaying sturdy legs in woollen stockings beneath; a loose kind of jacket, called there a ‘bedgown’, made of a pink print, a snow-white apron and cap, both of linen, and the latter made in the shape of a ‘mutch’; these articles completed Sally’s costume, and were painted on Ruth’s memory.
Gaskell, Elizabeth, ‘Ruth’ 1853
[A mutch is a Scottish woman’s close-fitting cap.]
[Elizabeth Gaskell is said to have come to Aberystwyth to learn Welsh in 1827. The source given was NLW Holland papers, MS 4983C but I failed to find any reference to such a visit in this. She did stay in Wales on a number of occasions – her honeymoon (wedding trip) was to Wales; her baby son died of scarlet fever while the family was staying in Wales. She “stayed many times” says John Chapple in Elizabeth Gaskell, The Early Years (p.307) at her cousin’s home, Plas yn Penrhyn, which was “close to the village of Minffordd on the hill across Traeth Mawr from Porthmadog” (p. 306) and Graham Handley’s An Elizabeth Gaskell Chronology has for 1827, “ES  [EG’s maiden name is Elizabeth Stevenson] probably in Wales this summer, staying at Plas Brereton — rented by Samuel Holland senior early in the 19th century — also at Aber and visiting Anglesey” (17).

1853 Bangor area [French]
‘chapeaux de feutre, tels que nous autre hommes les portons chaque jour’
(felt hats, like the ones we men wear every day)
Trabaud, D’Inverness à Brighton (Paris/ London : 1853), p. 383
Translation by Heather Williams

1854 Merthyr Tydfil
The scene from six to ten o’clock on a Saturday evening is one of the most extraordinary I ever witnessed. In this interval, what one might suppose the entire labouring population of Merthyr passes through its crowded market hall ; all are dressed in their Sunday clothing – clean, warm and comfortable. {They purchase food from the market stalls}… [boys disturb] the stocking-men, who, with their woollen wears depending [sic] from a horizontal stick, half obstruct way; and to the annoyance of the red-cloaked, hat-covered women … p. 8
One of the characteristics of the Welsh population remain in force to a degree sufficient to attract the notice of English persons – the wearing of black beaver hats by the women. Why a woman should wear a black cylinder on her head, and think it becoming, is for the Welsh to say. It may be all very well for Jenny Jones who lives in Llangollen to display a pretty face underneath the broad brim of such a hat but would not the face appear fully as pretty if the head were covered by something more graceful than the masculine hat? … Generally speaking, elderly women wear these hats more frequently than younger damsels, and in the western counties of Wales they are more prevalent than the eastern. There are certain county differences in these hats, some being narrower in the crown than others; having that shape which a geometrician would call a truncated cone. It is a matter of pride to have a hat of fine beaver and high price, and a matter of economy to take great care of it. Many women in the middle ranks of life wear a very common-place bonnet while at their week-day avocations, but reserve the carefully brushed and neatly banded beaver hat for Sundays and holidays. An example of this fashion has lately been mentioned to us. A thorough Welsh lady came to pay a visit to some friends in one of the border towns – a town which is in the transition state from Welsh to English. She came in her black hat; her lady friends were so unused to this headgear, that they refused to walk out with her, and she had to buy and English bonnet to wear … {suggestion that the Ladies of Llangollen wore the black-beaver hat as seen in the print of them}. p. 27
Anon, Two days on the Welsh border. Chambers’s repository of instructive and amusing tracts: Volume 4, no 63, (1854),

1854 Bangor
The costume of the Welsh peasantry and common people is awkward and strange. The old women wear large round men’s hats. Our guide said, that in the old wars—which were so desperate and bloody, in defence of their wilderness mountains and rocky fastnesses—the women fought as did the men, and that they continue to wear their hats in memory of their prowess and powers of self protection. They are a very good looking, healthy, and fair-cheeked people, with a national physiognomy quite clearly marked. The market women on large donkeys were grotesque and laughable.
{Old people speak only Welsh, the young also speak English}.
Benedict, Erastus Cornelius, A run through Europe, (New York, 1860), p. 543

1854 Bala
The principle business of the inhabitants is stocking knitting, every woman you meet is working away as fast as her fingers will go, though apparently, quite unconscious of it. In this neighbourhood we encountered the hat, for the first time, as a portion of the female attire, the girls with their wide-awakes, and the young women with their beavers tapering nearly to a point, and their snow white caps, look well enough, but the old hags, with shrivelled faces and antiquated hats, would do well for the witches in Macbeth. The farmers with their tailcoats reaching nearly to the heels, and ornamented with brass buttons – their beavers and leather gaiters present a very primitive appearance especially when mounted on their little ponies.
Billinghurst, H.P., A Pedestrian Ramble through Oxford, Chester and North Wales, 1854. Women’s Library, London, 7RMB/B/1, pp. 169-17

1854 Bangor to Conwy
Many of the Welsh women, particularly the elder ones, wear black beaver hats, high crowned and almost precisely like men’s. It makes them look ugly and witch-like. (p. 94)
Rhuddlan
dirty children staring at the passenger, and an undue supply of mean inns; most, or many of the men in breeches, and some of the women, especially the elder ones, in black beaver hats. (p. 110)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, (American consul in Liverpool), Passages from the English Notebooks, vol. 1, (1872), p. 94

1854
[near Sycharth, Bala]
the man was tall, about 50 years of age; he was dressed in a white coat, corduroy breeches, shoes, and grey worsted stockings. The woman  … was dressed in the ancient Welsh female costume, namely, a kind of round half-Spanish hat, long blue woollen kirtle, or gown, a crimson petticoat and white apron, and broad, stout shoes with buckles. (chapter 66)
Bangor
As I was standing in the middle of one of the business streets I suddenly heard a loud and dissonant gabbling, and glancing around beheld a number of wild-looking people, male and female. Wild looked the men, yet wilder the women. The men were very lightly clad, and were all barefooted and bareheaded; they carried stout sticks in their hands. The women were barefooted too, but had for the most part head-dresses; their garments consisted of blue cloaks and striped gingham gowns. (chapter 27)
Devil’s Bridge
Some way farther on I saw a house on my left, a little way down the side of a deep dingle which was partly overhung with trees, and at the bottom of which a brook murmured. Descending a steep path, I knocked at the door. After a little time it was opened, and two women appeared, one behind the other. The first was about sixty; she was very powerfully made, had stern grey eyes and harsh features, and was dressed in the ancient Welsh female fashion, having a kind of riding-habit of blue and a high conical hat like that of the Tyrol. The other seemed about twenty years younger; she had dark features, was dressed like the other, but had no hat. (Chapter 80)
[Cerrigydruidion]
The landlady wore ‘silks and satins with a linen coif on her head’ and a girl in a chintz gown.
near Dinas Mawddwy
The company are dressed mostly in the same fashion, brown coats, broad-brimmed hats and yellowish corduroy breeches with gaiters. One who looks like a labouring man has a white smock and a white hat, patched trowsers, and highlows covered with gravel – one has a blue coat.  Chapter 76
Borrow, George, (1860), Wild Wales

1855
WELSH COSTUME.
To the Editor of the Cambrian Journal.
Sir,—When shall we be favoured with a complete dissertation on the different modes of dressing adopted by our ancestors? I know of many persons that would gladly assume the national costume, if they knew wherein it consisted. At present they are acquainted only with the “Welsh hat.”
With the view of introducing the full Cambrian fashion, whatever that may be, will you allow me to present your readers with an instalment, which I have culled from the works of Giraldus Cambrensis.
“The women, after the manner of the Parthians, cover their heads with a large white veil, folded together in the form of a crown.”
This is a pretty custom, and I sincerely trust that iny fair countrywomen will again take it up.
Whilst on this subject, let me beg of my countrymen to resist the innovation proposed to be made in the uniform of the Royal Welsh Fusileers. I have heard that its colour in future is to be green, instead of red. Why this change? If any alteration is required, let it be a return to the medieval dress,—let it bear a more national character. The soldier will fight better when clad in the uniform of his own native land.
I remain, &c.,Soldurius
Cambrian Journal, vol 2, (1855), p. 247

1855
In a letter entitled ‘Statistics of the Welsh Language’ to the editor of Archaeologia Cambrensis, W Basil Jones pleaded with members of the Cambrian Archaeological Association to ask their parish priests to tell them the extent of the use of Welsh and English in their parishes in order to gather information for a survey of the use of the languages. He appended a note: ‘A year or two since, in passing through the village of Llanover, I was much interested to find that the ancient use of the Welsh hat, although unknown for many miles around, was invariably preserved among the women. I cite this as an illustration of my meaning when I speak of the possible isolation of the Welsh language in particular districts.’
The editor (H Longueville Jones?) added his own note:
‘There may be causes for the existence of the Welsh hat at Llanover not suspected by our correspondent. At the present time (1855), the use of the high-peaked hat, and indeed of hats generally, is fast becoming obsolete in the six north counties of Wales and in some districts the head-gear of the women differs in nothing from that used in England.’
On the following page, he added a query (no 14).
‘When did the custom of wearing high-peaked hats by women originate in Wales? Did it arise in the time of the Puritans, or, as has been supposed, about 50 years ago. We find, in the plates of the first edition of Pennant, women represented with small low-crowned (Jim Crow) hats, but nothing resembling the peaked hat.’
[No answers to this query were published.]
Archaeologia Cambrensis, (1855), p. 144

1856
Aber Waterfalls
[Sarah, the daughter of the family at Wern wore a] ‘tall black felt hat’ {when taking Rodenberg to the Aber waterfalls. p. 16

Dwygyfylchi
they were just coming out of church {description of their stature and character} There is nothing special of the dress of men; the women appear a little comical for over the lace head-dress they wear hats like those of the men in Germany. And what Hats! A complete hat shop paraded before me – pointed, tall, flat – with broad and narrow brims – no style was missing, from that solid respectable felt which the townspeople used to wear in the last century to the narrow brimmed top hats of the latest fashion!  p. 32
Llyn Ogwen
This valley is called Beaver Valley … Nowadays one sees a beaver, i.e. a beaver hat, only on the heads of peasant women. This observation derives from Mrs Sinclair. p. 134
A letter from the schoolmaster of Llanfairfechan: ‘Herewith I send you the
pictures of the Welsh costume which you wanted. I got them from Mr Humphreys … the bookseller at the end of the High Street in Bangor.’ p. 154
Rodenberg, Julius, Ein Herbst in Wales, Land and Leute, Marchen under Lieder (Hanover, 1858) in Linnard, William (translator and editor), An autumn in Wales (1856) Julius Rodenberg. Country and people, tales and songs‎, (1985)

1857
North Wales
The inhabitants seem to be apathetic and all the elderly and some young women wear their bonnets on the top of their heads in contradistinction to the prevailing fashion of wearing them on the back of their heads; I thought of the two ways the Welsh fashion was the better.  pp. 14-15
Bangor
This day being market day at Bangor, Mrs F with the rest of us went to see the country women’s costumes. The scene at the market place … was very lively and animated and we were all highly amused. A view of some of their curious dresses I subjoin on the [next page] p. 48
[Small version of Rowland’s Welsh Costume (Errand girl to Llanarth girl) Printed by W. Banks, Edinburgh, published by Catherall, Chester p 48v]
Foyl, William, ‘Rambles in North Wales’ 1857, NLW 23178B

1857
Dolgellau
[The landlady of the lodgings at Dolgellau] ‘is particularly clean and tidy and wears a real Welsh hat, which she said would be quite in the fashion is she turned the brim up a little. p. 17
Dolgellau
The men and women were dressed in their best attire and exhibited several specimens of the costume of the country. p.20
Barmouth
The National hat is not so much used here as in Dolgellau – the women wear bonnets tipped forwards so as to shade the eyes and exposing the back part of the head. The children are for the most part pretty but a good looking woman is seldom seen – they seem to pass immediately from girlhood to the condition of old women one reason for which is that they very early loose their teeth.’ p. 65
Anon, (female) Journal of a Tour through North Wales, NLW mss. 20719 A

1858
In like manner, if you wish to see the native Welsh in their primitive character and costume, go to such a place as Llangefni (Anglesey). A dreary, rough road leads you to it; but when there on market day, you will see a curious assemblage of undoubted and unpolished Welshmen and Welshwomen, the latter adorned with that high, conical, broad-brimmed hat which is their distinctive covering,—the men always wearing the worse hats. Threading our way along the river that runs through this town, we frequently fell in with groups—and picturesque groups they were—of high-hatted women and low-crowned men {who spoke little English}.
Anon, The London Review, vol 11, (1858), p. 118, reviewing (and extracting from?) 1. Black’s Picturesque Guide through North and South Wales and Monmouthshire, (Edinburgh: 1851); Wanderings and Excursions in North Wales. By Thomas Roscoe, Esq. (London: 1836)

1858 [Wales]
List of Stereoscopic Views of Aberystwyth and Neighbourhood, sold by J.Cox, 30 Pier Street. Also a large assortment of Stereoscopic Views of other Welsh Scenery, Welsh Costumes etc.
Advert inserted into T.O. Morgan’s guide to Aberystwyth, (3rd edition, 1858)
1858
A series of questions by ap Morris, answered by the editor.
Question 3 What is the Welsh plaid (pattern)?
The Welsh plaid is of various patterns, according to the locality where it is worn.
Question 4 Is there any national Welsh costume?
There is a national Welsh costume, and it becomes all who really love Wales and its usages to bring it more generally into vogue [sic]. It is certainly better adapted both to the climate and scenery of Wales than the absurd English dress of the present day.
Question 16 In an account in the papers … possibly … where the Queen was to be received, it was mentioned that some ladies appeared in “full Welsh costume”. What is the “blazon” of such “cost of arms”? [The Queen was not in Wales in 1858: she had previously been in Wales in 1852 and 1853]
It would require more space than we can afford to enter into the minutiae of Welsh female costume, suffice to say that the beaver hat and linsey gown are among its main characteristics.
Anon, The Cambrian Journal, (1858), pp. 365-366

1858 Llangollen Eisteddfod
Competition 28
For the most elegant and appropriate dress in the national Cymric costume (to be worn at the Eisteddfod), Male Costume – £10, Female £10. (The costume may be of any era in Cymric history. The Mabinogion abound with descriptions of Cymric costumes of all ranks of Society.
5 women competed, variously dressed and the prize was shared amongst them. No men competed. (p. 298)
Competition 29 To the Manufacturer of the most elegant Welsh hat for females – £2
[not mentioned in the report of the Eisteddfod]
Competition 30 Real Welsh Linsey- the best woven and most elegant pattern (not less than 10 yards). £5
£5 prize to Mr Robert Roberts, Caernarfon (p. 311)
Competition 31 Check apron, best pattern and materials – 10s
Competition 32 To the day labourer (whose weekly wages do not exceed one pound) with the greatest number of children present at the Eisteddfod, able to read and write in Welsh – £3 by Gwenynen Gwent.
Only one competitor: Thomas Jones (p. 299)
Competition 39 Best Female performer, in costume, on the Triple Harp- £5
The competitors were Miss Roberts (in costume) and Mrs Evans, Llangollen (who was not). Miss Roberts won the prize (p. 302)
Competition 40 Best Female Singer in costume of any air, with Welsh words, to accompany herself on the Triple Harp – Gold Star
The only competitor was Miss Roberts, daughter of Mr John Roberts harpist. (p. 295)
Competition 41 Best Female Singer, in costume, with the harp – £5
The Bards, Druids, and Ovates, will appear in their respective robes. It is requested also that all Welsh people present at the Eisteddfod will wear on the occasion the National Costume of the Country.
Copy of the original announcement with list of prizes published in Y Cymmrodor, xxv, (1915), pp. 178-180
A full report of the Eisteddfod appeared in The Cambrian Journal, 1858, pp. 262-313 (text in italics)

1858 Great Meeting of Welsh Bards at Llangollen.
The morning was very fine, the, sun shining forth in all its glory. At half-past ten, the procession left the Ponsonby Arms Hotel, for the bardic circle, situate about half a mile distant. The following was the order of procession : —The band of the Royal Denbigh Rifles, playing ” the Druids’ March ;” the Druids having with them their white flag, inscribed on which was the word “Holiness,” in Welsh. Female on horseback in ancient Welsh costume: the blue flag of the bards, with the Welsh word for ” Peace;” the ovates, with great flag, closely followed by the bards and Druids; the committee men and a number of other gentlemen filling up the rear.
Dwight’s journal of music‎, (1859) p. 227

1859 Bangor
Queen Victoria visited Penrhyn castle for the weekend of 15th October. She arrived and departed via the railway station at Bangor.
[On her departure] ‘there was visible amongst the onlookers a much larger number than on Saturday of Welsh women wearing the characteristic high-polled sugar loaf black hats, with the whisker-like appendages of lace.’
Illustrated London News, 29.10.1859 (p. 424)
Only one of the illustrations of the arrival and of the departure and of Penrhyn Castle show a Welsh hat worn by one of the women in the crowds clearly, and the two views of the Great Eastern in the ILN (1859, pp. 387, 390-391) which was there at the same time show women in cloaks, but not Welsh hats.
There are no other references to Welsh costumes in the reports in ‘The Times’.

1859 Merthyr Eisteddfod
The women … wore their tall hats; and such as could not afford such gorgeous attire, contented themselves with that oddly-shaped straw head-covering that is neither a bonnet nor a hat, and partakes of the nature of both, being expressly adapted for the use of those who desire to carry loads to market on their heads. The dresses of the women were very warm and comfortable, composed of linsey; nearly all being of the same pattern of black and red stripes, on a brown ground, arranged in a novel manner, with the front of the skirt taken up by the hem to the waist, and pinned behind, as some women in England are wont to do when they carry water. The petticoat thus exhibited was of similar material, and reached to within a foot of the ground. Most of the dresses are partly open at the neck, and display an ample white neckerchief, and the shoulders were covered by a woollen shawl of a similar pattern, and in some cases of a brilliant red colour. … it was noticeable here, as in most Welsh towns, that the appearance of the women was more refined than the appearance of the men. ..  [The Eisteddfod included an] interesting performance by a little girl of four years of age dressed in full Welsh costume, including the tall hat and the bright red shawl. She sang an old Welsh air …
Anon, In the Land of the Eisteddfod, The Cornhill Magazine: Vol. I, January to June, 1860, pp. 478-487

1859 Barmouth
Went to again to church at 6, had our suspicions aroused by taking our seats, by the appearance of sundry old dames in Welch costumes, hats etc. [The service was in Welsh.]
Linder, Samuel and Susannah, Tour of North Wales, 1859, NLW MS 23065C, pp. 55-56

Advertisements