The Paisley shawl developed from the Kashmere shawl which was introduced into Britain in the 18th century. Versions were made at Norwich, Edinburgh and most famously at Paisley after which the pattern became named.
John Irwin, Shawls, (V&A Museum, 1955); Pamela Clabburn, The Norwich Shawl, (HMSO, 1995); C.H. Rock, Paisley Shawls (1966); Reilly, Valerie, Paisley Patterns, (1989)
Queen Victoria made a positive effort to support the Paisley industry during the depression of the 1840s by wearing a shawl made at Paisley at her son, Arthur’s, christening in 1842 and during her visit to Scotland in the same year. She was reported wearing one in 1843, 1844 and 1848, and a fashion column noted that ‘Tartan and Paisley shawls commonly seen worn in the West end of London, after the Queen’s visit to Scotland.’ (Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh, October 7, 1844)
Walter Scott expressed a fondness for them. (Glasgow Herald, September 7, 1846)
The earliest examples were woven and were often two-sided, but later examples were printed on cotton (and silk?). This may have tolled the death knell of the Paisley shawl as a fashion item since servants and other poor women could afford them.
While not being restricted to Wales, they are often associated with the Welsh costume and appear in prints of women in Wales from the 1850s. However, they were rarely mentioned in Welsh newspapers and so far, no reference to them have been found before 1866. Of those dating between 1866 and 1900, only one is an advert and the remainder are reports of thefts (4), and loss (1). This implies that they were uncommon and valuable.
There is no evidence that any shawls of Paisley design were made in Wales.
Adverts for Paisley shawls
Advertisement. Paisley shawls available for one guinea (The Aberdeen Journal April 10, 1844)
Advertisement. Paisley Shawl warehouse, Liverpool. (Liverpool Mercury etc, April 19, 1844)
References to Paisley shawls in Wales
Merthyr Art Union prize draw, A rich paisley shawl worth 3 guineas (Baner ac Amserau Cymru (Denbigh, Wales), December 19, 1866)
[This is the earliest reference to a Paisley shawl found in 19th cent Newspapers on line (Wales only). There were 28 similar fund raising lotteries for chapels mentioned in newspapers up to 1867 and a similar lottery, drawn on Sept 25th, 1879.]
Robbery of Jewellery etc. From Mr Aronson, including a paisley shawl. (North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), May 15, 1869)
Theft of a paisley shawl (Western Mail (Cardiff), August 17, 1869
Theft of a paisley shawl (Western Mail (Cardiff), October 11, 1869)
Theft of a paisley shawl (North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), October 21, 1882)
Missing woman from Newtown, wearing a paisley shawl (Western Mail, November 26, 1883)
Paisley shawl taken by mistake from hall at Llandudno (North Wales Chronicle January 5, 1884)