Lady Llanover

Lady Llanover (1802-1896)

Lady Llanover was known by various names: Augusta Waddington; Augusta Hall (she married Benjamin Hall in 1823). She became Lady Hall when her husband was made a baornet in 1838 and was known as: Lady Hall; Lady Llanover; Lady Llanofer; Arglwyddes Llanofer; Arglwyddes Llanover. She became Baroness Llanover in 1859 when her husband was made a peer.  She signed her name:  ‘Aug: Hall’; ‘A.H.’

Her bardic name was Gwenynen Gwent. She might also have been the author of an article under the pseudonym Gwenllian Gwent in the first edition of the Welsh language magazine for women, Y Gymraes (1850) which she helped to finance.

She is normally referred to here as Lady Llanover.

Portrait photograph of Lady Llanover

There are several items on the People’s Collection Wales relating to Augusta Hall

Web pages for the Lady Llanover Society

Web site on Lady Llanover by Helen Forder

see also

Introduction

From the end of the 18th century, and particularly after 1819 when the first eisteddfod with the Gorsedd of Bards was held in Carmarthen, there was a burgeoning interest in Welsh Culture and Welshness. Augusta Hall, later Lady Llanover, from her home on the border of Wales, took a great interest in Eisteddfodau, harp playing and the Welsh language. It is often said that she influenced the popularity and preservation of the Welsh costume but the evidence for this is sparse and inconclusive.

The creation of a myth?
The essay, prints and other evidence relating to Lady Llanover’s encouragement of the use of Welsh fabrics, especially at the Abergavenny Eisteddfodau, 1834-1853 has led many to the conclusion that she invented, recorded, developed and/or encouraged the use of traditional or National Welsh costume. Indeed, this supposition has become so well embedded in academic and other literature that her role in the creation of a Welsh National costume is frequently accepted as fact.
For an analysis of the evidence, see Freeman, Michael, Lady Llanover and the Welsh Costume Prints, The National Library of Wales Journal, xxxiv, no 2 (2007), pp.235-251.

She may well have commissioned the production of watercolours and thirteen prints of costumes of six parts of Wales, (Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire and parts of Gwent and the Gower) but it is doubtful that these are entirely accurate representations of the costumes actually worn by women at the time: it is more likely that they were produced as fashion plates showing what she thought should be worn by her servants and by her friends at the eisteddfodau and balls which she organised to celebrate the Abergavenny Eisteddfodau. Her essay on the preservation of Welsh language and costume, (a title, incidentally, chosen by the committee of the 1834 Cardiff Eisteddfod committee) says little about costume and certainly doesn’t describe it. The essay was published in both Welsh and English, but not with the prints. Copies of both the essay and prints are rare and there are almost no references to either in any subsequent publication until the middle of the 20th century. The success of her plea, aimed at the young women of Wales, to adopt the Welsh costume in order to support the Welsh woollen industry and for reasons of National pride (and, on a much lower level, as a picturesque attraction for visitors) is unknown. Available evidence suggests that she had little influence on Welsh costume except within her own circle of gentry friends, her servants and tenants.

It has been suggested by Dr Celyn Gurden-Williams (see bibliography below, p. 152), that she didn’t want her message about preserving Welsh language, music, fabrics and customs to be confused by her recognition that these could be profitably exploited for commercial purposes and hence the possible use of a pseudonym ‘Cadwallader’ on the watercolours of the costumes after which the prints were produced (although it is equally possible that this was the name of the artist she commissioned to produced the original watercolours) and that she chose not to include her name on the prints despite the probable kudos that this would have lent them.

Her supposed influence on the style and prevalence of Welsh costume was greatly exaggerated following the publication of some of the prints ascribed to her as postcards by 1947 and in a booklet in 1951 and 1958, (Ellis, Megan, Welsh Costume and Customs; The National Library of Wales : Picture book no. 1) and an article by a member of staff of the National Museum of Wales (Payne, Ffransis (1963), “Welsh Peasant Costume”, Folk Life, 2, 42-57). From then on, many writers assumed that she had influenced rural women throughout Wales to wear a costume, which, in some unexplained way, led to the creation of a National Costume. However, she did not describe any Welsh costume in detail and she did not suggest that any particular costume should be worn throughout Wales. The 13 prints ascribed to her represent seven costumes parts of south and south-west Wales and there is no evidence that she preferred any one of these above the rest. The two surviving costumes which might have been commissioned by her are of a style and fabric quite unlike any known from other sources – the fabric is check, (a design she preferred to the more common stripes or plain fabrics) and the style is similar to contemporary fashions.

There is no evidence at all that she invented the Welsh hat. The costume prints attributed to her show tall hats with narrow curved brims of a type worn by equestrians and others all over Wales. They are not Welsh hats which have broad flat brims but someone did paste watercolours of Welsh hats onto some of the prints ascribed to her. The Welsh hat probably developed from the men’s hats which many rural working women wore from at least 1770 to the 1830s. The Rev John Blackwell wrote about the two shapes of Welsh hat worn in Wales in his essay for the competition which Lady Llanover won.

It might be thought that the images of Welsh costumes ascribed to her are not worth studying: they have been described as bogus and a construct of her fertile imagination, but there are elements of the images which correspond with other evidence, so there is probably some truth in these representations. In addition, they form such a significant part of the perception of the history of the history of Welsh costume that they require study, if only to isolate them from other evidence.

Bibliography

Much has been written about Lady Llanover, especially in a series of articles by Maxwell Fraser in the Journal of the National Library of Wales.

Gurden-Williams, Celyn, Lady Llanover and the creation of a Welsh cultural utopia. PhD Thesis, Cardiff, 2008

Forder, Helen, High Hats and Harps : the Life and Times of Lord and Lady Llanover (2012)

Lectures on Lady Llanover given to the Friends of the National Library of Wales, in 2000

Fuller bibliography