Pryce Jones (1834-1920) was apprenticed to a draper in 1846, and established his own shop in 1859, the year the railway arrived in the town. (Adverts in Newtown and Welshpool Express, 8.11.1870). By the 1880s he was selling vast quantities of clothes, Welsh cloth and Welsh hats by mail order via carriages and from 1882 directly by post throughout Britain and abroad.
It is claimed that Queen Victoria ordered items from him regularly from 1866, as did members of other Royal families and as a result, he main building became known as the Royal Welsh Warehouse from at least 1869.
Welshpool Express, 23.5.1869
A massive new warehouse was built in 1879.
Commemorative volume for the opening of the warehouse, 3 Oct. 1879, (NLW)
The company survived for many years, until 1938 when the warehouses were taken over a rival company and then by others in succession until it was closed in 2011.
In the 1920s, the firm was visited by Winifred Coombe Tennant who was searching for fabrics suitable for Gorsedd regalia and for Welsh costume. Some of samples she collected are in Swansea Museum.
Catalogues advertised that sample patterns of fabrics could be had on request. At least one survives in Powys archives.
There was a shop or manufactory called Pryce Jones in Oxford Street, Swansea in the early 1920s, but it might not have been the same firm.
JR Jones Collection, NLW, vol. 1, p. 17
Pryce Jones or his staff attended fairs, exhibitions and Eisteddfodau at many of which the firm won prizes and medals.
1851, He claimed to have exhibited at the Great Exhibition, but there is no evidence that he did so.
1865, 1866, 1867, 1868 National Eisteddfodau, First Prize and Medal for Welsh Flannel
1873, Vienna. Grand medal of Merit
1875, Paris. Diploma and Medal
1876, Brussels. Diploma and Medal
1876, Philadelphia. Medal and Diploma at Philadelphia Centennial exhibition
1878, Paris. first prize for Welsh flannels and Grand prize medal for Welsh shawls
He was also represented at fairs in Australia
INSPECTION OF THE GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION. The women’s industries section.
The Prince and Princess saw ‘Ye old handloom’ from Wales at which a young Welsh woman wearing the old sugar-loaf silk hat formerly worn by Welsh peasants was working. … Sir P Pryce Jones explained the working of the loom.
Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), May 9, 1888
There is one Welsh hat with Pryce Jones’ label inside, but there is no evidence that it was made in Newtown, and Welsh hats do not appear in any of the surviving catalogues in public collections.
There is an advert for Pryce Jones, including Christys’ hats (but not specifically a Welsh hat)
Newtown and Welshpool Express 8.11.1870
A Welsh hat with a label ‘Pryce Jones, Newtown’ was probably made in London with his label inserted.
Illustrations from his mail order catalogues, one dated 1882.
Pryce Jones sold women’s Scarlet, Crimson and Blue Cloth cloaks with hoods. He claimed to have sold them to Queen Victoria from 1866 .
A cloak made by Pryce Jones, with label inside, probably for a child. It is of thin flannel, with a bobbled outer surface and smooth on the inside. Cloak only, 79 cms long. (Private collection)
Catalogues and price lists
Most of the catalogue is for fashionable women’s and men’s clothes and a few household items. The Welsh fabrics are just one or two of thousands of items in the later catalogue. They contain no general introduction about the firm, but there is an index.
Catalogues are know to survive for:
1882 (Powys archives)
Spring & Summer 1889, Catalogue (NLW)
Summer 1891 (Private collection)
Autumn/Winter 1933, Catalogue (NLW)
1935 (Private collection) Mary Oldham, A Pryce Jones mail order catalogue [for 1935] comes home. The Newtonian, 44 (Spring 2011), pp. 2-5
General Price List 1937, Catalogue (NLW)
Coronation List 1937, Catalogue (NLW)
Pryce Jones leaflets etc are in Powys County Archives MX/43/2
1887 LLANASA. GLYN CASTLE CHORAL UNION
This young choir performed at the Eisteddfod at Caerwys last year, intend to perform at the London Eisteddfod. They held a benefit costume at Birkenhead (and elsewhere). The lady members of the choir, numbering about 50 were dressed in the National Costume of Wales. The costumes were the gift of Mrs T H Jackson, Glyn Castle. The linsey for the skirts was ordered direct from the celebrated manufactory of Mr Pryce Jones, Newtown and the material for the bodices etc were purchased at Messrs G.H. Lee and Co., Liverpool.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), January 29, 1887
Pryce Jones supplied the Robes for the Gorsedd from at least 1922 until 1948. Some of the letters they sent to the Mistress of the Robes, Winifred Coombe Tennant have samples of the fabrics used for the robes. They had kept special stocks of suitable fabrics and dyed them to the exact shades required by the Gorsedd. Letter 2697 includes a print of front and rear view of a Gorsedd robe with prices as sold by Pryce Jones to individual members of the Gorsedd. Messrs John Lewis, Oxford Street, London supplied the robes from 1949.
Mr Williams (age 20), of Trefriw factory near Llanrwst, said that Pryce Jones of Newtown (who supplied the robes for the Gorsedd at the Holyhead Eisteddfod, 1927) had spoilt the Welsh Flannel Business by buying English Flannel and selling it as Welsh homespun.
JR Jones Collection, NLW, vol. 2, p. 52
Lady Paget of London corresponded with the Herald Bard about the availability of a Welsh costume for herself. He asked Winifred Coombe Tennant for advice and in a letter to her dated 8.12.1925, Lady Paget said that she will visit Pryce Jones to purchase a whole costume. Other letters in the collection show that Pryce Jones had certain fabrics, especially flannels, reserved especially for Welsh Costume.
NLW Winifred Coombe Tennant collection, letters 422, 423, 429
Elwyn V. Jones, Pryce Jones, pioneer of mail order and parcel post and founder of the world famous business Pryce Jones Limited Royal Welsh Warehouse. The Newtonian, 5 (Summer 2011), pp. 9-16.
(two draft versions in NLW ex 1794)
David Pugh, The end of mail order at the Royal Welsh Warehouse, The Newtonian, 44 (Spring 2011), pp. 6-13.
Richard Coopey, Sean O’Connell, Dilwyn Porter, Mail order retailing in Britain, (2005)