Comments on Lady Llanover and Welsh costume

Lady Llanover‘s essay On the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of WalesY Traethawd Buddugol ar y Buddioldeb a Ddeillia Oddiwrth Gadwedigaeth y Iaith Gymraeg, a Dullwisgoedd Cymru gan Gwenynen Gwent (Mrs Hall, o Lanofer), was published in both Welsh and English in 1836 and subsequently in Welsh in 1851 and 1890. The 13 prints of Welsh costumes ascribed to her were produced in 1834, 1835 and 1901 (dated by watermarks).

References to Lady Llanover’s influence on Welsh costume
The following  includes extracts of all the few publication  which refer to Lady Llanover and her supposed influence on Welsh costume  that I have found for the period before 1951 when the National Library first published a booklet on Welsh costume. It also includes some of the references on the subject published after 1951, of which there are many.  This is derived from extensive searches over 15 years for references to Lady Llanover in books, on the internet (in both Welsh and English, including Google books), 19th century newspapers on line and archive catalogues.

1838
The following letter was published in advance of the Abergavenny Eisteddfod for 1838. As with Augusta Hall’s essay, the emphasis is on supporting the local woollen industry and in the benefit of wearing woollen dress, not in the preservation of traditional styles of costume, although the author could not understand why ladies chose to wear bonnets rather than Welsh hats; in this case, he is referring to ladies of the higher classes.
THE ABERGAVENNY CYMREIGYDDION SOCIETY AND THE “NATIONAL COSTUMES OF WALES.”
To the Editor of the Monmouthshire Merlin.
Sir,— The members of this Society are looking forward for a well-contested Eisteddfod (not an election), in October next, —on which happy occasion, Ivor of the Ivors will preside. I hope, as a warm advocate for Cymreigyddion Societies and Welsh Costumes, that the Committee will lose no time in giving orders to Caradawc to issue out a general order to fill the neighbouring newspapers, calling upon those ladies and gentlemen who intend being present at the Eisteddfod to appear in Welsh Costumes. If this would but take place, there is not the least doubt there will be a refreshing stimulus to our Welsh flannel manufacturers, and much good may be done. This is the most likely way of reviving that branch of our once staple trade— almost lost from our Cambrian Hills, but restored by this society. The Welsh Flannel did credit to our foremothers, who supported it instead of the English manufacture, which our fair sex of the present day give the preference to ;—for instance, what has been the result of the prize given by Miss Clara Waddington, at this Society last year, “For the best specimen of Welsh Flannel, &e.?” It has been said that the sale of Welsh Flannel in “Gwent and Morganwg,” alone, has been five times more this year than in 1837! If this be true, is it not sufficient proof that this article—yes, this most useful article-ought to be supported much more by the ladies of “Gwent and Morganwg,” and brought to a general wear; in short, a few more ladies of the patriotism and spirit of Gwenynen Gwent, and Lady Charlotte Guest, would soon settle this matter. But, sir, I am happy to say, that a few of our ladies do support the flannel but will not wear the hat;—what can be the cause?—pride, an evil, which of late has crept in considerably in Wales;—but if our Welsh ladies possess that wrong view of themselves, that by wearing bonnets their beautiful features will attract more attention – I submit it, and will publicly declare that the Welsh Hats are far more fascinating on real beauty, and beat the bonnets “out and out.” On this subject I beg leave to refer the reader to the interesting prize essay on “The National Costumes of Wales,” by Mrs. Hall, of Llanover, (Gwenynen Gwent,) and I entertain no doubt that, by the perusal of the above essay, he will soon see the necessity of keeping up the Welsh Costumes, and that the usefulness of those articles to our peasantry is far before fourpenny calico prints, and eighteen penny bonnets ;—is this true! as true as King Arthur is not dead Welsh Costumes are conducive to health and industry. The last generation was more robust and hardy than the present. They are conducive, also, to the prosperity of the country, and to economy. And it is most desirable that they should be patronised by the higher classes.
I am, esteemed Sir, yours respectfully, AB OWEN GLYNDWR
P.S. The “Essay upon the National Costumes of Wales,” is to be had of Longman and Co., London, and Bird, Cardiff, and Webber, Newport, Price one shilling.
Monmouthshire Merlin, 14 July 1838

1858
A questions about Welsh costume was published in the Cambrian Journal for 1858, pp. 366-367. The response to this was the publication of an English translation of John Blackwell’s essay ‘On the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales’ for the Gwent and Dyfed Eisteddfod at Cardiff in 1834. It was prefaced by the following: ‘We reprint the following essay by the late eminent Bard and Scholar, Blackwell ; especially as it furnishes valuable information on a subject that is engaging a good deal of the public attention just now, that is, the National Costume of the Welsh.’ (The Cambrian Journal, Cambrian Institute, Tenby, 1861, pp. 26-38). There was no mention of the prize winning essay by Augusta Hall (Lady Llanover), possibly because Blackwell’s essay contains much more on Welsh costume than Augusta Hall’s.

1868 OUR NATIONAL WELSH COSTUME
Letter re costume from Robert Herbert Williams of Menai Bridge to Llewelyn Turner, Mayor of Caernarfon on the occasion of a visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales, who arrived at Holyhead early on Saturday 25th April, 1868. They travelled by train to Caernarfon via Bangor, opened the waterworks, visited the castle, had a banquet, and then left by train
Since our Welsh National Costume is fast disappearing from the Principality, would it not be well on the occasion of the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to gather together a number of women who have not yet abandoned the costume and let … the Princess see them. Let them wear their ordinary dress when going to market. These women might be got from Anglesey, Caernarvonshire, Merionethshire and from Aberystwyth, Dolgellau etc.
I have no doubt that Lady Llanover would be able to get some of the real type for you. … let it be the real old costume – gown stwff, het Carlisle, a chap wedi cwilio, and do not object to anyone who might appear in the pais a bedgwn. [gown of stuff – a type of wool, Carlisle hat (presumably a Welsh hat), a hidden cap, and skirt and bedgown]
When the queen, as Princess resided in Wales [1832], she admired the Welsh dress so much that she specially ordered a Welsh dress to be made for her from Robert Sion Pryse (Gweirydd ap Rhys, Llanrhyddiad, Anglesey), which she wore during her stay and afterwards, until it became fashionable among the nobility.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, April 18, 1868; Issue 2157.
[This is the only 19th century reference I have found to Lady Llanover and Welsh costume after the end of the Abergavenny Eisteddfodau (1853).]

1890
Lady Llanover’s essay was republished in Welsh in Y Geninen (1890), in a collection of winning entries entitled  Y Geninen Eisteddfodol (Argraffiad Arbenig o’r “Geninen” Ganol Awst, 1890: Yn Cynwys Cyfansoddiadau Buddugol yn unig mewn Eisteddfodau, etc. [Special edition of Y Geninen, mid August, 1890, including only winning entries], pp. 68-71

1911
Request for more information on a volume of prints of Welsh costume entitled ‘Dull-wisgoedd Cymru. Cyflwynedig i bendefigion a boneddigion y dywysogaeth. Cambrian costumes dedicated to the nobility and gentry of Wales.’
Reply: Costumes Dull-wisgoedd Cymru, &c. This book, as suggested by your correspondent, was issued by the late Lady Llanover, and is found in large and small paper. When complete it contains thirteen plates [listed as Welsh girls in the costumes of part of Gwent, Pembrokeshire, Gower and Cardiganshire.] It would be interesting to know whether there are any variations in other copies, as it appears that the illustrations were issued separately. At any rate, the copies we have seen have no letter press. The book was issued about the year 1836. How far the costumes are authentic we cannot say, but there is a total absence of the round chimney-pot hat, though some of the girls wear hats not unlike the modern silk hat in shape. In a book entitled Sketches of Welch Costumes, published by Rock Brothers & Payne, London, about 1860, the costumes shown are quite different, and resemble far more closely those which were in vogue within the last thirty years in remote parts of the Principality. Will somebody undertake to make a bibliography of the Welsh Costume books?
Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society, I, no 3, (1911), ‘Caws Pob’ (Notes and Queries), p. 63, 95.

1927
The Welshwoman’s costume so far as its materials and colours are concerned may be traced back without doubt to the pre Christian era … Lord Treowen’s grandmother, Lady Llanover, investigated the designs of Welsh Women’s dress as they varied in about 1830 in various parts of Wales and published them in a series of coloured illustrations, which are now very rare. As to women’s hats, the low straw hat, used in the Gower, would seem to be much older than the chimney-pot variety which appears to be more Dutch than Welsh.
D Rhys Phillips, Ancient Welsh and Celtic Costumes, Radio talk, broadcast 8th April, 1927. NLW, D Rhys Phillips, 259 (hand written with many corrections), p. 5
Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a Welsh National Costume. The alleged Welsh costume of women favoured at public functions is as inartistic as it is unhistoric. [Includes a drawing of the proposed boys’ costume]
NLW, D Rhys Phillips, 260 (typed and with hand written version, in a different hand, of 259 above)

1942
The original album of watercolours, some signed by A Cadwallader/Cadwalader of costume drawings (possibly commissioned by Lady Llanover) were donated to the National Library, January, 1942. NLW DV299, (PA8137)
Several years after the original watercolours arrived at the National Library of Wales, it was reported that ‘An interesting gift … consisting of the original drawings of the now well-known set of Lady Llanover’s ‘Cambrian Costumes’ made in the first instance to illustrate her prize-winning essay at the Gwent and Dyfed Royal Eisteddfod in 1834. Reproductions of these are available at the Library’
Anon, Journal of the National Library of Wales, 1947, p. 156
[The original prints were not made to illustrate her essay; they are too big to have been published with it. They were well known, probably because of the reproductions available at the library. These were presumably the 12 postcards of the Llanover prints printed by Oxford University Press on behalf of the National Library of Wales. A second set, printed by the National Library of Wales were printed subsequently, possibly during the 1970s.]

1948
A booklet included a section on team dress, European National dress and a very brief paragraph on Welsh dress
Blake, Lois, Welsh Folk Dance (1948), (p. 18) [Mrs Lois Blake was the first president of the Welsh Folk Dance Society.]
The second edition, entitled Welsh Folk Dance and Costume, published in 1954, included a chapter on [Welsh] Folk Costume and refers to Lady Llanover’s postcard prints in some detail. Another edition: Llangollen, The Gwynn Pub. Co. 1965

1951
Ellis, Megan, Welsh Costume and Customs; The National Library of Wales : Picture book no. 1 National Library of Wales, 1951 and 1958.
This includes six of the set of 13 costume prints attributed to Lady Llanover. and mentions Lady Llanover’s essay, (‘Prior to 1834, Lady Llanover also executed a series of coloured drawings depicting different types of Welsh costume’)

1953
According to common belief, the Welsh costume comprises a high hat, petticoat, bedgown, apron and shawl, the whole of local manufacture. The bedgown was a sort of long coat, forming a waist, and closing over the bust, and a long tail which folded behind over the petticoat, with the apron hiding the petticoat front.
It is necessary to understand that there was nothing especially Welsh in this dress. The same was as familiar throughout England. Scott said, about Northumberland women at the beginning of the 19th century: ‘The women had no other dress than a bedgown and a petticoat.’ In 1834 Gwenynen Gwent (afterwards Lady Llanover) wrote an essay on ‘The Welsh Language and Welsh Form of Dress’, where she favoured a national dress of flannel or homespun cloth, like natural Welsh products rather than ‘uncomfortable’ foreign materials. This caused the petticoat and the bedgown to continue as ‘traditional’ dress in some areas. The dress is not a national tradition at all; that is evident too with there being no ‘national’ costume for men.
But as the costume has now gained its place, it does not pay to ignore it and for folk dancing it would be easy to develop on the old foundations. However, that is a matter for garment makers rather than a problem for a man like me.
The Welsh Costume, Dr. Iorwerth C. Peate, Welsh Folk Dance Society, 1st Newsletter,  1953 (Translated from the Welsh by HF)

1963
In all the enormous mass of evidence I have never met with any suggestion of a national costume for men or women. There is no evidence that Welsh people of position, or of substance dressed differently from those of similar rank in other countries. (p. 42)
Down into the 18th century, I have never found anything specifically or characteristically Welsh in the garments described. Ordinary folk too, in so far as they were able followed the fashion, even though they followed it from afar. … (p. 43)
At about this time [the 1830s when Pritchard published his novel Twm Shôn Catti, Lady Llanover] painted a series of watercolours of costumes she saw in south Wales, particularly in her native Monmouthshire. … She certainly did more than anyone else to standardize the costume she affected. (p. 48-9).
But even if there were no ancient and traditional patterns, the zeal and influence of this determined lady were such that the country didn’t mind being persuaded that these patterns did exist. Lady Llanover persuaded her friends from the country houses of Monmouthshire, Glamorgan and Brecknock and elsewhere to dress in this fashion at the eisteddfodau and upon other public occasions. … I think it can be fairly said that it was she who turned the farm servants’ working clothes into a conscious, or rather self conscious, national costume. (p. 50)
In the early part of the 19th century, the efforts of Lady Llanover and her friends had given new life and new significance to an old rural costume that had hardly anything specifically Welsh about it, and here, towards the end of the century, we see this later commercial activity doing much the same kind of thing. {the former directed at the Welsh, the latter at the English} (p. 55)
Lady Llanover wished to see all the people of Wales, – the rich … and poor … Welsh in speech and custom – and costume. … All this later business about what were now obsolete customs, phoney costumes, souvenirs and comic postcards was a condition of a sickness, endemic in a bilingual community such as was emerging in late 19th century Wales. (p. 56)
Payne, Ff.G., ‘Welsh Peasant Costume’, Folk Life, II, 1963, pp. 42-57 and later published separately. No bibliography. This appears to have been based on an undated lecture, the text of which, with list of slides, is in NLW, Ffransis Payne, 1131.

1964
Some of the costume prints attributed to Lady Llanover were published
Fraser, Maxwell, Benjamin and Augusta Hall, 1831-1836’ NLWJ, XIII, (1964) no 3, plates 5-8

1970s?
Publication of the second edition of 12 postcards of the Llanover prints by the National Library of Wales

1973
There is no traditional Welsh costume — what is usually thought of as such is shown to be very largely the romantic invention of Lady Llanover …
The Antiquaries Journal‎, (1973), p. 324

1976
The so-called ‘traditional Welsh Costume’ has a very short history indeed and that seen at eisteddfodau and festivals today is almost entirely a creation of fancy; it is the costume of carnival rather than true peasant dress.
{quotations from Ffrancis Payne are in italics and more of it may be from him than is marked}
In all the enormous mass of evidence I have never met with any suggestion of a national costume for men or women. There is no evidence that Welsh people of position, or of substance dressed differently from those of similar rank in other countries … Down into the 18th century, I have never found anything specifically or characteristically Welsh in the garments described. Ordinary folk too, in so far as they were able followed the fashion, even though they followed it from afar.
From the second half of the 18th century, however, one can see the retention of a form of female dress that was well divorced from contemporary fashion; this was a form of dress popular in many parts of the country including Wales. … {describes Hollar’s drawing of a gown, apron and collar (bertha) of 1649}
{reference to Lady Llanover, her essay, mill and her sponsorship of eisteddfod competitions including the one in 1853 for real National Checks and stripes} … It is to be doubted whether there were many {ancient checks and stripes} in the whole of Western Europe. But … the country did not mind being persuaded that these patterns existed. … I think it can be fairly said that it was she who turned farm servant’s working clothes into a conscious, or rather self conscious, national costume. By the end of the 19th century Welsh costume had become a stereo-typed dress of the postcard makers, aimed at a tourist market. Blouse and skirt replaced the bedgown, a paisley shawl replaced the flannel shawl; …
In the early part of the 19th century, the efforts of Lady Llanover and her friends had given new life and new significance to an old rural costume that had hardly anything specifically Welsh about it, and here, towards the end of the century, we see this later commercial activity doing much the same kind of thing. {the former directed at the Welsh, the latter at the English}
All this later business about what were now obsolete customs, phoney costumes, souvenirs and comic postcards was a condition of a sickness, endemic in a bilingual community such as was emerging in late 19th century Wales. [also a direct quotation from Payne]
Jenkins, John Geraint, Life & tradition in rural Wales (1976), pp. 106-108

There are many more subsequent publications which ascribe the origin, or survival of a traditional or National Welsh costume to Lady Llanover including:

Gailey, Alan, The Nature of Tradition, Folklore, vol 100, no 2, (1989), pp. 143-161
Lady Llanover and the development of folklore / fakelore
Aaron, Jane. Nineteenth Women’s Writing in Wales: Nation Gender and Identity. (2010)
Section on Lady Llanover and her circle, pp. 65-73

 

 

Advertisements