Maria Jane Williams (1795-1873) and her sister Ann Williams lived at Aberpergwm House, Glynneath in Glamorgan. They were part of Lady Llanover‘s circle.
Maria Williams dressed her maids in a red, black and white check fabric, woven at Aberpergwm mill, of which only a dress front now survives.
12 letters were sent from Miss Elizabeth A Williams and Miss Jane Williams to Miss Jennet Williams, dairy maid, Ynyslas, Glyn Neath, dated 1856-1860. The following comments on costume have been extracted from two of them:
Letter from E A Williams, 11 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, 5.5.1858
Dear Jennet – we have at last found where these capes are to be had. We send this one down and beg you to wear it every morning and evening this wet weather and wear a shawl under it … [ellipses in the original transcription]
Letter from E A Williams, 11 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, 17.10.
Let me know when your fair is, that I may send you leave to go to it and perhaps you would like some money to go home, for although you are every prudent, yet you may want a little more cash to buy the Paish [pais?] and Goon Bach which I like so much … [ellipses in the transcription]
NLW D Rhys Phillips ms 264 [The spelling of Paish and Goon Bach for pais and Gwn Bach [short gown] is very odd.]
Morgan Stuart Williams of Aberpergwm (1846-1909) was related to the Williams sisters. He married Josephine Herbert (a relative of Lady Llanover) on 22nd July 1873 and she adopted as de rigeur the “Paish”[pais] as morning wear …
Mrs Winifred Coombe Tennant recorded the following: When I first came to the Vale of Neath as a bride [she was married 1895], … the first to befriend us were the Williams of Aberpergwm. … the mother and daughters [were] dressed in Welsh costumes made from home-spun wool clipped from their own sheep and dyed in various colours with vegetables dyes. The boys were wearing kilts of the same materials. The dresses consisted of a full skirt in a dark colour with bright stripes and a short gown, the fronts turned back and fastened behind. Over this was worn an apron in a small check pattern with woollen strings brought round and tied in front to form a waistband. Round the neck was a white kerchief of fine cotton over which the gown was folded and on the shoulders a little shawl in bright colour – I remember one was cherry red. Hand knit stockings and buckled shoes completed the costume. Mrs Williams urged me to adopt the Welsh dress and wear it daily until the afternoon. This I did and never found anything more comfortable and becoming.
source: Idris Morgan Williams ‘The Story of Craig y Dinas’, a talk by Winifred Coombe Tennant for BBC Welsh home service, 17.10.1853
There is a photograph in Belcham’s book entitled ‘The Williams family in the plaid’. [no date but late 19th century] Three of the boys are wearing kilts, but there is nothing Welsh about the fashion of the women’s dresses.
Belcham, Elizabeth F., About Aberpergwm. The Home of the Williams family in the Vale of Neath, Glamorgan, (1993), pp. 122-123