shoes

Many tourists record that women often walked bare-foot to market. There are several illustrations of this and some described how they carried their shoes from home to the outskirts of town where they put them on while selling their wares, and took them off again on their way home. The implication is that these were rural women: women who lived in towns probably wore shoes at all times.

It is not clear whether not wearing shoes was a matter of saving shoe leather or a preference for walking bare-footed  with a need to protect their feet from the filth and dangers of town streets, or that they felt they might sell more goods if they were properly shod.

Traherne illustrated women taking off their shoes on their way to or from market.

Shoes were presumably worn on Sundays and other special events with their best clothes.

It seems likely that walking in bare feet became much less common by the 1850s: there are no written references to the practice after that date, but a few illustrations, particularly R. Griffiths’ Welsh Fashions Taken on a Market-Day in Wales, of 1851 shows one woman with bare feet and footless stocking hooked over a toe. By this date railways had infiltrated much of Wales bringing in mass produced shoes and stockings. There was a change from a self-sufficient life-style to a money based one and the traditional costume becomes rarer. However, both men and women must have worn socks or stockings, and it is likely that most of these were knitted, but the evidence both in written accounts and illustrations becomes far rarer.

Welsh men were very rarely seen without shoes or stockings throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and their shoes were sometimes described as having buckles.

1701
The Welsh language was not of ‘rational creatures’ and the Welsh are lazy and heathenish and had the itch. Most of the middle (and all the meaner) sort, are as absolute strangers to shoes and stockings, as to moral honesty.
Five travel scripts attributed to Edward Ward edited by Howard William Troyer for the Facsimile text society (New York, Columbia University Press, 1933)

1730 Tregaron area
The common Welsh Women wore neither Shoe nor Stockings
Loveday, John, (1711-1789), Diary of a tour in 1732 [and earlier] through parts of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, … Printed from a manuscript in the possession of his great-grandson J. E. T. Loveday, with an introduction and an itinerary. (Edinburgh: 1890), p. 62

1730 Cardigan
The maid at the Inn at Cardigan being dressed because it was Sunday, in the Evening put on her everyday clothes and laid by her shoes and stockings (waiting upon us as usual bare legged) only, I presume, to be worn on High days. 

Loveday, John, (1711-1789), Diary of a tour in 1732 [and earlier] through parts of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, … Printed from a manuscript in the possession of his great-grandson J. E. T. Loveday, with an introduction and an itinerary. (Edinburgh: 1890), p. 62

1732 north Wales
Some of the ordinary Women in N.Wales wear stockings without feet and no shoes: so do several boys.
Loveday, John, (1711-1789), Diary of a tour in 1732 [and earlier] through parts of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, … Printed from a manuscript in the possession of his great-grandson J. E. T. Loveday, with an introduction and an itinerary. (Edinburgh: 1890), p. 122

1755 Wales
The peasants wear no shoes about their houses, and in their common travelling the roads, they carry them in their hands, and wash their feet near the towns which they are travelling to, when they put on them and their stockings; many of them, however, have none. And yet these poor creatures would think themselves deemed to perpetual slavery if they were obliged to wear wooden shoes; the ideas of wooden shoes,  slavery, and French being all linked together in their imaginations; they would scarce prefer them to confinement without and as soon wear chains as preserve their feet from injury by these contrivances; the flattering idea of being free, though bare-footed, gives no little consolation amidst as much slavery as poverty and dependence can bequeath …
Angeloni, Battista, (Pseudonym of J. Shebbeare), Letters on the English Nation, (1755), p. 34

1769 Llanrwst
The inhabitants who are natives seem to be the real descendents of the Ancient Druids, both in shape and dress, numbers of both sexes which we saw, am pretty sure, never wore shoe or stocken [stockings] since they were created.
Anon, Bangor, UCNW, 3091, p. 9

1776 Machynlleth
Here and in most other towns in Wales I observed a piece of [?] of the women which is very unnecessary [?]. They either wear no stockings or have them made without feet and show their dirty toes.
Anon, (A Liverpool merchant), Tour in the Summer 1776, through Wales, NLW MS2862A, p. 42

1776
Throughout the greater part of Monmouthshire and all Glamorganshire through which we travelled, most of the women and children, though in other respects comfortably dressed, wear no shoes or stockings,
Mytton, Thomas, Journal of a tour thro’ part of South Wales, 1776″, Shropshire Record Office, 1037/27/41, p. 17

1790 Welshpool
In the more distant parts of Wales it is very common for the lower kind of people to go without shoes or stockings
Nicholson, Francis, The diary of Frances (Fanny) Nicholson, NLW MS15190C, entry for 19.8.1790

1791 Carmarthen
the common people despise the use of shoes and stockings. They consider these appendages as a useless piece of extravagance and I often met Welsh girls upon the road, who were dressed for a visit to their friends in a clean white petticoat tucked above the knee, trudging along the hard road, barefooted, with their shoes and stockings under their arms.
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. 215-6

1791 Wales
‘It [bare feet] seemed to me to be a very humiliating and cruel mark of subjection; but this, Mr M — assured me, was not the case. It was, on the contrary, a sign that the women did not labour in the fields, as they do in England. {Men always wear shoes}
… Even the custom of walking bare foot does not proceed from the want of stockings, you see; nor has it such a disgusting appearance as persons unacquainted with it are apt to concede.
Morgan, Mary, Mrs, A Tour to Milford Haven, in the Year 1791, (London, 1795)

1793 north Wales
I find the fashion of wearing shoes and stockings, is more general here, than it was 30 years ago; when I have been frequently disgusted by the filthy appearance of the female waiters and chambermaids, having their bare feet clogged with mire and dirt.
Mavor, William Fordyce, The traveller’s companion, from Holyhead, to London, p. 23

1796 Swansea
The women and children in this country all go without shoes and stockings, a shocking nasty thing I think …
Anon, A Tour from York into Wales in the year 1796, NLW MS 4489

1798-1801 Wales
In the more unfrequented parts the women seldom wear any shoes, except on a Sunday, or the Market day, and even on those days they often carry them in their hands as they go along the roads. I have sometimes seen six or eight of them after their journeys from the adjacent villages, seated on the bank of a rivulet, in the act of washing their feet previously to their entering the towns.
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, (1804), 2nd edition, p. 491

1800 Margam
… the women here almost universally (I speak of course of the lower classes) go without stockings
Trevenen, John (of Cornwall) (1781-1829), Journal of a Walk Through Wales in the Autumn of 1800, NLW facs 501, p. 63

1804 near Cardiff
Many of the Country people were without shoes or stockings tho always well clothed.
Russel, Mary, Miss, Journal of a Week’s tour in south Wales from Gloucester, Cardiff. Central Library, MS 1.663, entry for 30.7.1804

1804 near Rhayader
Stockings and shoes are generally worn near the great roads but little used by women and children in the interior of the mountains.
Diary of J.S. Duncan (of the Ashmolean) and his brother? P.B. Duncan, Tour Through Wales from Oxford, 1804, NLW MS 16714A

1805 Cowbridge
The Welch girls of the lower order commonly go without shoes or stockings, but one would not expect to see a wench walking along a flinty road with her shoes in her hand. We could not but admire such economy.
White, James, Picturesque Excursion into South Wales, British Library Add MSS 44991, p. 55

1806 Usk
The poor are wretchedly clothed, as well as extremely dirty and very indolent. The children are chiefly without shoes or stockings.
Spence, Elizabeth, (1768-1832), Summer Excursions through Parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire and South Wales, 1809 (2nd edition) p. 8

1807 Llanbedr, Breconshire
Children of extremely poor people are often seen without shoes or stockings.
A.M. Cuyler (This may not be the name of the author), Recollections of a visit to Llanbeder [Llanbedr] 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. 168 The section on Welsh peasants (p.166) is the same as that in Powys County Archives Office A104/1/1(1) written by Henry Thomas Payne.

1808 Cricieth
All the women here and even in parts of Montgomeryshire walk without shoes and stockings, which in the latter country [sic] are reserved for Gala days.
Charlotte Jane Skinner, sketchbook, Cardiff Central Library, MS3.295, National Library of Wales 14537C, p. 102

1811 Ewenny
Here the girls, & almost all the lower class of began universally to go without shoes or stockings
Anon, Journal of a tour through parts of Monmouthshire and Glamorgan made, 1811? Illustrated by watercolour drawings sketched by Rose Sotheby, NLW MS 6497C, 30th July

1813 Llandeilo – Lampeter
The round hat and mob cap yet abounds but shoes and stockings are become general.
Duncan, John Shute, (1768-1844), Tour Through Wales 1813, NLW MS16715A, p. 8

1825, Llangollen?
Most [women] we saw were knitting socks or stockings for sale though the children & many of the women were without any.
Eliza Spurrett, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, 7D542/1

1827 Neath
‘Today the Welsh lasses have thot [thought ?] proper to clothe their legs and feet. Yesterday in one walk from Merthyr we saw so much nakedness as quite to shock us. This, bye the bye is one of the means of distinction between the sexes for we never see the men (the poorest) without shoes or stockings.
Lloyd, Captain, A Diary of Journey from Charring Cross, London, through Wales, by Captain Lloyd, 1827, NLW MS 786, pp. 7-8

1828 Aberystwyth
… the country people often go barefoot, indeed, shoes are rather an incumbrance in climbing hills and traversing rugged ground, black stockings are worn without feet but with a narrow slip passing over the upper part of the foot and bound by a loop round the second toe, there is a good reason for this, they have so much walking in bog land and their feet often wet with its yellow waters that stockings would be a great inconvenience.
Anon, A journal, with sketches, of a walking tour from Kington to Aberystwyth and through parts of North Wales, 1828. NLW MS 6716D, p. 21

1844 South-west Wales
Formerly, twenty years ago … you saw women walking around without shoes and stockings, but now you never see such an ocurence in this part of the country.
British Parliamentary Papers, XVI, (1844), Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for South Wales [Rebecca Riots], p. 239

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