- The colour of cloaks in paintings and prints
- Making cloaks
- Selling cloaks
- Lady Llanover
- Pryce Jones
- Cloaks at Alms Houses
- Cloaks at Eisteddfodau
- Surviving cloaks
- Cloaks on Welsh costume dolls
- References to cloaks 1714-1911
- Paintings and pictures
- Further reading.
Red or scarlet cloaks are often associated with the Welsh National Costume but they were rare in Wales before the 1860s. Before that decade, red cloaks were more common in England and blue was more common in Wales. It will be noted from the references to blue cloaks by tourists (below) that they were worn in all parts of Wales but in some parts of Wales, especially on the Gower, women wore red shawls or whittles, sometimes described as cloaks. The women who witnessed the French Invasion at Fishguard in 1797 wore red shawls, not cloaks.
Many tourists used a similar wording when mentioning cloaks and although it is possible that in some cases this was copied from earlier published works, most references to them are the result of first-hand observation and are an accurate description of what they saw. However, some of the frequent reports that women wore cloaks whatever the weather might be based on earlier sources rather than observation.
Several tourists noted large groups of women in blue cloaks (see below).
Almost any outer garment has been described as a cloak, including mantles/mantells, copes, habits, coats and whittles or large shawls. These terms, all of which are normally enveloping garments, have a number of Welsh terms in common.
The word ‘cloak’ is derived from old North French meaning bell, from its shape and the Welsh term cochl appears to derive from the French for bell (cloche) rather than Welsh for red (coch).
Cloaks with hoods large enough to cover a tall Welsh hat appear in drawings from the mid 19th century.
Some of the words listed under cloaks in Terminology mean ‘to hide’, ‘to feint’ or ‘to disguise’ all of which could be applied to the wearing of a cloak as a deliberate attempt to conceal ones self.
The colour of cloaks in paintings and prints
One artist suggested that red cloaks would look better in paintings of the landscape than blue ones, (Rev Robert Hasell Newell, (1778-1852). Letters on the Scenery of Wales … (1821), p. 61) and it is possible that some artists coloured cloaks red for this reason. There are far more oil paintings of Welsh scenes which include red cloaks than there are with blue ones, but contemporary tourist’s accounts (below) show that blue was far more common.
Brecon Castle and Honddu Bridge from across the Usk, about 1800, includes, as a focal point, a woman in a red cloak.
Almost all of J.C. Ibbetson‘s many watercolours of women in Wales, mostly dating to 1792, show women in blue cloaks. For example, View of Conway Castle and View of Llangollen. However, both of his oil paintings of Llangollen, The entrance to Llangollen and Llangollen show one woman in a red cloak and another in blue (to the right of the woman with the blue nursing shawl). Another view of women near Llangollen, which is far more typical of his watercolours, shows two women in blue cloaks. Several of the figures are almost identical to those in another scene ‘Women Spinning’ from which these are probably derived. (Clay, Rotha Mary, (1948), Julius Caesar Ibbetson : p. 40, note 3: plate 42, private collection.)Ibbetson’s A View in north Wales also has a woman in a red cloak and another in a blue cloak.
The three versions of David Cox’s funeral at Bettws y Coed (1847-1852) show how one event could be interpreted in different ways: the number of red cloaks vary in each version. In David Cox’s ‘The Welsh Funeral, Betws y Coed‘ (Victoria and Albert Museum) there is no red cloak, but the woman on the right is shown wearing what appears to be a white cloak or possibly a very large shawl. His ‘The Welsh Funeral’ (Birmingham Art Gallery) shows two women wearing red cloaks. His ‘A Welsh Funeral Betws Church‘, 1852 (Bury Art Gallery), shows no red cloaks, but the two women on the right might be wearing white shawls over red cloaks. These three paintings of the same subjects, probably based on one initial sketch, show how unreliable some paintings can be in such details. The initial sketch is in the Ashmolean Museum, and there is a print after Cox of the same subject (1862).
Lord, Peter, The Betws-y-Coed Artist’s Colony, 1844-1915, (1998), pp. 172-177
The colour of costumes in hand-coloured prints is not always a reliable. For example, R Griffiths’ print ‘Welsh Fashions Taken on a Market-Day in Wales’, (1851) shows an elderly woman in a cloak. In one version, the cloak is coloured blue, in another it is coloured red.
1927 (interview with Mr Jones and his aged mother Mrs Jones at woollen mills at Pandy Llywenan, Valley, Anglesey)
‘Women’s capes. All the aged women I consulted were agreed that in north Wales the long capes worn by the women down to their heels were BLUE. The red capes were normally presentations from the gentry to the poor and very rarely seen except at alms houses like those at Holyhead for which institution Mr Jones of the Pandy, Llywenan (Valley) used to make the material for the dresses.’
All the elderly women JR Jones visited in Trefriw were unanimous that the north Wales capes were Blue.
JR Jones collection, NLW, vol. 2, pp. 51-52
Some cloaks had large hoods, big enough to cover a Welsh hat.
Print published by Rock and Co, 1853
Some cloaks had collars,
Making and repairing cloaks
Mrs Roberts of Mun-y-Nant, Llangollen told J R Jones in 1925 that the cloak ‘was always a mother’s present to her daughter when she got married.’
JR Jones Collection, NLW, vol. 2, p. 32
As with the production of other components of Welsh costume, there are very few references to how cloaks were made but there are a few clues to suggest that it was a specialist occupation. In theory, a cloak might be little more than a large rectangle of fabric with one end folded over to form a tube into which a ribbon could be inserted for tying around the neck. If a hood was added, the junction between it and the main part of the cloak probably didn’t require specialist skills.
There is a reference in the diary of a cleric’s wife to the production of a cloak:
23.1.1817 Miss Man? cut out and put my scarlet cloak together.
24.1.1817 Friday finished making my cloak
Williams, Hannah, (of Llanrug, between Caernarfon and Llanberis), Diary 1816-1817, NLW MS 856A, pp. 53-54
Another diary records the purchase of fabric for a cloak:
9.5.1798 To Vitalis fair [Dihewyd, Ceredigion] with wife. Wife cloak cloth 13s 11d
Diary etc. of John Davies, Ystrad (1722-1799), 1796-1799, NLW ms 12350A
A third diary, of the daughter of a vicar of several parishes in mid-Ceredigion in 1796 refers to ‘altering my cloak’, and a week later ‘finished my cloak’. This might have been a good, warm, woollen cloak, like those worn by poorer working rural women, but there is no clue to its colour or fabric.
Diary of Ann Williams, (1772-1838), Ystrad Teilo, 1796 (when she was about 24),NLW MS 22269A (More on references to clothes in Ann Williams’ diary)
Henry White of Bangor advertised Ladies ready-made cloaks in Scotch Tartan, Plaid and Habit cloth. (He also advertised a great choice of Thibet [Tibet] and silk shawls.)
North Wales Chronicle, 1.10.1833
There is a portrait of Lady Llanover in a red cloak, trimmed with fur, and she provided red cloaks for her staff and tenants which they wore at least on special occasions. She and some of her friends sponsored a prize for cloth suitable for red cloaks at an Eisteddfod.
1842 Abergavenny 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.
NLW MS 13962E, 98b, bilingual poster; Cambrian (newspaper), 6.8.1840 (announcement); 8.10.1842 (Ball), 22.10.1842 (prizes); Monmouthshire Merlin, 15.10.1842
1859 (speech by Lady Llanover)
My scarlet cloak came from your town, and this very identical cloak I wore at the last Abergavenny Eisteddfod, in 1853, which proves it as durable as it is brilliant.
Hereford Times 8 October 1859
Pryce Jones established a mail order firm at Newtown, Montgomeryshire in the 1870s. He sold red and crimson cloaks, but they appear to have been of a very thin fabric. He claimed that some were purchased by Queen Victoria.
One example is known to have survived, see Pryce Jones.
Cloaks at Alms Houses
Women at some alms houses in England and Wales were provided with cloaks, often red, and were expected to wear them at least on special occasions.
Photograph: Women at the Holyhead Alms House, about 1900. There are many postcards and photographs of women at this almshouse.
Henry, Third Lord Stanley built an alms house at Holyhead, Anglesey in 1872 and insisted that the women wore traditional Welsh costume especially when he visited them. The women wore red cloaks but the tradition ceased on his death in 1903.
Roberts, Huw, Pais a Becwn, p. 51
Cloaks at Eisteddfodau
Cloaks do not form part of the official regalia of the Gorsedd of Bards who hold ceremonies at Eisteddfodau, but in 1923 the red Celtic cloak designed by Arlunydd Pen-y-garn was first worn at The Blodeuged (the gift of flowers).
Very few 18th and 19th century cloaks are known to survive in Wales or England: most of those in Welsh museums (at Gwynedd Museum, Bangor and the National History Museum, St Fagans) are dark blue. Several of these are claimed to have been worn in the late 18th century (especially at the Fishguard Invasion in 1797), or early 19th century, but most are probably mid- to late-19th century: most of the surviving red cloaks are probably early to mid-20th century.
Descriptions and photographs by Michael Freeman
NMW (St Fagans), 08.74
Adult cloak, mid to late 19th century?, Dark blue wool. Large hood. The cape is made of three sections with vertical seams. There are two holes on the front, edged with silk, with covers, but the holes face inwards (i.e. difficult to put hands in unless each was for the hand on the other side). The top of the cape had a curved piece of calico, now mostly missing. There were at least 4 hooks and eyes down the sides. Said to have been made of cloth spun by the donor’s mother Blanah Richards of St Davids in 1840.
length 130 cms from neck to bottom edge.
The whole cloak. It is lying on a large table with part hidden over the left-hand edge.
The front edge of the cloak, showing some of the hooks on the ribbon edging
The hood, lined with calico. The gathering of the lower part of the cloak at its junction with the hood is clearly shown
The hand holes in the cloak, lined with ribbon.
NMW (St Fagans), 67.65/2
Cloak, for adult, late 19th century? Very dark blue wool. Large hood attached to the cape along an almost straight line with gathering in the cape along this line. Crescent shaped collar on the inside, joined at the junction of the hood and cape, covered with brown calico on one side and (faded?) brown silk on the other. A small upper section of the cape is also covered with brown calico on the inside. There is black silk ribbon on the inside of both sides of the cape, along which are sewn 5 hooks and eyes at 15-17 cm intervals, almost to the bottom. The outside of the hood is ranched at the centre.
length: 125.5 cms from neck to bottom edge.
The whole cape, draped over a table
The outside of the hood from above
The edge of the cloak, showing two of the eyes, for hooks and eyes
The back of the hood
NMW (St Fagans), 67.403/6
Cloak, red flannelette cloak for adult. Cape made of three pieces, with vertical seams and additional piece of double thickness across the top, to which the hood and cape are attached. The top of the cape is gathered. The large hood is edged with black ribbon.
Length: 109 cms from neck to bottom edge.
The whole cloak draped over a table
The outside face of the hood and cape
Part of the inside of the hood and upper part of the cape
The inside of the hood
NMW (St Fagans), 71.7/4
Red flannel adult’s cloak with hood. Edged with 1/3 inch band of black velvet and a black velvet bow on front of hood. Said to have been worn at the French Invasion of Fishguard, 1797, but it is far too late in date for this. : cape made of three pieces, with vertical seams. Some repair to the cape. Cape has black velvet ribbon all around the edge. Embroidered label ‘O Sheppard’ at the top of the cape.
Length: 111 cms from neck to bottom edge.
The whole cloak draped over a table
The inside of the hood
The outside of the hood
The outside junction of the hood and cape
NMW (St Fagans), 33.13
Cloak of fine milled red wool. Adult, mid to late 19th century? Cape made of three pieces with vertical seams. Black silk ribbon on outside edge, 5.5 cms wide. Very large hood with black silk ribbon edging, beginning to degrade (now covered in netting around the outside of the hood). Quilted collar on the inside, made of black silk on one face and red flannel on the other with blue wool quilted into place, attached at the junction between the hood and cape. Short ribbon (too short to tie) at the sides the hood, where there is also a hook and eye. Broad silk (now brown) bow on the front of the hood of 4.3 cms wide ribbon.
Length: 129.5 cms from neck to bottom edge.
The whole gown draped over a table
The inside of the hood, the collar and top of the cape
Part of the collar
The back of the hood
NMW (St Fagans), 63.40
Red flannel child’s cloak with hood. The cloak edged with black braid, the hood lined with black cotton and fitted with two black ribbons at the junction of the hood and cape. Small pointed hood with two black tassels at the peak. Cape made of 7 pieces of fabric, unsymmetrical. Darned in several places.
Length: 88 cms from neck to bottom edge.
The whole cloak, inside face
The gore at the bottom of the cloak
The hood, showing details of the outer face and inside
The outer face of the hood
These are normally red and probably date to the second half of the 19th century or later.
References to cloaks in Wales 1714-1911
I was there on a Market day and was particularly pleased to see the Welsh Ladies come to Market in their laced Hats, their own hair hanging round their Shoulders, and blue and scarlet cloaks like our Amazons.
Macky, I., A Journey Through England and Scotland 1714-1729, vol 2, 2nd edition, p. 132
On Sundays, at church ‘the women were all dressed, as in a uniform, with their Beaver Hats, and long blue flannel cloaks, they also had good shoes and stockings on’.
CULLUM, JOHN, Tour Through Several Counties of England and Part of North Wales, 1774, Bury St Edmunds and West Suffolk Record Office, E2/44/2.1-2.3
A woman accused of leaving a child in a cart shed was described as wearing: a plain riding, or silk hat, and a red-stamped handkerchief; an old white stamped handkerchief, with a few red spots on it, about her neck, a blue cloak, upper petticoat blue, dark coloured short cloth jacket, blue yarn stockings, footed with black.
Hereford Times, following 2nd July, 1785
The women as well as the men appear in broad, black beaver hats and in the midst of summer wear a long woollen cloak.
Clarke, Edward Daniel, (1769-1822) A Tour through the South of England, Wales and Part of Ireland, made during the Summer of 1791, (1793), p. 349
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.
Frances Anne Crewe, British Library, Add. 37926. Quarto f.131 Wyndham papers vol. 85, p. 6.
Women wear whittles, a very old fashion and bad, not for its age, but because the modern rural cloak is much more convenient and comfortable than the whittle; …
Edward Williams (lolo Morganwg), Journal of an Excursion into Carmarthenshire in June, 1796
It was now the fair; and about two hundred home-spun coats and blue cloaks were intermingled with a small number of cattle.
Hutton, Catherine, Letters written during a Tour in North Wales by Miss Hutton, of Bennett’s Hill, near Birmingham, Letter X, Caernarfon; Aug. 27, published in the Monthly Magazine, 1816
[On returning to England at the end of the tour] ‘Here I saw the first scarlet cloak since I left Llanfair; blue is the colour of Wales.’
Hutton, Catherine, Letters written during a Tour in North Wales by Miss Hutton, of Bennett’s Hill, near Birmingham LETTER XI, Caernarvon; Sept. 13. For publication in the Monthly Magazine, 1816, and Hutton Beale, Catherine, Reminiscences of a Gentlewoman of the last century; letters of Catherine Hutton (Birmingham, 1891), p. 125
1797 [Llangollen to Llanymynach]
The dress of the Welsh women is exactly similar throughout the principality, … In dirty or cold weather, the person is wrapt in a long blue cloak, which descends below the knee.
Warner, Richard, Rev (1763-1857), A Walk through Wales in Aug, 1797, letter 12, pp. 183-184
While at Bala fair Jack Glan-y-gors ‘had the honour of making love to two ladies with red cloaks’.
Jack Glan-y-gors, writing to a friend, May 16th, 1798
1799 Llanbeblig, Caernarfon
At a weddings at Llanbeblae, I saw a sailor married to the daughter of a shoemaker … The town ladies were clad, not like the mountaineers, in woollen, but in printed cotton gowns, white petticoats and white stockings; but they retained the beaver hat and, as the morning was cloudy, the blue cloak which nothing but the hottest sunshine, and sometimes not even that, could persuade them to lay aside.’
Letters written during a Third Tour in North Wales by Miss Hutton, of Bennett’s Hill, near Birmingham LETTER XIV, Caernarfon, September 14th, 1799, Monthly Magazine, 1816,
1799 near Mallwyd
We met several females on horseback riding in the English style, covered with large blue cloaks, round black hats and from their centre downwards with blue striped raiment,
Porter, Robert Kerr, Sir (1777-1842), Journal of a Tour in North Wales etc, NLW MS 12651A, p. 14-15
The women of the mountainous parts of the country …wear long blue cloaks that descend almost to the feet. These they are seldom to be seen without, even in the hottest weather; owing to the frequency of showers in a county surrounded with mountains.
Bingley, W., Rev, (1774-1823) A Tour round North Wales including its Scenery, Antiquities, Customs and some Sketches of its Natural History; Delineated from two Excursions through all the interesting Parts of the Country, during the summers of 1798 and 1801, (London, 1804) pp. 490-491.
… nothing that reminded us of Wales except the dress of the women, the blue cloth cloaks are not indeed so common, but the round beaver hat seems universal.
Katherine Plymley, Shropshire Records and Archive Centre, 567/5/5/1/20
[The Flemish women on the Gower wear a whittle.] ‘Those of Celtic origin wear a long gown, a long blue cloth cloak, and a beaver hat.’
Evans, John, B.A., (1768-1812) Letters written during a tour through South Wales, in the year 1803, and at other times : (London, 1804), p. 257
1804 on the way from St Lythams to Llantrisant
‘The dress of the country people is exactly similar one to the other, a small black beaver with a near mob cap under a woollen jerkin and petticoat the latter very short and when they go from home a large woollen cloak generally blue but sometimes red
Russel, Mary, Journal of a Week’s tour in south Wales from Gloucester, Cardiff Central Library, MS 1.663
The [women] have all beaver hats and long blue cloaks with caps which are tied under the chin.
Duncan, J. S., and Duncan, P.B., Tour Through Wales from Oxford, 1804, NLW MS 16714A, f. 13r
we were unexpectedly overtaken by a merry party of barefooted females, amounting altogether to about thirty, including girls and women. Most of them being attired in dark blue striped clothes, with scarlet cloaks, and hats of black beaver, in the true style of the south wallian peasantry… we were really for some time persuaded they must be a party of the Bridgend volunteers returning from their head quarters.
Donovan, Edward, Descriptive Excursions through South Wales and Monmouthshire, in the year 1804 and the four preceeding summers, (1805), p. 382-383
We saw [St Michael’s] church from whence we saw the Welch women come pouring out in their long blue cloaks and little black Beaver hats
Hon Anne Rushout, Extracts from a diary in the possession of G.A. Bright, Bright, G.A., Tour in Central Wales in 1805, Radnorshire Society Transactions, xxvii, 1958, 7-10
‘Here we saw the women with long cloaks and red silk handkerchiefs under their black beaver hats employed in making hay under a burning sun, though they would have been sufficiently warm in their shift sleeves. But the costume here is in a great measure independent of the seasons; it seems to be neither too hot in summer, nor too cold in winter.
1805 Between Llanidloes and Machynlleth
‘The costume was evidently changed from what we had noticed in Carmarthen and Cardigan shires, and was much less picturesque. Long blue cloaks were now universal, instead of the whittle.
Mavor, William Fordyce, (1758-1837), A tour in Wales, and through several counties of England: including both the universities; performed in the summer of 1805 (London, 1806), pp. 53, 78
The dress of the women is always a round black hat such as worn by men, over a mob cap, and a long blue cloak is subjoined even on the warmest day.
Spence, Elizabeth, (1768-1832), Summer Excursions through parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, and South Wales, (1806), p. 24
In wet or cold weather they wear cloaks of blue cloth descending below the knee. The great influx of strangers introduced by the several Iron Manufactories have it is true of late years tended to bring English manufacturer and English Fashions in use amongst them and the ancient characteristic dress is very fastly wearing out. The younger females, when dressed, cut a smart appearance, with their white kerchiefs and aprons, scarlet cloth cloaks edged with fur, neat mob caps plaited and fastened under the chin with coloured ribbons – and men’s round beaver hats.
A.M. Cuyler, Recollections of a visit to Llanbeder in the County of Brecon with remarks on an excursion down the River Wye from Rhos to Chepstow including Abergavenny, Monmouth, Piecefield, Raglan etc by A.M.Cuyler 1807, NLW add MS 784a, p. 167-168
In Carmarthenshire they wear an oblong piece of red flannel … across their shoulders. … In most other counties the women wear long dark blue cloaks with hoods hanging back, which have a very handsome appearance; some, however, but not many, wear scarlet cloaks.
Meyrick, S. R., The History and Antiquities of the County of Cardiganshire, 1808, pp. cci-ccii; 2nd edition, 1907, p. 91
Brecon … a number of women on foot attracted the notice of my servant. They proved to be no other than some Welsh peasantry who were clad in the complete costume of their country. A short petticoat with a very long waisted gown, the ends of which are pinned back, and (though in the dog days), subjoined to a long dark blue cloth cloak.
Spence, Elizabeth, (1768-1832), Summer Excursions through parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, and South Wales, volume 2, p. 56-57
The women … instead of the long blue cloak [wear] a piece of scarlet … loosely hung over the shoulders and pinned at the bosom is called a whittle.
Spence, Elizabeth, (1768-1832), Summer Excursions through parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, and South Wales, volume 2, p. 112-3
1808 near Myfod
The dress of the peasantry in this country consists of … and a blue cloak and round black hat.
Anon, ‘Sketches in Wales during the summer of 1808’, NLW MS 14537, p. 27
‘The women in the mountainous parts … wear long blue cloaks … that descend almost to their feet, and are generally seen with them even in hot weather, – owing most probably to the sudden showers which the attractions of the mountains renders them liable to.
Bruce, William Joseph, ‘A Peregrination through part of the Counties of Somerset, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire with a portion of South Wales and a tour round north Wales as performed in the Autumn of the Year 1810 …’ NLW, mss. 19405 C, p. 291
The same style of dress prevails with the women … long blue cloaks that descend almost to their feet. These are seldom to be met without on account of the frequent showers a mountainous country is liable to
Hurrell, Henrietta,? John Rylands library, Manchester, MS421, p. 73
rough, dark woollen garments form both their summer and winter clothing; add to these a dark blue or brown cloak of coarse cloth, and a man’s hat, and you have a Welsh beauty in all the pride of her dress.
Ayton, R., A voyage round Great Britain : undertaken between the years 1813 and 1823 and commencing from the Land’s End, Cornwall, with a series of views illustrative of the Character and Prominent Features of the Coast drawn and engraved by William Daniel, A.R.A., 2 vols, London, 1816, vol. II, p. 25
1816 north Wales
she’s wrapped up in a whittle Gown and blue cloak, fit to a title.
Walter, John, ‘A tour of north Wales taken by a gentleman and a lady, scurrilously called Dandys’ Bangor, UCNW, 27, 28 (in verse).
1817 [Kington, Market day]
Most of the women being dressed in the Welch costume with black round beaver hats and blue cloth cloaks.
Fisher, Paul Hawkins, A Three weeks tour into Wales in the year 1817 (Stroud, 1818), p. 8
At this place we first observed signs of having entered the Principality of Wales. The women being universally clad in long blue cloaks with men’s hats appear very different from our smart? country girls. …
The crowd of people greatly exceeding any assemblage of the kind in our part of the world, presented by their national costume and to us singular appearance an extraordinary spectacle … the women in their long blue?? cloth cloaks, striped linsey-woolsey petticoats and men’s hats particularly attracted our notice forming such a complete contrast to the neat ????? country girls that attended our English markets.
Scrope, Frances,? (1794-1858), ‘Journal of an excursion into North Wales, 1817’North Yorkshire Record Office, ZPY5/18/5/3, pp. 9, 11
1818 Basingwerk abbey [near Holywell, (Flintshire)]
The dress of the women is very characteristic – a long blue cloak, reaching to the bottom of the petticoats, a neat white mob cap under a round black hat.
Harriet Alderson, Gwynedd Record Office, XM/2600
‘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
Women uniformly dress alike, viz., men’s hats over their white caps, blue or black and red gowns [bedgown] with short sleeves with linen arm covers [sleeves], dark blue stockings and cloth habits or cloaks of a dark colour.
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.
Masleni, Thomas John, Sketch of a Tour of Scenery in Wales, 1826, NLW Mss 65a, pp. 49, 55
1826 North Wales
In North Wales, the costume is similar [to that in the south], 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.
Aspin, Jehoshaphat, Cosmorama; a view of the Costumes and Peculiarities of all Nations, London : Harris, [n.d. (1826 / 1827)], New ed. 1834, pp. 90 / 42
September 12th Witnessed a Welsh wedding, … accompanied by about 50 people respectably dressed in their way – hats and caps, hooded cloaks, stout leather shoes and black worsted stockings.’
Captain Lloyd, A Diary of Journey from Charring Cross, London, through Wales, by Captain Lloyd, 1827, NLW MS 786, p. 39
1828 [north Wales]
‘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.
The Women of the mountainous parts … 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.
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). Both in
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
1830 Pennant’s slate quarries, Bangor
Welsh peasants … all wear large blue cloth cloaks, and their black shoes and stockings look neat and comfortable.
Frances Sayer, East Sussex Record Office, SAY 3401, p. 8
1833 [North Wales]
‘All the women among the lower orders in Wales, wear men’s hats over muslin caps, and a long blue cloth cloak.’
Sinclair, Catherine, (1800-1864), Hill and Valley, or Hours in England and Wales, (2nd edition, 1839), p. 114
‘Brethyn glas ydyw defnydd mwyaf arferol mentyll gwragedd ac mor ddisymmwth yn aml y mae y moelydd yn tynu cawod o’r cwmmwl, fel na welir gwraig oddi cartref un amser, yn y dyddiau mwyaf tesog, heb ei mantell gyda hi.
Anon [Blackwell, John] ‘Gwisgaid y Cymru in Cylchgrawn y Gymdeithas er Taenu Gwybodaeth Fuddiol am 1834, dan olygiad y Parch John Blackwell, B.A., (1834), pp. 275.
Published translation: The female mantle is generally made of blue cloth; and so suddenly do the mountains attract a shower from the passing cloud, that the hottest day a Welshwoman scarcely moves from home without her cloak.
The Rev John Blackwell, ‘On the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales.’ Beauties of Alun; being the Literary Remains, in Welsh and English, of the late The Rev John Blackwell, B.A., (Ruthin and London, 1851)
While the old women sported a narrow rim with crown tapering to the top generally felt – a cotton handkerchief supplied the place of a cap being drawn close under the chin and over the ears; another kerchief covered the shoulders and the apron and gown adopted as with the preceding, But very frequently a hooded cloak either red or blue, concealed the whole.
Letts, Thomas, Journal of Tour, NLW MS 22340B, f. 108-110
1834 part of Gwent
Illustration by A Cadwalader, probably commissioned by Lady Llanover, of a girl in the costume of part of Gwent, wearing a blue hooded cloak.
NLW DV299, (NLW PA 8137)
When Morgan issued from the shop dressed in her red cloak and round beaver over a mob cap, – the Welsh costume which she continued to wear …
Martineau, Harriet, Illustrations of Political Economy, no XXIV, The Farrers of Budge-row, a tale, 1834, p. 39
1836 [Ireland and Wales]
The women [in Ireland] wearing bright red cloaks, such as are common in Wales
Barrow, J.A., A Tour Round Ireland, (1836), p. 116
It is very diverting to our English eyes to see Welsh women in men’s hats, many of them with long, dark cloth cloaks even in the summer season.
Elizabeth Bower, Dorset Record Office, D/BOW:kw 209, 30th June, p. 99
The Women’s dress is made of wool and flax or … many of them wear dark blue cloaks.
‘Observations on Parturition amongst the Poor In the Upper District of Cardiganshire’
Williams, Richard, (Doctor of Aberystwyth), (N.L.W. 12165D), p6 folio 9r – p. 7 folio 11r.
1842 Abergavenny 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.
NLW MS 13962E, 98c-d, posters in Welsh and English; Cambrian 8.10.1842 (Ball), 22.10.1842 (prizes)
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,
Parry, Edward, Cambrian Mirror : Or A New Tourist Companion Through North Wales (1843) and subsequent editions, (p. 159, 1851 edition)
We will … follow this troupe of Welshwomen, fresh from market. … [On the horse] sits a jolly farmer’s wife with a round face and a broad hat. … A scarlet cloth cloak falls from her shoulders and almost covers part of her steed;
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), pp. 69-70
1848 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
A prize [no. 26] 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 [no. 33] 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).
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.)
Francis Careswell was innkeeper of the Bull and Mouth public house, Terrace Road, Aberystwyth. When he was bankrupted in 1848, he had to have all the family’s clothes valued. Those of his wife were listed as:
4 dresses 28s
1 cloak 15s
2 bonnets 5s
2 shawls 15s
2 flannel petticoats 4s
2 upper petticoats 5s
4 shirts 8s
The cloak was the most valuable single item.
(values are in shillings = 5p)
NLW Llidiardau 9/2/20
1854 Merthyr Tydfil
one might suppose the entire labouring population of Merthyr passes through its crowded market hall ; all are dressed in their Sunday clothing … the red-cloaked, hat-covered women
Anon, Two days on the Welsh border, Chambers’s repository of instructive and amusing tracts: Volume 4, no 63, (1854), p. 8
The women were barefooted too, but had for the most part head-dresses; their garments consisted of blue cloaks and striped gingham gowns
Borrow, George, Wild Wales, (1860)
1854 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.
Borrow, George, Wild Wales, (1860), chapter 80
1861 [South Wales, going to market]
The dress of the women varies. … and a long blue cloak with a capacious hood is, even in warm weather, not thought superfluous.
Hall, Mr and Mrs, The Book of South Wales, the Wye, and the Coast, (1861), pp. 300-301
19.5.1862 Llanover Eisteddfod near Bryn Mawr
About 20 of us went to an eisteddfod, we were all dressed in the Welsh costume. Elizabeth and I had red cloaks.
Diary of Margaret Davies, later Margaret Mostyn Jones, servant to Lady Llanover at Llanover. NLW MS 23511A
some of the women wear a peculiar cloak-hood, and when, in a shower, this is thrown, as it sometime is, over the tall hat, the effect is something prodigious. The hat, being a matter of a foot high, and as solid as a chimney pot, covering it with the cloak-hood gives the wearer the appearance of having a balloon on her head. p. 250-251
Sikes, Wirt, (1836-1883, American Consul in Cardiff, 1876-1883)
Harper’s magazine, Volume 54, (1877), p. 340; Rambles and Studies in Old South Wales, 1881(Reprinted by Stewart Williams, Barry, 1973)
1877?, Laugharne [memoir]
Out of doors there was the usual shawl, and, if the weather required it, a cloak of dark blue cloth, and the Welsh hat.
Curtis, Mary, The Antiquities of Laugharne, Pendine and their Neighbourhoods. (written in 1877? ), 2nd edition 1880, chapter 1 part IV, p. 40-44, reprinted Dyfed County Council, 1991
1911 Caernarfon, Investiture of the Prince of Wales, 13th July, 1911
‘The march to the castle of the Welsh choir, the women most picturesque in their red cloaks and steeple-crowned hats.’
The Times, 14.7.1911; Illustrated London News, 22.7.1911
PICTURES OF CLOAKS
Woman in a Cloak by George Harvey (not necessarily Welsh)
Red cloaks in England
Anon (Translator, possibly Sarah Austin (1793-1867), ‘Travels chiefly on Foot, through several parts of England in 1782, described in Letters to a Friend’ by C.P. Moritz, (1795)
Karamzin, N.M., Letters of a Russian Traveller, 1780-1790, (1857)
Hutchinson, Sara, ‘Letters’ (1954)
Jane Austen noted that their maid Sally ‘has a new red cloak ‘ in 1817 (Jane Austen, Letter dated 23 Jan. 1817, Letters, p. 137)
This surprisingly short list was published by Anne Buck. There are probably many other references to red cloaks, and probably some to blues ones in England yet to be found and there are many illustrations, mostly from the early 19th century.
Buck, Anne, ‘Variations in English Women’s Dress in the 18th century’, Folk Life, vol. 9, pp. 7, 15
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. 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
Buck, Anne, Variations in English Women’s dress in the 18th Century, Folk Life, vol 9, pp. 5, 15. Records a few reports of red cloaks worn in England during the 18th century.
Tozer, Jane and Sarah Levitt, Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770–1870, (Laura Ashley Press, 1983), cloaks, pp. 52-53
Cloaks in Ireland
Mahon, Brid, Rich and Rare, The Story of Irish Dress, (2000) p. 57, 63
Describes Irish cloaks and notes that they replaced the mantle in Ireland during the 18th century.