Pembrokeshire jackets

In Pembrokeshire and parts of Carmarthenshire, the women wore a jacket rather than a gown or bedgown. There were of plain coloured fabric.

These had a short tail (Mrs Morgan describes these as flaps), very much like a riding jacket with which Mary Curtis compared them in 1877. Mrs Morgan (1791, below) says they were blue or brown, while other contemporary descriptions state that they were brown or dark red. Both surviving examples have short sleeves on which there is a narrow band of watered silk. They have two buttons at the small of the back. No skirts of this fabric are known to survive.

A jacket of this type was illustrated in the set of prints probably commissioned by Lady Llanover in the early 1830s. Contemporary descriptions of the type of jacket worn in Pembrokeshire confirm that this illustration is an accurate representation.

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Welsh girl in the costume of Pembrokeshire by A Cadwallader, early 1830s, showing a short-tailed brown wool jacket with a long skirt of the same fabric. Prints numbers 3 and 4 (side and rear view)

Surviving examples
Only two surviving examples are known.

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Jacket of plain brown woollen from Ambleston, Pembrokeshire. (NMGW, St Fagans, 47.256/5)

 

 

 

 

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Jacket of red and black twill from Pembrokeshire (Scolton Manor Museum, Pembrokeshire, 1993.0265)

 

 

 

 

For similar Jackets on dolls, see Welsh costume doll gowns

Contemporary illustrations

1792
Watercolour by J.C. Ibbetson, ‘Peculiar dress & costume of the Peasantry, in the districts around Newcastle Emlyn in Pembrokeshire, derived from that of the Flemings, who settled in these parts, & in the Peninsula of Gower, in the Reign of Henry 2d’, watercolour, NMW A 17502. The dress shown in this view is very much like that in the rest of his watercolours, except that the skirts are striped. It clearly shows brown bedgowns with tails of varying length; white shawls; blue or white whittles; blue cloaks and white kerchiefs under their men’s hats.

1849
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‘Vale of Neath’ by E Hall?, 1849 (with grateful thanks to Neath Antiquarian Society)
Watercolour, painting of women in short brown gown, like those worn in Pembrokeshire and a cockle hat. On the back is written: ‘Phillips says ???? 17/17 Lady Llanover / Miss Waddington / Benjm Hall MP afterward / Lord Llanover / She visited Neath Valley in 1849’
The name of the artist might be Hall, Hill or Hull. Two other similar images, of Swansea Market, might be by the same artist (Swansea Museum (2000.11); NMW, St Fagans, 61.45)

Contemporary descriptions

1785 Pembrokeshire
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

1791
The hereditary dress of the Welsh women is one of the most commodious, comfortable, and simple, that I ever saw adopted by any set of people whatsoever. For its being universal among them I will not pretend to account. It consists of a garter-blue cloth jacket and petticoat, and a black beaver hat. In some districts they wear brown jackets instead of blue; but they are all made in the same form. The petticoat is rather short, and hangs round. The jacket is round also, and the flaps are about a quarter of a yard long [9 inches, 22.5 cms]. Young people wear them shorter, and edge them with binding of different colours, generally pink; this gives them a very smart appearance. They have a narrow cuff, turned up above the elbow, which is edged also. They use no buttons, but tie on their jackets with worsted bindings, of the same colour as their trimmings.
Mrs Morgan, A Tour to Milford Haven, in the Year 1791, (London, 1795), p. 272. Mrs Morgan described the gown of Welsh women but she visited only Pembrokeshire (having passed through Glamorganshire and Carmarthenshire on her way there and back. She was accused of making generalisations about Welsh life from her limited experience by ‘Cymro’, in his review of her book in 1799. (‘Cymro’, [Theophilus Jones, (1759-1812)] Cursory Remarks on Welsh Tours or Travels (1799), Cambrian Register II, (for 1796), pp. 440-441)

1795 Cardigan (on the border of Pembrokeshire through which she had just passed)
The dress of the women … consists of a striped flannel petticoat and a long brown jacket over it, a blue handkerchief tyed over their heads and a black beaver hat upon that, a large brown, or blue flannel wrapper which goes round the waist and over the shoulders and serves the double purpose of a cloak and cradle for the one or two children they generally carry at their back.
Journal of Sarah Wilmot, 1793-1810) NMW 179554

1797 [Llangollen to Llanymynach, Pembrokeshire]
The dress of the Welsh women is exactly similar throughout the principality, … a kind of bed-gown with loose sleeves, of the same stuff, but generally of a brown colour.
Warner, Richard, Rev (1763-1857), A Walk through Wales in Aug, 1797, letter 12, pp. 183-184 [It is possible that he was making a generialisation about the wearing of brown bedgowns here.]

1803 Near Scolton, Pembrokeshire
The women’s attire is singular; it consists of a short jacket and petticoat entirely of brown woollen, like a riding habit, a close cap and long lappets, with a man’s beaver hat.
Malkin, B.H., Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales, from materials collected during two excursions in the year 1803. (London 1804), p. 482

1803 Llanstephan
A farming party also appeared at this instant, proceeding with goods for Carmarthen market. … A sledge loaded with sacks of grain followed; drawn by a horse on which a lusty wench sat astride; clothed in a brown jerkin and petticoat, but with her lower extremities uncovered.
Barber, J.T., (1774-1841), Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire, Comprehending a General Survey of the Picturesque Scenery, Remains of Antiquity, Historical Events, Peculiar Manners, and Commercial Situations of That Interesting Portion of the British Empire. (1803), pp. 40-41

1803 Pembrokeshire
The dress … of the women of this part of Pembrokeshire [the south] is a thick, heavy cloth gown and petticoat, with a hood hanging from it behind, generally of a dark colour
Evans, John, B.A., 1768-1812 (Jesus College, Oxford)Letters written during a tour through South Wales, in the year 1803, and at other times : containing views of the history, antiquities, and customs of that part of the principality; and interspersed with observations on its scenery, agriculture, botany, mineralogy, trade and manufactures. (C. & R. Baldwin, London, 1804, p. 257. Some of his descriptions of costume are almost certainly derived from other sources.

1805 near Pembroke
the females of the lower order would not be lesser in appearance by leaving off an ugly coloured handkerchief wrapped at all times round the head and by adding a little to the short Flemish jacket of fustian.
White, James, Picturesque Excursion into South Wales, 1805, British Library Add. MSS. 44991, p. 71

1810
Habits of the poor at Carmarthen
There is a singularity in the dress of the poorer female inhabitants through these western counties, that always takes the notice of strangers; they are the manufactory of the country, flannel of coarse woollen cloth; their under dresses are mostly of the former, with dark brown jackets and mantles of the same hanging loosely over their shoulders, their heads are bound with a handkerchief, and they have hats of felt, the same fashion as those worn by men; some suppose these habits were taken from the Flemmings who made their settlement in Pembrokeshire about 600 years ago.
Holdsworth, Rev., [probably], The Tenby guide : comprehending such information, relating to that town and its vicinity, as could be collected from ancient & modern authorities., (Swansea, printed by J Voss, 1810), p. 101
Walter Davies cites Holdsworth as the author and comments that it contains ‘a description of the female dress of the Pembrokeshireans. Not approved’ NLW MS 1659B, p. 86.

1828 Pembrokeshire
… the neat maiden of Pembrokeshire, in her dark cloth dress of one hue, either a dark brown approximating to black, or a claret colour, made by the skill of a tailor, and very closely resembling the ladies’ modern riding habits,—a perfect picture of comfort and neatness, in alliance with good taste.
T. J. Llewelyn Prichard, The Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti (a novel) (1828), p. 47

1834
Yr hyn a elwir yn Nyfed yn ‘bais a gwn bach’sydd hefyd yn hynedi gwisgiad benywod Cymru … Yn rhanau uchaf Ceredigion, ac yn agos bob man arall o Gymru, gwneir y gwn yn llaes, ond yn Nyfed yn fyr, yn debyg i siaced, a thorir y godrau yn hir-grwn.
(What is called in Dyfed ‘pais a gŵn bach’ a petticoat and bedgown, forms a peculiarity in the Welsh female dress…. In the upper parts of Cardiganshire, and in all the most mountainous districts, the skirts of the gown are made to descend almost to the ankle. In Dyfed, they are cut in an oval form, and very short, so as to appear like a man’s jacket.)
[Rev John Blackwell] ‘Gwisgaid y Cymru’ in Cylchgrawn y Gymdeithas er Taenu Gwybodaeth Fuddiol (Llanymddyfri, 1834), pp. 274-27;  The Rev John Blackwell,  On the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales.’ in Beauties of Alun; being the Literary Remains, in Welsh and English, of the late The Rev John Blackwell, B.A., (Ruthin and London, 1851), pp. 253-266
[Dyfed was originally formed of parts of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire: from 1974-1996 the county of Dyfed comprised all three.]

1837 Eglwyswrw
The women wear as in other parts of Pembrokeshire the Flemish jacket & black hat.
Louise Charlotte Kenyon, Shropshire Records and Archive Centre, 549/285

1868 (about) Narberth
{At the hiring fairs, the servants are}in “Pembrokeshire costume”, which consists of a high-crowned black beaver hat, set on the extreme top of the head; a white stiffly-starched cap under it, and the brown tight jacket, with short plain sleeves, (This is similar to a Joseph or short Polka, of late of so much in fashion with the higher classes, the only difference being that the Welsh jacket is cut low on the bosom and has short sleeves.) This jacket is well calculated to show the figure to advantage; and, as in this county the bad figure is the exception, a deformed person being rarely seen, it is a most becoming dress; the light neckerchief under it, and bright cotton sleeves attached to the short cloth ones, with the addition, in general, of bright blue or garnet-coloured glass buttons at the back and sleeves of the jacket, the short petticoat of brown cloth, and black and white apron, black stockings and shoes, complete the picturesque dress of the lower class in the country.
Allen’s Guide to Tenby, edited by Mrs F.P. Gwynne (W Kent and Co, London, and C.S. Allen, Tenby, [c. 1868], pp. 72-73; 135-136

1873 Tenby
The dress of the Welsh women who came to Tenby Market generally consists of a high-crowned hat, a full quilled cap, a linsey plaid petticoat, a brown cloth short-sleeve jacket, woollen sleeves, chequered flannel apron, light coloured flannel neckerchief, black worsted stockings and tied boots …
Mason, R., A guide to the town of Tenby and its neighbourhood, 1873

1875 Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr streets has lost one of its most picturesque class of frequenters. The fact was that the tall Welsh hat is obsolete.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Tuesday, March 9, 1875

1876
[The illustration shows] the hat worn by the woman. This head-gear is characteristically Welsh . These hats, tall, narrowing towards the top, with flat round rims, suggest Mother Hubbard and Mrs Quickly, with a touch of Tudor witch. They are often worn over a cap with white frills embellishing each side of the face; the fair wearer, thus “got up”, resembling unconsciously, but quaintly, a Peninsular veteran, with a weather scared visage surrounded by the white whiskers of the days of glorious Waterloo. I fancy that the use of these hats is slowly dying out. I do not remember ever to have to see [sic] one worn by a young woman. They seem to be old-fashioned, and to be confined to the generation which is passing away.’
Wilson, H Schütz, Picturesque Europe, Chapter on The West Coast of Wales, p. 154

[1877] Pembrokeshire
In Pembrokeshire they wear a short jacket, cut low on the neck, and called “cwta,” which means short; bobtailed; especially applied to a dress. In common language it is called “a cutty”; the skirt of it – if so short a piece is attached, and hangs down from the waist of the jacket, deserves the name of skirt – is cut off short at the sides, just under the arm, and falls lower down behind. It is something like that frill which fell behind from the waist of a lady’s riding-habit which was once fashionable. In this jacket it is in folds; comes almost to a point [sic].
Mary Curtis, The Antiquities of Laugharne, Pendine and their Neighbourhoods. (written in 1877), 2nd edition 1880, chapter 1 part IV, p. 40-44. Some of this description may well come from Malkin (quoted above) which she went on to quote.