Gwenffrwd mill

The mill was located near Llanover, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.

This page includes:

  • Brief history of the mill
  • Names of patterns and fabrics from John Richard Jones’ notes
  • Bibliography
  • Surviving samples and their collectors
  • References to fabrics made at the mill

History of Gwenffrwd Mill
The mill was on the estate of Lady Llanover who was particularly keen to produce Welsh woollen fabrics in the traditional patterns.   It is said that the mill produced cloth for Lady Llanover’s staff and tenants and possibly some of the costumes worn by Lady Llanover and her friends.  It has not been possible to identify products of this mill with any certainty, other than some wool samples in the National Museum Wales (St Fagans) and Swansea Museums: the Llanover tweed and a stole of green and white linsey-wolsey worn by Llanover staff  may well have been made there. (NMW, St Fagans collection.)

The following is a summary of what John Richard Jones (see below) noted, combined with some of Helen Forder’s research. There is some inconsistency in these sources about the spelling of Harris/Harries and Franklin/Franklyn. John Richard Jones based his information on the memories of the people he interviewed, not on documents, and it is also possible that his note books contain errors.
1818 A mill was erected at Gwenffrwd at the expense of Ann Harris.
The mill was run by David Harris the grandfather of Miss Harris, the daughter of Samuel Franklin Harris (the woman John Richard Jones interviewed at M.F. & S.G. Harris, The Abergavenny Wool shop, 22 Cross Street, Abergavenny during the 1920s).
When David Harris died, the mill was run by his widow and son (Samuel Franklin Harris, born 1817. His bardic name was Harri Ddû according to the records of the 1879 Abergavenny Eisteddfod.)
1839 The mill was rebuilt by Samuel Franklin Harris
1848 and 1853 Samuel Harris won several prizes for woollen products at the Abergavenny Eisteddfodau.
1865 Samuel Franklin Harris was named on the Lord Llanover’s lease of the mill.
1884 sketch of Gwenffrwd woollen factory
1889 Samuel Franklin Harris died on the 9 August, aged 73. The children carried on for a little while.
1891 Franklin James Harris (Samuel’s son) was head of household. He married Mary Jeremiah and gave up weaving.
1892 John Jones took over the mill from Christmas time.
1894 The mill was repaired (Inscription on the factory ‘Gwenffrwd 1839 Adgyweiriwyd [repaired] 1894’)
1950 Production at the mill ceased.

Several reports of the fabric used for the costumes worn by Lady Llanover’s staff describe it as being checked – a design of which she was particularly fond, and for which she sponsored Eisteddfod prizes but there is little evidence that check patterns were common in Wales except in the Swansea-Neath area.

PATTERNS
The following is from notes made by John Richard Jones on the patterns of fabric associated with Gwenffrwd mill (see below for transcriptions from the note books). The only one which can be identified with certainty is Y Cwlwmn Cariad Cywir [True Lover’s Knot pattern] which is clearly labelled in the Swansea Museum collection.

Gwenffrwd pattern 
This is really the chartist pattern – made 100 years ago, 4 colours (red, blue, white, black). Necessitated pedair wenol [four shuttles]. The Wenol holds the bobbin. Gwenffrwd is the oldest pattern of Welsh Flannel.

Harri Ddu pattern

This is not the same as the Gwenffrwd pattern. The Harri Ddu pattern had (i) blue yarn, (2) white cotton or brown flaxen thread. This is very durable. [but elsewhere, John Richard Jones noted: ‘Miss Harries [sic] of Llanover House, The Abergavenny Wool Shop, 22 Cross Street, Abergavenny, says it is the same as the Gwenffrwd Pattern.’]

Y Cwlwmn Cariad Cywir [True Lover’s Knot pattern]
Squares criss-cross. There are 2 sizes : (a) 7 x 7 ins, (b) 10 x 10 ins, made on a harness. This is not loom work.
The size of the square varied and the colour.
White and black in squares – violet divisions (3 colours)
Green and black in squares (2 colours)
Red and black in squares (2 colours)
Yellow and black in squares (? haven’t sample) 2 colours
Welsh costume at Llanover: Lady’s maid : Cwlwmn Cariad

Lord Llanover’s pattern

Coch, Du and Gwyn [red, black and white]. Small squares and Lord Llanover had a waistcoat made of it. Welsh costume at Llanover: blue skirt / petticoat, red binding. The bob tail was of material of Lord Llanover’s pattern – behind.

Madam de Bunsen’s pattern [sister of Lady Llanover]

Aberpergwm pattern of the Williamses of Aberpergwm near Glyn Neath (was this the Aberpergwm check?) Aberpergwm check: I am told that the origin of this is that a Welsh gent. travelling in Arabia liked a certain Arabian design and brought it over to Wales.

Captain Mayne Reed (?) [pattern] he often visited factory

Col. Bird [pattern] of Goitre House near Pontypool. Had Brethyn Llwyd for shooting suits (Brethrn Llwyd was undressed wool).

Pepper and salt pattern: brown and white

FABRIC NAMES (from John Richard Jones’ notes)
Gwlan Ddu’r Ddafad
Brethyn Du’r Ddafad 6/8 a yard at Gwenffrwd now. 3years ago overcoats made for Lord Treowen and Lord George etc.
Brethyn Llwyd [see Col. Bird pattern above]
Dau Las two blues check. The black of the two-blue check is not really black but a dark blue.
Some factories simply had one blue into which the light blue was dipped once and the black (dark blue) several times. Indigo blue was the black. This was before chip col[our]ing.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Lease of mill, 1865, Gwent Record Office, Llanover Documents, D.433, 38/41
Llanover Documents in Monmouthshire Record Office
J.G. Jenkins, The Welsh Woollen Industry, (1969), p. 325
Neale, Stuart, ‘Traces of Gwenffrwd Mill’ Newsletter, Cymdeithas Gwenynen Gwent, December / Rhagfyr, 2004, p. 1
Roberts, Huw, ‘Welsh costumes at Llanover’, Newsletter, Cymdeithas Gwenynen Gwent, December / Rhagfyr, 2004, p. 2-3
Forder, Helen, ‘Why Llanover’ (re Gwenffrwd Mill), Newsletter, Cymdeithas Gwenynen Gwent, December / Rhagfyr, 2004, p. 1

SURVIVING SAMPLES
There were several early 20th century attempts to collect, study and revive the products of Welsh woollen mills.

Susannah Berrington Gruffydd-Richards, the daughter of Lady Llanover’s last harper, who lived at Llanover supplied small samples of Gwenffrwd products to a Mr Thomas in 1909 (one sample now in the National Museum of Wales) and Winifred Coomb Tennant (Mam o Nedd) in 1924 (samples now in Swansea museum). In 1924 Susannah Berrington Gruffydd Richards was interviewed by John Richard Jones who was also gathering samples from Welsh mills (the present location of the samples is unknown). There is no evidence that Winifred Coomb Tennant and John Richard Jones corresponded with each other on the subject, but they did meet at Pontypool National Eisteddfod in 1924.

These are the only surviving samples of small check patterns of two or more colours, and it is not know whether they were really based on old samples, or were made lighter, in weight and colour, than traditional weaves, under the influence of Lady Llanover.

1909 Mr Thomas

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Sample of Gwenffrwd flannel, with an accompanying letter of explanation from Susannah Berrington Gruffydd Richards to Mr Thomas.
Ty’r Eglwys, Llanover, Abergavenny. April 24th 1909.
Dear Mr Thomas. I am sending you a small piece of Welsh flannel which you expressed a wish to have. It is what the late Lady Llanover called Gwenffrwd pattern. Is it the same as the ‘Chartist’ that you alluded to? I saw that in the Welsh Industries Depot in Cardiff but cannot ???? if they are quite the same. … S.B. Gruffydd-Richards (National Museum of Wales)

1924
Winifred Coomb Tennant (1874-1956, also known as Mam o’r Nedd), married Charles Coombe Tennant (1852-1928) in 1895. They lived at Cadoxton Lodge, Neath. She was Mistress of the Robes to the Gorsedd of Bards, 1918-1954, and tried to revise the Gorsedd costumes. She visited a number of weaving mills in Wales with samples which she had acquired from Lady Llanover’s Gwenfrwdd mill at Llanover. She collected and carefully labelled Welsh fabric samples, including some made at Gwenffrwd mill and by Pryce Jones of Newtown which are now in Swansea Museum (2000.200.1-35).

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Bundle of small fabric samples labelled:
‘Llanover designs given to Mam o Nedd [Winifred Coomb Tennant] by Mrs Gruffydd- Richards of Ty’r Eglwys, Llanover, July, 1924, not now procurable’
‘All were made at the Gwenffrwd Factory, Llanover’
Swansea Museum, 1986/200/19

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This is the only example which is named.

Y Cwlwmn Cariad Cywir [True Lover’s Knot pattern]
Squares criss-cross. There are 2 sizes : (a) 7 x 7 ins, (b) 10 x 10 ins, made on a harness. This is not loom work.
The size of the square varied and the colour.
White and black in squares – violet divisions (3 colours)
Green and black in squares (2 colours)
Red and black in squares (2 colours)
Yellow and black in squares (? haven’t sample) 2 colours
Welsh costume at Llanover: Lady’s maid : Cwlwmn Cariad

(John Richard Jones’ notebooks)

 

 

 

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Attached to the same bundle is a letter from Susannah Berrington Gruffydd-Richards to Winifred Coomb Tennant.
Ty’r Eglwys, Llanover, Abergavenny, 23rd July, 1924
Dear Madam
Miss Gwladys Williams tells us that you would like to see some of the old Llanover patterns of Welsh flannel – I have pleasure in sending three to you [there are six in the bundle] and you are welcome to keep them if they are of interest – as I have more of the material. The Gwenffrwd pattern could be obtained a few years ago at the Welsh Industries Depot at Cardiff, but I believe the Welsh Industries Association is not in existence.
Yours faithfully, S.B. Gruffydd-Richards (Pencerddes y Dŷ)

[Miss Gwladys Williams, B.A., wrote a brief article about the Welsh costumes to be worn by Ladies of the Pontypool Cymrodorian Society at the Proclamation of the Pontypool Eisteddfod on 28th June 1923 at the request of the the Gorsedd committee.  Abergavenny Chronicle. 22.6.1923] 

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In the same collection is one sample  marked Gwenffrwd which has a pattern repeating every 3.8 cms.

Swansea Museum, 1986/200/10

 

 

 

 

1924 John Richard Jones (c. 1886-c 1946)
John Richard Jones who was born in Llanelli, gathered information, wool samples and prints of Welsh costume during the mid to late 1920s. He interviewed a number of woollen mill owners and kept his notes on this and several other subjects in 16 bound foolscap note books now in the National Library of Wales (uncatalogued). The location of his wool samples and prints are unknown.

The following are transcriptions of his notes which relate to Gwenffrwd mill:
Interview with Mrs Richards, Ty’r Eglws, Llanover, daughter of Gruffydd, harpist to Prince of Wales (Ed VII). She said the Gwenffrwd pattern was sometimes called the Chartist pattern [he repeats this several times elsewhere in his notebooks]
(vol. 1, p. 74)
Gwenffrwd pattern: made in the Llanover (Gwenffrwd factory), Natural stripes and checks.
Llanover plate no 8 Gwenffrwd Pattern [Print number 8 shows ‘A Welsh girl in the Costume of part of Gwent’, wearing a blue cloak, purple skirt and check apron – it is not clear what his entry refers to, but presumably the apron.]
Llanover plate no 9 Second Half: Apron dark blue or white check.
HARRI DDU PATTERN: This is not the same as the Gwenffrwd pattern. The Harri Ddu pattern had (i) blue yarn, (2) white cotton or brown flaxen thread, This is very durable, Harri Ddu was proprietor of the Gwenffrwd factory.
(vol. 1, p. 77)
Miss Harris Llanover House, Cross Street, Abergavenny is the daughter of Harri Ddu who started the factory at Gwenffrwd.
(vol. 1, p. 78)
Interview with Mr John Jones, Gwenffrwd Factory
Gwenffrwd pattern  This is really the chartist pattern – made 100 years ago), 4 colours (red, blue, white, black. Necessitated pedair wenol. [four shuttles]
Two heads of Gwenffrwd Factory (Llanover). (i) Franklyn Harries [sic] (starter) – the same Franklyn as the tobacco family.
Brethyn Du’r Ddafad 6/8 a yard at Gwenffrwd now. 3 years ago overcoats made for Lord Treowen and Lord George etc.
(vol. 1, p. 79)
History of Gwenffrwd factory
1 Factory started 1818 by David Harris the grandfather of the woman I consulted at Gwenffrwd, Abergavenny re Gwenffrwd.
2 Widow and Son carried on. The son was Samual Franklyn Harris. Harri Ddu.
3 When Samuel Franklyn Harris died the children carried on for a little while and then Mr Jones carried on. the present holder. S Harris died aged 73 9 Aug 1889.
(vol. 1, p. 80)
Smoking Jackets: Special smoking jackets were made at Gwenffwrd for Llanover Park.
Princess Beatrice and the Queen had dresses from material made at the Gwenffrwd factory
Marquis of Abergavenny: Had shooting suits from material made at Gwenffrwd. There was a little white in this material.
Lady Llanover’s Orders at Gwenffrwd: There were three distinct kninds of orders placed at the gwenffrwd by Lady Llanover.
(i) Orders for charity – the poor on the estate. gifts. Sunday Sch prizes.
(2) Farmers
(3) Private Household. Servants, special and general and her own family.
Col. Bradney’s History of Monmouthshire: contains a good deal concerning Llanover
Oldest Pattern: Gwenffrwd is the oldest pattern of Welsh Flannel
Interview with M.F. and S.G. Harris
[Printed bill head] M.F. and S.G. Harris established 1818, The Abergavenny Wool shop, 22 Cross Street, Abergavenny 192__
Specialities Gent’s Welsh Flannel Shirts, Socks & Ties Knitting Wools
(vol. 1, p. 81)
NAMES OF SOME PATTERNS
(i) Harri Ddu Pattern
(2) Gwenffrwd Pattern
(3) Lord Llanover’s Pattern (waistcoat)
(4) Madam de Bunsen’s Pattern [sister of Lady Llanover]
(5) Aberpergwm pattern of the Williamses of Aberpergwm near Glyn Neath (was this the Aberpergwm check?)
(6) Captain Mayne Reed (?) he often visited factory
(7) Col. Bird of Goitre House near Pontypool. Had Brethyn Llwyd for shooting suits (Brethrn Llwyd was undressed wool).
Harri Ddu pattern: Miss Harries [sic] of Llanover House, The Abergavenny Wool Shop, 22 Cross Street, Abergavenny, says it is the same as the Gwenffrwd Pattern.
(vol. 1, p. 81)
Interview with John Jones, Gwenffrwd Factory (again)
Pepper and salt pattern: brown and white
Tablet on Factory Gwenffrwd 1839 Adgyweiriwyd 1894
Shaving surface: Sometimes the surface of cloth and flannel was shaved at Gwenffrwd to remove small hairs on surface.
Flannel, Half-Cloth and Cloth: Wedi gwaey mae rhaid panu. (pannu (?)), Half cloth (wedi haner ei pannu). In the process of pannu 1½ yards width becomes 1 yard. Similarly the length is reduced. The pannu process is used for flannel as well. The difference between flannel and cloth is that two or three threads are twisted together to form one in cloth. In flannel (being thinner), one thread does.
History of Gwenffrwd Factory:
(i) Building raised by Harri Ddu
(2) Bought by the Estate
(3) Son of Harri Ddu kept the factory for 2 years
(4) Mr Jones came in Xmas 1892. Repairs and extension of the Factory finished in 1894
(5) Mr Jones worked for 5 or 6 years for Lady \Llanover
Sunday School Rewards: Every man who attended Sunday School without any absence for one year received at CRYS COCH. Every woman who attended without absence received material for a DRESS. Smaller rewards for few absences included fedogau, shawls etc.
CWLWMN CARIAD CYWIR:
The size of the square varied and the colour . See patterns.
White and black in squares – violet divisions (3 colours)
green and black in squares (2 colours)
red and black in squares (2 colours)
yellow and black in squares (? haven’t sample) 2 colours
(vol. 1, pp. 84-85)
Bygones in NMW include a Sample of Welsh Flannel of the Gwenffrwd pattern from Llanover, Donor T H Thomas. 

[This is probably the sample collected in 1909 (above)]

(vol. 3, p. 3)
NLW, John Richard Jones collection (not catalogued)

 

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Fabric from a gown said to have said to have been worn by a Llanover harpist or dancer. Blue, white, red and black.

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Fabric from a gown said to have belonged to the Llanover Family (Private collection). Made of a wool – cotton mixture in red, black and white check, possibly the Lord Llanover pattern (according to Huw Roberts).

The gown worn by Susanna Berrington Gruffydd Richards, wife of harpist to Lady Llanover, also has check fabric like that of the two above.
National Museum of Wales (St Fagans National History Museum), 53.48/7

REFERENCES TO GWENFFRWD FABRICS AND MILL

1842 ABERGAVENNY EISTEDDFOD
The procession consisted of … The Rhyd y Meirch Band, preceded by the trumpeters of Cwm Dû all wearing scarves of the Gwenffrwd check.
Hereford Times – Saturday 22 October 1842

1846
MARRIAGE OF J. ARTHUR JONES, ESQ., OF LLANARTH, AND MISS HALL, OF LLANOVER.
On the following evening Sir B and Lady Hall gave a tea-party [at Llanover] to between 100 and 200 persons including the wives and daughters of their tenants. …  One of the most striking and picturesque features in this assembly was the numbers who appeared in the Welsh costume. Many hundreds of yards of the beautiful woollen known by the name of the Gwenffrwd Check, and so much worn in the parish of Llanover, were ordered by Sir B. Hall of all the principal weavers in the vicinity, and distributed for gowns, with complete suits, consisting of hats, petticoats, aprons, and handkerchiefs, to nearly 100 females in the parish of Llanover;
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 28.11.1846
Hereford Times, 28 November 1846

1848 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
A prize of five guineas of Welsh Woollen for a Dress, not under 12 yards long by 1 yard wide.
Awarded to Mr S Harris of Gwenffrwd.
A prize of three guineas, by Lady Morgan, of Tredegar, for the best coloured Welsh Woollen Whittle, in the national stripes or checks.
Awarded to Mr Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd (Ab Harry)
A prize of three guineas, by the late Miss Williams, of Cwmdu for the best specimen of Welsh Blue Cloth, sufficient for a Cloak.
Awarded to Mr Samuel Harris, Gwenffrwd (Ab Shencyn).
A subscription prize of one guinea each by the following [7] tradesmen of Abergavenny: … for the best specimen of Welsh Woollen, not under nine yards long, adapted for waistcoats, in the old national patterns.
Awarded to Mr Samuel Harris, of Gwenffrwd (Morgrugyn).
A Prize of five pounds by Mr Ieuan ab Howell, of Doncaster, for the best prize specimen of Welsh Woollen for a dress, not less than 12 yards long and 1 yard wide.
A very beautiful specimen : different in texture to the Rodney Woollen, the warp and weft being made of beautifully fine and soft mountain wool.
Awarded to Mr Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd (Owain Glendwr).
Mr Watkin then desired to remark that it might be supposed that there was not much competition, in consequence of the same person having received so many prizes, but he begged to state the competition had been very great, and that Mr Harris having been so often successful, was the consequence of his Woollens being the best, and not a consequence of want of candidates.
[Mr Harris was the weaver of Gwenffrwd Mill, Llanover]
A prize of three guineas, by the countess of Abergavenny, for the best specimen of Welsh scarlet cloth, sufficient for a cloak … awarded to Mr Samuel Harris, of Gwenffrwd (Ioan Goch).
Fifteenth eisteddfod of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion by Cymreigyddion y Fenni, 1848, Extracted from the Hereford Times of Saturday October 21, 1848. (Printed at the [Hereford] Times Office, Hereford.) [16 A4 pages of small type reporting the speeches and adjudication of prizes in detail. It was not the 15th eisteddfod, but the 9th, held on the 15th anniversary of the first.]

1853 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
The procession included a car bearing ‘a loom with a Welsh weaver engaged in making a piece of Gwenffrwd woollen’ 
Competition 34 Mrs Hanbury Leigh £10 for best specimen of Welsh Rodney woollen at least, 5 x 1 1/2 yards, the wool to be Welsh and no worsted to be admitted among the materials, the warp to be of cotton or linen  and the woof [sic] to be of cotton and yarn.
Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.
Competition 35 The Earl of Abergavenny, 10 guineas for the best specimen of Welsh dyed scarlet cloth, made of Welsh wool, 5 x 1 1/2 yards, special reference to brilliancy of colour
Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.
Competition 36 Viscountess Neville, £3 for the best specimen of Welsh dyed blue cloth made of Welsh wool, 5 x 1 1/2 yards, special reference to brilliancy of colour as well as texture
Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.
Competition 39 Mrs Maddocks of Treguater, a prize of £5 for the best Welsh woollen in any of the national stripes or checks not less than 12 yards long and ¾ yards wide.
Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.

1859
[speech by Lady Llanover at the Celebrations at Abergavenny of her husband being made a Peer.]
Lastly, had the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion never existed, I might this day have been reduced to wear a petticoat of that “rheumatic calico” which our well-remembered and lamented countryman (Carnhuanawc) used to exhort his countrymen never to adopt. Whereas I appear before you clad in the produce of the Welsh mountain looms and in the national costume of Wales, which, I am happy to say, is not likely to be extinct at Llanover! and thanks to Abergavenny (pointing to her head), I am still able to get a Welsh hat! the hatter, I believe, is amongst you. £12 has been given at your Eisteddfodau in prizes for hats! My scarlet cloak came from your town, and this very identical cloak I wore at the Last Abergavenny Eisteddfod in 1853, which proves it is as durable as it is brilliant, whilst  around me you now see my daughter, and also my little grandchildren of Llanarth, and many others, clothed in the well-known Gwenffrwd check, made by the weaver of this parish (Harri Ddû) who now forms one of the deputation, whose good mother as well as himself received many a prize in Abergavenny (upwards of £140 having been given at Abergavenny in prizes for Welsh mountain woollens), and he still supplies your market with the real unadulterated Bwmbas y Gwlan of Gwent and Morganwg, which is even sent to France.
Hereford Times, 8 October 1859

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