I would be pleased to hear of any Welsh hats still in private possession, especially if they have the maker’s or seller’s name inside, or if they can be dated closely (for example, by knowing the name and dates of the person who bought it).
I am also very keen to hear of any other tall hats made of felt or other material which may date from around 1800. These are exceedingly rare, and only one, originally made in London, is known of in a museum in Wales.
I am also interested in the more recent use of the Welsh hat. When, for example, did school-girls start wearing them on St David’s Day? When did felt hats (often with sewn-in bonnets or embroidered ribbons) replace the traditional silk or card hat?
Welsh hat boxes
I would also like to see hat boxes for Welsh hats. So far, none are know to survive, but it is known that a trunk was made with a compartment for a Welsh hat, and special boxes were made for the hats worn by the Royal Welsh choir. (now in the National History Museum, St Fagans) Christys’ who supplied men’s top hats with boxes also made Welsh hats and may have made special boxes for them too.
Before contacting me it would help if you have measured the hat, made a note of any maker’s and owner’s names, and if possible taken some photographs.
Measuring the hats
Use a fabric measuring tape which is less likely to damage the hat.
Take the measurements in centimetres. The internal dimensions can be difficult to record accurately if an internal hat band is present but be as accurate as you can.
When recording the maker’s, seller’s and owner’s names and other marks, transcribe the words exactly as they are printed or written (but don’t try to draw the details of any crest). Look for any indication of size (such as 6 7/8, often written in chalk on the inside of the crown which is six and seven eighths inches), and owner’s names.
Photographing the hats
It is difficult to photograph large black objects like these hats against a light background if you have an automatic camera unless yours is sophisticated and you know how to adjust it.
It is best to take the photographs against a plain background which is slightly lighter than the hat. Take a general shot and one of the inside. If your camera will take close-ups, photograph the maker’s names and any other marks if present. Also take details of the ribbon around the crown and the internal head band.
It is often thought that these hats are very old and they may well be, but it would be extremely valuable to know exactly who may have worn them and when. If possible record the names of previous owners and their dates and ages if known.
Records of the use of Welsh hats, and stories and poems which mention them.
I would be very interested to hear of any stories associated with Welsh hats and of any poems which mention them.
Donating your hat to a museum
If you have a hat and wish to give it to a museum, contact your local museum. Many Museum in Wales do not want any more unless the hat has very special associations (for example, it was worn by someone famous, or is a rare example of a Welsh hatter’s work). These hats are heirlooms and are best preserved in the families of those who wore them.
How to look after your Welsh hat
Most Welsh hats are now quite fragile and their size makes them difficult to store in normal hat boxes. Find or make a box that is slightly larger than the hat. Line the box carefully, preferable in acid free tissue paper. If the crown is slightly crushed there is little that can be done to restore it. Stuffing it full of tissue paper may give it some support, but may also damage the lining (if any) which is often of very delicate paper and silk. One solution is to line the inside of the crown with a piece of card which expands naturally to line the inside of the brim, then fill this with acid free tissue or bubble-wrap. To take it out, remove the tissue or bubble wrap first, then carefully withdraw the card so as not to damage the lining.