Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau

It is often said that it was common for women wore traditional or national Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau but there is little evidence for this.

A few competitors wore Welsh costume, and some of Lady Llanover’s friends wore her version of Welsh costume at some of the Abergavenny Eisteddfodau (1834-1853), but reports of Eisteddfodau either do not mention Welsh costume at all, or note it because it was unusual.

One of the very few reports of an Eisteddfod at which a significant number of the audience were in Welsh costume was in 1859 (see below, Anon, In the Land of the Eisteddfod.)

It appears that after about 1860, the wearing of Welsh costume, mostly by women competitors but sometimes by men, at Eisteddfodau, was reported because it was a novelty. It was rare for reports to note that audience members had attended in costume [Illustrations in the Illustrated London News of the Eisteddfod at Caernarfon in 1862 shows bare-footed women in costume, but these might have been competitors]. Competitors occasionally dressed in costume because they chose to (especially if playing a harp), or because it was a condition of entry to a competition; or because a woman known to have retained Welsh costume was asked to present prizes. Children were occasionally dressed in Welsh costume for a performance or to make a presentation to a special guest. As the Eisteddfod field became more commercial, firms who produced Welsh products occasionally employed women in Welsh costume at their stalls. From the end of the 19th century, photographs of Gorsedd ceremonies show women in Welsh costume: these may have been members of Eisteddfod committees who had not been made bards.

The terms used to describe the costume included ‘ancient’, ‘primitive’, ‘picturesque’ and ‘country’. It was not unusual for the audience to find the costume ‘amusing’ (but it is not clear exactly what this meant – whether they laughed at, or were pleased to see something different), or they were proud or patronising by giving the wearer additional applause. The comments on the wearing of costume were made by the reporters who may have had their own views about it: many of the reports which mentioned Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau were written in English.

Although there are many references to Welsh costume at Eisteddfod listed below (at least one for every year after 1860), the reports are for all types of eisteddfodau of which there were many every year, not just the Nationals, but they often mention Welsh costume only once. The presence of Welsh costume may well have been subject to the availability of surviving examples; to the presence of enthusiastic individuals such as Mary Ann Roberts who is said to have attended over 50 Eisteddfodau, or to organisers who wanted to encourage the preservation of traditional costume.

Analysis of reports of Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau
Most Newspapers published in Wales before 1st January 1920, in both Welsh and English, have been digitised and are freely available on line. These have been searched for relevant terms in both languages. Reports after that date can be found only by searching printed or microfilmed copies.
Geoff Charles’s photos on the NLW web site of National and Urdd Eisteddfodau of the 1950s and 1960s show few women in Welsh costume (only one or two seem to be wearing an old hat). Most are wearing cotton covered hats, or small felt hats, both with narrow brims and attached white cotton linings.

There were some individuals who wished to agree to a standard, historic costume for the Eisteddfod, distinct from the gowns which members of the Gorsedd wear.
‘If only I can get the [Gorsedd] Robes committee to establish a recognised design and materials and save the Welsh costume from modernising ‘fancy dress’ deterioration’  Diary of Winifred Coombe Tennant, (Mistress of the Robes) 23rd January, 1921, NLW

in 1922 Miss A J Stepney-Gulston was invited to join the Gorsedd Robes Committee who were considering developing new costumes for women and children as well as men. She wrote to the secretary Mr D Rhys Phillips:
I think it is quite permissible to use blue and black in the Welsh costume, and I have seen a lovely shot? green and black dress belonging to Mrs Davies-Evans of Highmead. I have not got Lady Llanover’s book, but could send your friend a sketch of my own costume which is correct as it was copied from an old one. Mrs Davies Evans costume is 18th century and the stuff, silk and wool woven together.
Letters from A.J. Stepney- Gulston, Derwedd, Llandebie, Carmarthenshire, 12.12.1922 to Mr D Rhys Phillips.

I enclose a rough sketch of the Welsh costume (Carmarthenshire Dress) and hope it is not too late for your friend. I must adhere to my resignation from the Gorsedd Robes Committee.
[Sketch. Welsh hat, goffered cap, bodice with short sleeves and silk? band at the elbow; enlarged lower sleeve, check apron, vertical striped skirt. Sketch of back shows corners of tail tied together.]
Letters from A.J. Stepney- Gulston, Derwedd, Llandebie, Carmarthenshire, 17.1.1923 to Mr D Rhys Phillips.

Eisteddfod competition for boys costume, 1926
D Rhys Phillips suggested that a competition for a boys’ Welsh costume be organised and Lady Howard Stepney offered a prize for it at the National Eisteddfod in Swansea in 1926, Miss Stepney-Gulston of Derwydd being chief adjudicator. An entry by a lady from Dunvant was to be developed on traditional lines, from which, D Rhys Phillips wrote ‘something useful should emerge. Then the choir boys on one side of the chapel galleries at Morriston will not have cause to cast jealous glances at the costumed Welsh maidens who sit on the other side.
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. It appears that this proposal was never realised.

REFERENCES TO THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF WELSH COSTUME AT EISTEDDFODAU, local and National and those held in other countries.

Print of the Denbigh Eisteddfod 1828. Two women appear to be wearing Welsh hats but it is likely that this print was commissioned just before 1850 for the book in which it was published.
Edward Parry, Royal Visits and Progresses to Wales, (1850) p. 450
The Eisteddfod at Denbigh in 1828 was attended by Duke of Sussex and by more than 2,000 people. No mention of Welsh costume.
Parry, J., A trip to North Wales, containing much information relative to that interesting Alpine country. London : Whittaker and Co. ; Caernarvon : W. Pritchard, [1840], p. 46

The arrangements for the Eisteddfod at Cardiff, are proceeding upon a scale of splendour corresponding with the national interest of the occasion. “We have been given to understand (says a correspondent), that a resolution has been adopted by some of our fair countrywomen, to appear at the Eisteddfod in the national costume of the Welsh peasantry, as worn in Glamorganshire and several other districts of South and North Wales and when we recollect the graceful character of the scarlet whittle, and the picturesque effect of the plaid tunic, robed-shaped gown, and glossy beaver, we cannot do otherwise than applaud this exceedingly tasteful, as well as national and praiseworthy determination, and we sincerely hope that it will be the means of affording encouragement to the native manufactures of the Principality, which have of late been too much neglected for others of foreign introduction.”
Cambrian 17.5.1834
We understand that in addition to the usual attractions, the approaching splendid meeting will constitute a scene of an entirely novel and striking character; as it is the intention of its fair promoters to enhance its interest, as a national festival, by appearing in the native costume of the country.
The Glamorgan Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, 17 May, 1834

Lady Charlotte Guest, Mrs Hall, Mrs Scudamore, Miss Morgan of Pantygoitre and other ladies, habited in the Welsh Costume, made, as we are informed, of Welsh manufacture; several gentlemen wore the order of the leek beautifully executed in glass. The meeting was chaired by J.J. Guest.
Glamorgan, Monmouthshire and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian 5.12.1835

Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, Llanover, 28.11.1836
Wednesday morning, all the Llanover party (except Mrs Waddington), dressed in various Welsh stuffs, Mrs Scudamore included, with round block beaver hats, and mob caps beneath them, set out in 3 carriages for Abergavenny [for the Eisteddfod]…
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, pp. 65-69

Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, 23.10.1837
Tuesday set out for Abergavenny, put on my Mob cap and my Leek. [The procession:] The Bards, a Leek of splendid growth, followed by a train of charity children all clothed in Welsh checks, and little black hats.
Mrs Harries of Rhyd y Llyfen Manufactory obtained a medal at this Cymreigyddion for 2 yards of beautiful fine Welsh check. … she was in true and complete Welsh costume – round black hat, Mob cap, and a brilliant handkerchief over her shoulders.
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, pp. 73-74

To the Editor of the Monmouthshire Merlin.
Sir,— The members of this Society are looking forward for a well-contested Eisteddfod … in October next, … 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.

{in the streets on the route to the hall} the inhabitants wore their holiday attire …[more?] the [gentry] Ladies chiefly attired in the becoming costume of Wales (the bewitching little hat and plaid dress).
Monmouthshire Merlin, 13.10.1838

The platform was entirely occupied by ladies, many of whom were attired in full Welsh costume.
NLW MS 13962E, 98b, bilingual poster; Cambrian (newspaper), 17.10.1840, 31.10.1840; The Welshman, 9.10.1840.

The female harpists and singers with the harp from Gwent and Morganwg, will  appear in their native costume of plaids woollen with hats on etc.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Tuesday, June 16, 1840

Illustration of bards with harps in the tent of the ‘Welsh Bardic Festival’ (The Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society), held on 12th October. The procession to the town included a Band of musicians playing national marches, the performers attired in scarves of national plaid. Several banners of the society were emblazoned with the Red Dragon of Cadwallader, the Plume of feathers etc. A platform carriage bearing six harpers had postilions dressed in Welsh woollen plaid caps and jackets.
Prizes were awarded for specimens of National manufacture.
Illustrated London News, 22.10.1842, p. 377-8

[Procession to the hall included a miniature printing press] worked by two lads dressed in Welsh woollen clothes [and a loom]. … It seemed as though the surrounding country had sent its entire population to the Eisteddfod, while the Welsh costume gave an interesting feature of singularity to the crowded picture.
The Cymreigyddion Festival. – The Procession through Abergavenny
Chorus Singers (two women in Welsh hats and a man)
Harpers (woman in Welsh hat playing a harp, a man playing a harp and a man standing)
Interior of the Cymreigyddion Hall, Abergavenny
Illustrated London News, 25.10.1845, pp. 264-266

1848 ABERGAVENNY EISTEDDFOD (15th anniversary)
The 11th & 12th of October 1848
The procession on the first day included a Welsh woollen loom in active operation. ‘The leek (formed of satin, pearls and silver,) was conspicuously placed in the dress of all ladies and gentlemen ; the former attired in the Welsh hat and costume. …
Many of the ladies, both English and foreign, who have honoured us with their presence, have adopted the native costume of Wales ; and here I would remark that, if all others knew how extremely becoming that costume is, and how enchanting they would appear in it, I believe that the dowdy and unbecoming bonnet would be discarded for ever and the Welsh hat be henceforth adopted in its place. (Great applause and laughter). …
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.]

Report of Wednesday’s (or second day’s) proceedings of an Eisteddfod. Several of the ladies having with exquisite good taste put on Welsh costumes thus entering into the spirit of the meeting.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Tuesday, August 21, 1849

Two Welsh ladies, Misses Williams, (who were wearing the Welsh hats and the native costume) were asked to present a prize.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Tuesday, August 21, 1849

The 10th prize, of two guineas, given by Mr L. Edwards, and Mr James Davies, Newport, for the best performance on the harp, by a lady, was very skilfully and artistically competed for by “Rhianon,” a fair lady, whose grace and loveliness were not less attractive, by a most coquettish Welsh hat and plume.
Monmouthshire Merlin 15.3.1851

Lady Hall’s maid entered carrying two frightful linstey [sic –linsey] petticoats and bodices, two Welsh chimney-pot black hats with coarse mob caps and said, ‘If you please, her Ladyship wishes you and Miss Lucy to wear the Welsh costumes today at the Eisteddfod’ … … I vowed I would never wear such horrible things again to please any Lady Hall, nor did I and all the other ladies agreed with me and we returned our linsteys and hats etc to her Ladyship that same evening and made her very angry.
Mrs Lucy of Charlecote (1803 – 1889) Mistress of Charlecote, The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy, (London, 1985), pp. 95-97

The Welsh songs were beautifully warbled. The elicited great applause which was only equaled by the appreciation excited by the picturesque Welsh costume and modest appearance of the singers.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 4, 1855

The announcement of the Llangollen Eisteddfod in 1858 included the following:
The Bards, Druids, and Ovates, will appear in their respective robes. It is requested also that all Welsh people present at the Eisteddfod will wear on the occasion the National Costume of the Country.
Copy of the original announcement with list of prizes published in Y Cymmrodor, xxv, (1915), pp. 178-180
The Bards, Druids and Ovates appeared in their respective robes. All the Welsh people present at the Eisteddfod wore on the occasion the national costume of the country. The scene was delightfully picturesque, … the procession [included] a female in ancient Welsh costume, riding on horse-back.
Monmouthshire Merlin 25.9.1858
Mary Ann Roberts, daughter of John Roberts (Telynor Cymru) who wore an ‘orthodox Welsh costume’ when performing.
Cambrian Journal, 1858, p. 273; Jarman and Jarman, The Welsh Gypsies: Children of Abram Wood, (1991), p. 117
Miss Roberts (Meirionwy) sang in Welsh costume
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, September 25, 1858
As a small girl [Edith Wynne], at the Llangollen Eisteddfod, 1858, wore Welsh costume and knitted while she sang.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 16, 1873
A singer was dressed as Jenny Jones
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, October 2, 1858
‘Yr oedd gwobr o 10 p[unt] i wrywod a 10 p i fenywod am a most elegant and appropriate dress in the National Cymric costume.’
Baner Cymru (Denbigh, Wales), Wednesday, September 29, 1858
Prizes of £10 for the most elegant and appropriate dress in the National Cymric costume to be worn at the Eisteddfod. The following females came forward to compete. Miss Roberts, Mrs Gethin Park key; Miss Edwards, Rhosymedre; Miss Wright and Jane Williams, a native of Llangollen. They were variously dressed. The judges divided the prize between the candidates.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, October 2, 1858
There was a competition for the Best Welsh hat
Cheshire Observer – Saturday 18 September 1858
1858 Great Meeting of Welsh Bards at Llangollen.
The morning was very fine, the, sun shining forth in all its glory. At half-past ten, the procession left the Ponsonby Arms Hotel, for the bardic circle, situate about half a mile distant. The following was the order of procession : —The band of the Royal Denbigh Rifles, playing ” the Druids’ March ;” the Druids having with them their white flag, inscribed on which was the word “Holiness,” in Welsh. Female on horseback in ancient Welsh costume [This might have been based on a mediaeval costume rather than a more recent traditional costume.]: the blue flag of the bards, with the Welsh word for ” Peace;” the ovates, with great flag, closely followed by the bards and Druids; the committee men and a number of other gentlemen filling up the rear.
Dwight’s journal of music‎, (1859) p. 227
A full report of the Eisteddfod appeared in The Cambrian Journal, 1858, pp. 262-313

[1859], Llanrhyddiog, (a coal mining town) (near Llanllwch Fawr?) at the Merthyr? Eisteddfod of 1859?
The women … wore their tall hats; and such as could not afford such gorgeous attire, contented themselves with that oddly-shaped straw head-covering that is neither a bonnet nor a hat, and partakes of the nature of both, being expressly adapted for the use of those who desire to carry loads to market on their heads. The dresses of the women were very warm and comfortable, composed of linsey; nearly all being of the same pattern of black and red stripes, on a brown ground, arranged in a novel manner, with the front of the skirt taken up by the hem to the waist, and pinned behind, as some women in England are wont to do when they carry water. The petticoat thus exhibited was of similar material, and reached to within a foot of the ground. Most of the dresses are partly open at the neck, and display an ample white neckerchief, and the shoulders were covered by a woollen shawl of a similar pattern, and in some cases of a brilliant red colour. … it was noticeable here, as in most Welsh towns, that the appearance of the women was more refined than the appearance of the men. .. [The Eisteddfod included an] interesting performance by a little girl of four years of age dressed in full Welsh costume, including the tall hat and the bright red shawl. She sang an old Welsh air …
Anon, In the Land of the Eisteddfod, The Cornhill Magazine: Vol. I, January to June, 1860, pp. 478-487

Miss Wynne, accompanied by the harp, sang “Robin is Shy” in Welsh and English. She was dressed in the Welsh costume, and kept the audience in one roar of laughter by the naviete way in which she sang the words.
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette 24.9.1859
Miss Wynne’s singing, accompanied by Ellis Roberts created quite a furore. She appeared in Welsh costume, with all the primitive severity of the high crowned hat, the linsey petticoat, the bedgown with short sleeves and busily plying her knitting needles, to sing.
The Cambrian Journal, Published by The Cambrian Institute, Tenby, Wales, (1859), p. 228

Concert. Miss Sarah Edith Wynne (Eos Cymru) sang in the National costume.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 11, 1860

Will be held, according to the Privileges and Customs of the Bards of the Isles of Britain, On Hirwaun Wrgant Common, Near Trecynon, Aberdare, on the 21st, 22nd, And 23rd days of August, 1861. Second Day. The best singer of the Welsh air (Soprano), “Caerphilly” (Cambrian Minstrel) in Welsh costume with the harp.
Merthyr Telegraph, and General Advertiser For the Iron Districts of South Wales 1.12.1860

1861 Grand Ivorite Eisteddfod or, Musical and Bardic Meeting will be held at the Temperance Hall, Cardiff, on Tuesday Evening, the 2nd, and Wednesday the 3rd of July, 1861. Great contest on the triple harp. Interesting Competition on the pianoforte between young Ladies. Ladies will compete in Welsh Costume.
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 15.6.1861
The appearance of ladies in Welsh costume, who will sing the most exquisite gems of Welsh Melody, will be amongst the many other attractions of the place.
Aberdare Times 1.6.1861

Adelaide Reece, of Neath, an infant of three years old, dressed in full Welsh costume, sang “The rising of the lark,” accompanied by her uncle on the harp, much to the amusement of the audience.
Competition, best singer of the Welsh Air (Soprano) “Caerphilly” (Cambrian Minstrel), in Welsh costume, with the harp. Prize, one guinea. Miss Forey won the prize. Hannah received an extra prize of a guinea from Mrs Fothergill, and William Jones, Esq, from London, gave a third guinea to the other competitor.
Cardiff Times 23.8.1861 ; The Bristol Mercury (Bristol, England), Saturday, August 24, 1861
A French tourist was disappointed by clothes that he saw, as Welsh ‘costume’ is in decline : ‘Malheureusement, ce n’était plus le costume antique ; le triste et vulgaire habit de nos jours sied mal aux rites poétiques, et, en Galles, les femmes seules ont gardé en partie le costume des Cymrys.’
(Unfortunately, it wasn’t the ancient costume; the sad and vulgar clothes of today do not suit poetic ritual well, and, in Wales, only the women have kept up the Costume of the Cymry to some degree.)
Then at last he saw some costumes on labouring-class competitors : ‘la tartane à carreaux rouge et noirs ou à grandes raies rouges et blanches sur fond brun, et le manteau rouge que les femmes portent encore dans la campagne. L’étrange chapeau d’homme à haute forme, adopté par les Galloises, on ne sait pourquoi, car il n’a rien de celtique, altère malheureusement quelque peu l’harmonie du vieux costume gaulois aux éclatantes couleurs.’
(the red and black check or wide stripes of red and white on a brown background, the red coats [cloaks?] that women still wear in the coutryside. The strange mens’ top hat, adopted by Welsh women – who knows why, as there is nothing Celtic about it – unfortunately upsets the harmony of the old brightly-coloured Gaulish costume.)
Henri Martin, Etudes d’archéologie celtique: notes de voyages dans les pays celtiques et scandinaves (Paris : Didier, 1872), notes on Wales section dated 1861, pp. 50, 56
Translation by Heather Williams

Print of the Caernarfon Eisteddfod, 1862 showing two women in the castle grounds wearing Welsh hats, bedgowns with the tails pinned up, shawls and bare feet.
Illustrated London News (published in Lord, Peter, Imaging the Nation, (2000), p. 267)
Harp competition, Miss Evans, Mold, appeared in real Welsh costume.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Friday, August 29, 1862
Miss Edith Wynne, (Eos Cymru) sang in the native costume of Wales
Baner ac Amserau Cymru (Denbigh, Wales), Wednesday, August 13, 1862

To add to the charms and variety of this Eisteddfod, Lady Llanover sent up nineteen people from Llanover all attired in genuine Welsh costume, with high hats and stout Welsh flannel dresses.
Merthyr Telegraph, and General Advertiser For the Iron Districts of South Wales. 24.5.1862
What a great day to be, about 20 of us went to an eisteddfod, we were all dressed in the Welsh costume. Elizth [Elizabeth Emanual?] and I had red cloaks. We all went to Lady Llanover’s bedroom after we were dressed and she was very pleased with us.
Diary of Margaret Davies, later Margaret Mostyn Jones, servant to Lady Llanover at Llanover. NLW MS 23511A 19th May, 1862, also p. 53

Adjudication by the Hon Mrs Rowley and Mrs Mainwaring on the best female
costume. Prizes 3 and 2 guineas. Three competitors appeared in the native
costume: Miss Owen, Rhyl; Sarah Evans, Mold; Miss Williams, Rhyl.
Liverpool Mercury, Wednesday, August 26, 1863
Three competitors appeared in the costume on the platform which caused
considerable amusement. [speech of prize giver:] I consider that a ladies face never looks prettier than under a Welsh hat (loud laughter) I hope that whenever the Princess of Wales comes to Rhyl, she will come in Welsh costume (hear, hear and laughter), and that instead of the few that exemplify the Welsh costume today we shall see nothing but Welsh hats worn by every lady (much laughter).
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 29, 1863

[There was an] almost entire absence of anything that indicated Wales. There was an almost entire abnegation of Welsh costume. Only in one instance was the linsey gown and sugarloaf hat seen. … The performers and listeners were arrayed in the height of English fashion.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, June 4, 1864

Print: Aberystwyth Eisteddfod, 1865. Only one woman, on the right, is shown with a tall hat with slightly curved brim and cloak.
Illustrated London News, 23.9.1865, Copy in Ceredigion Museum, 2006.90.1

Kate Wynne sang in Welsh costume which gave rise to considerable cheering and laughter.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, March 4, 1865

Song in Welsh costume. Prize, 10s. 6d., divided between Miss Jones and Morfwdd, of Aberdare.
Merthyr Telegraph, and General Advertiser for the Iron Districts of South Wales. 13.11.1869

This eisteddfod was opened on the 9th instant. …
An adjudication followed on the specimens of Welsh costume. Mr Foulkes, draper, Carnarvon, appeared in a broad-brimmed hat, brown coat, stockings, and gaiters, and a striped waistcoat, and carried off the prize (three guineas) without a rival.
Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 13.8.1870
There was but a single specimen of Welsh male costume (and none of female costume), for which a prize of 3g. was offered. Mr E Foulkes (Peris), Caernarvon Drapery Establishment, at whose establishment the costume was executed, created much merriment by appearing on the platform dressed up in ‘ancient toggery’ and armed with a monster cudgel. He was congratulated by the recitation of an appropriate englyn.
Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald, 13.8.1870

The gem of the evening was “Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn,” given by Miss Ann Edmonds, in Welsh costume. Her rendering of this piece was exquisite, and brought down the house.
Monmouthshire Merlin 11.11.1870

The Anglesea eisteddfod commenced on Tuesday, July 30th,
… competition in playing on the triple harp, Miss Jones, Holyhead (Telynnes Cybi). The young lady appeared in the ancient Welsh costume, and exhibited great proficiency in her treatment of one of the most difficult instruments ever invented by man.
Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 9.8.1872

Mrs Williams and the Misses Williams of Castell Deudraeth have just offered
prizes for the best spinning wheel and also to the female in a Welsh costume that best spins wool on such a wheel.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, March 2, 1872

Miss Ellen Jane Jones played on the triple harp in Welsh costume
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 31, 1872
~ the essayists were many as were the horse-shoe makers, stocking knitters, ship modellers, flannel makers and yarn spinners. In the last class, an old lady wearing the national Welsh costume carried off the prize and her appearance on the platform with her wheel caused much amusement.
The Graphic (London, England), Saturday, September 7, 1872


A little fellow of 12 years first presented himself dressed in the old Welsh costume and upon a wretched broken-down instrument played a Welsh air with variations
Llangollen Advertiser, Denbighshire, Merionethshire, and North Wales Journal 29.8.1873; Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Saturday, August 23, 1873

The prize on the triple harp was won by quite a young girl, who appeared in the old Welsh costume of a short stuff dress, white frill cap.
John Erskine Clarke‎, (ed.) Church Bells, (1872), p. 438

Miss Jones, Telynores Cybi who appeared in the old Welsh costume, won the triple harp prize.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Thursday, August 7, 1873
Prize for Penillion singing presented by Miss Lloyd daughter of Estyn, Llanfynydd Rectory, who appeared in primitive Welsh costume.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 9, 1873

Helen / Ellen Jane Jones of Holyhead, dressed in old Welsh costume, won the triple harp prize. … Welsh costume, both in form and material ~ Welsh hats and capes and scarlet shawls, each hat being adorned with a silver and green leek.
Birmingham daily Post (Birmingham, England), Thursday, August 20, 1874
The Era (London, England), Sunday, August 23, 1874
The Belfast News-Letter (Belfast, Ireland), Monday, October 19, 1874

Grand Eisteddfod, Agricultural Show and Athletic Sports. Tuesday August 17th 1875
… Harp Concert, Singing in Welsh Costume
Cambrian 25.6.1875

Most artistically, arranged Parlour Folding Screen (four folds), ornamented with scraps illustrative of Welsh costume and scenery. Prize: £5, and a silver medal.
Gwladgarwr 27.11.1875 [Eisteddfod advert in a Welsh language paper in English]

An eisteddfod, promoted by the Sons of Llewellyn Lodge of Oddfellows, was held on Easter Monday in the Board-school, Cefn-coed-y-cymmer. Miss Bessie Davies took a prize of 2s. for singing the solo “Difyrwch Gwyr Harlech,” in Welsh costume.
Merthyr Telegraph, and General Advertiser For the Iron Districts of South Wales. 21.4.1876

Owen Jones, Llanerchymold ? a small boy dressed in the old Welsh costume
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 5, 1876

Mrs R.L. Morgan gave a prize of 10s 6d to the young lady who appeared in the best Welsh costume to Miss Annie Davies of Rhyl, she being the only competitor.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, March 10, 1877

… Adjudication by Ap Arfon on the best englyn to the “Hawk,” prize 10 6d. The successful competitor, Emlyn Fardd, who was represented by Mr David Hughes, who was invested, amid roars of laughter, by an old woman dressed in real Welsh costume. …
North Wales Express 2.8.1878

Prize for an Englyn was invested by Miss Ellen Lloyd, an old lady dressed in the orthodox Welsh costume.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 3, 1878

The adjudicator of Welsh costume, the Rev. Theophilus Rees, of Newton
Weekly Mail 29.3.1879
During the evening, a young woman named Elizabeth Williams (Eos Rhyd-y-fro) from near Swansea mounted the platform attired in the Welsh costume once worn in Gwent and Morganwg and for which a prize of £2 2s was offered. … She had her knitting in her hand and was an object of great interest. Mr Crawshay Bailey added a guinea to the prize which was awarded her amidst loud applause.
Monmouthshire Merlin 18.4.1879

The Eryri Chair Eisteddfod, held at Penygroes on Saturday evening and Easter Monday, was a complete success … Mr T. Lloyd Jones, Talysarn, offered a prize of one guinea for the best Welsh Costume. The appearance on the platform of three ladies dressed in this quaint style caused a deal of merriment. The prize was awarded to Mrs Ann Parry, High-street, Penygroes, and 10s was given to each of the other competitors, viz., Miss Begi Jones o’r Cwm, and Miss Marri Jones.
North Wales Express 18.4.1879

The pedal harp competition, Welsh melodies, excited intense interest, the competitors being little boys attired in Welsh costume, whose playing was remarkable. The first prize of £3 was gained by Willie Morgan, Bargoed; second J. R. Evans, Troedyrhiw and a special prize given by Mr Lewis Morris, Charles Pearce, six years of age, Treherbert.
Aberdare Times 3.9.1881; North Wales Express 2.9.1881

The next competition created great interest owing to the juvenility of the only competitor, Eos Rhondda, a little boy of six years, who, dressed in Welsh costume and perched on a chair, sang Penillion in very good style, but of course, in the shrill voice natural to his years, and was made supremely happy by receiving from the hands of Miss Mainwaring a prize of £1, to which the adjudicator, Idris Vychan, considered him entitled. The little lad is named Edmund Bevan, and hails from the Rhondda Valley.
Weekly Mail 26.8.1882

During the evening the Blue Ribbon Choir, the ladies wearing the Welsh costume, rendered a selection of airs which considerably enlivened the proceedings.
Cardiff Times 11.8.1883; Aberdare Times 11.8.1883; Aberystwyth Observer 11.8.1883; Monmouthshire Merlin 10.8.1883
Concert suggested by the Venerable Lady Llanover … The choir was composed of six ladies and seven gentlemen and the former wore the Welsh costume in which they looked neat and picturesque. Mrs Barton sang in native costume with a tall bonnet with a leek.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Saturday, August 11, 1883

We understand that Messrs. Parry and Rocke, the wool staplers, of Swansea, who put up the fine decorated woollen arch in the High street on the occasion of the Royal visit to Swansea [1881], are now preparing an even finer arch of the same material to decorate the chief entrance to the National Eisteddfod Pavilion at Liverpool. The arch has been designed by Mr Goodard, and it will consist of wools of various beautiful dyes. It will include a girl in Welsh costume, spinning, and two others knitting, and will have Welsh and English mottoes such as Success to the Welsh Industries.
Cambrian 5.9.1884
Photograph The entrance to the National Eisteddfod at Liverpool, 1884

3rd prize winner for the best pair of hand knitted stockings was an elderly lady in full Welsh country costume, white cap, frill included, with a staff in her hand.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Saturday, August 29, 1885

Plans for Grand Eisteddfod at Llandudno include competition for penillion singing in which the competitors shall dress in Welsh costume.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, June 27, 1885
Six penillion competitors, all dressed in Welsh costume
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, October 3, 1885

Tal yr Ail (Mr William Parry, Bardd y Glyn, Mostyn), was awarded the prize presented by Myrddynog for the best epigram to the triple-stringed harp. The winner was invested by Miss Myfanwy Jones, of Mostyn Vicarage, who was attired in Welsh costume.
North Wales Express 3.9.1886

Mr Henry Richard, M.P the president of the day, had with him on the platform the Lord Mayor of London], who during the morning was presented by Miss Morris [daughter of Mr Morris, the Hon. secretary], a little girl in ancient Welsh costume, with a length of Welsh tweed.
Cambrian 17.9.1886; Cardiff Times 18.9.1886; Manchester Times (Manchester, England), Saturday, September 18, 1886
Miss Myfanwy Jones, Mostyn Vicarage was attired in typical Welsh costume and was loudly cheered.
Liverpool Mercury(Liverpool, England), Thursday, September 2, 1886
Welsh triple harp competition, promoted by Lady Llanover. Her ladyship’s band of harpers and Dr Parry’s choir were present in Welsh costume, their expenses being borne by Gwenynen Gwent.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Monday, September 13, 1886
Miss Morris, daughter of the secretary of the Eisteddfod, attired in Welsh costume, presented the Lord Mayor of London with a piece of Welsh tweed. His wife was presented with a shawl made by Messrs Jones, Evans and Co., Newtown
The editor, Bye-gones: Relating to Wales and the Border Counties, September, 1886, p. 127

The first meeting of the nineteenth annual eisteddfod in connection with the Llechwedd Quarry was held at the Assembly Room, Blaenau [Ffestiniog], on Monday evening last. 13 Englynion on the “Welsh costume” were received. The competition being published on the previous evening. Gwylim Deudiaeth received the prize.
Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 19.8.1887

On Wednesday a three day eisteddfod was opened at Portmadoc, Competition in spinning with the spinning wheel (in Welsh costume). Prizes, £ 1 1s. and 10s 6d. Adjudicator, Mr Jacob Jones, Tanygrisiau.
Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 26.8.1887
There was a novel and exceedingly quaint competition in spinning with the wheel, the competitors to be dressed in Welsh costume. Nine competitors came forward who for the most part were dressed in full Welsh costume including the now rare sugarloaf hats and each of the ladies was of about 70 years of age. Sir Price Jones awarded the silver medal for the best piece of Welsh tweed to Mr Robert Williams of Garn, Dolbenmaen.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 27, 1887

Mr David Bowen, the conductor of the Abercarn United Choir (which choir was successful in carrying away the two chief prizes of £100 and £20 respectively, with two gold medals, at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod on Easter Monday), has decided upon introducing a novelty in connection with this choir when attending the National Eisteddfod of Wales, to be held in London in August next. The whole of the choir, numbering 250, will appear in Welsh costume. Whilst still maintaining that Monmouthshire is a part of Wales, it has been decided to adopt this course out of respect to the lady of the manor, the Right Hon. Lady Llanover, who has always shown such deep interest in the welfare of the Welsh people, more especially those who reside in this part of Monmouthshire. As a large sum of money will be necessary to provide funds for procuring the costumes and defraying the costs of conveying the choir to London, it has been arranged to open a subscription list, and, in addition to this, arrangements are being made to give grand evening concerts (during the week preceding the Eisteddfod) at Blaina, Ebbw Vale, Tredegar, Newport, Cardiff, and Bristol.
Weekly Mail 30.4.1887; Cardiff Times 30.4.1887
The Glyn Castle Choir Union, of which Mr Fritz H. Jackson, of the Manor House, Birkenhead, is conductor, has entered the competition for the chief choral prize at the London National Eisteddfod. The choir numbers over 150 voices, and all the female members are attired in the primitive Welsh costume – Pais a Bedgwm – of striped linsey. Their old time appearance will no doubt create quite a sensation in London, whither they and their friends will be, conveyed by a special train.
Llangollen Advertiser, Denbighshire, Merionethshire, and North Wales Journal 29.7.1887
This young choir performed at the Eisteddfod at Caerwys last year, intend to perform at the London Eisteddfod. 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), Saturday, January 29, 1887

Much amusement was caused by the appearance on the platform of a male and female in Welsh costume, to compete for a prize given by the committee and Mr Elias Jones, Glan-y-mor. The successful competitors were Miss C. J. Jones, Conwy and Mr W. Foulkes, Llanberis, both of whom sang a Welsh song amid loud applause.
Llangollen Advertiser, Denbighshire, Merionethshire, and North Wales Journal 16.9.1887
One couple appeared in Welsh costume to compete for prizes offered by Mr John Jones and Mr Elias Jones for the best male and female costumes. The president regretted that there not more competitors in so picturesque a costume. His daughter appeared in one in London recently. The two who appeared now were Mr William Foulkes, Llanberris and Miss Catherine Jane Jones, Conway.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, September 17, 1887

Prize for the person dressed in the most original Welsh costume. (also prizes for walking sticks, patchwork quilt as well as music etc.).
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, April 7, 1888

For the best rendering of ‘The Land of My Fathers’ dressed in Welsh costume.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, March 9, 1889

1889 LLANDUDNO Musical and Eisteddfod
Dr Parry’s “Ar Don o Viaen Gwyntoedd” was then sung by the Tudno Choral Society, conducted by Mr John Roberts, and Miss Maggie Jones (in Welsh costume) followed with Merch Megan. A little lady aged 12 years, named Miss A. M. Hughes (Telynores Mena’s) played a pretty selection of Welsh airs on the harp, and, like her predecessor, she appeared in Welsh costume.
Cardiff Times 3.8.1889


Some men and women dressed in Welsh costume
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, February 22, 1890

The competition duet, ‘Morgan a i Wraig’, competitors to appear in Welsh costume, brought out two competing couples. Their appearance elicited loud applause and laughter. Their make-up was excellent, the ladies with sugarloaf hats, kirtles and crossovers, and the gentlemen as country farmers, with knee-breeches, gaiters and bell toppers. Omitting the last articles of apparel, the male performers bore a close analogy to stage Irishmen. The prize was awarded to Mrs E Jones (Eos Rhydyfro) and Mr M Llewellyn, Stockton.
Cambrian 12.4.1889

The tenth annual Calan Eisteddfod, promoted by the Welsh Baptists of Llandudno, was held in the Pier Pavilion on New Year’s Day. Perhaps the most generally enjoyable item up to this time was the Welsh recitation in Welsh costume of a short Welsh humorous story. Three competitors out of four appeared, and the prize was easily won by a youth from Manchester House, Llanrwst, named Owen Owen,
North Wales Express 3.1.1890

Miss C.J. Jones won prizes for singing in Welsh Costume
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, March 8, 1890

On Tuesday evening, a local Eisteddfod was held at the Town Hall, in connection with the Mount Pleasant Congregational Chapel. Only one woman came forward attired in Welsh costume, a prize being offered for the best, and she, viz., Miss Thomas, Mount Pleasant, was awarded the prize.
North Wales Express 28.3.1890

There was also offered a prize of a guinea for the best performance of “Llwyn On,” in Welsh costume.
Cardiff Times 19.4.1890

A successful Eisteddfod was held in a large marquee at Corwen on Monday.
In the afternoon meeting Mr Thomas Morris, Birkenhead, won the tenor solo competition; Miss Thomas, Denbigh, in the contralto solo; and Miss Nellie Hughes, Liverpool, in the soprano solo, all the competitors appearing in Welsh costume.
North Wales Express 8.8.1890

Soprano soloists appeared in Welsh costume
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Wednesday, August 6, 1890

~ a clever harp performance by Telynores Menai, a little lady of some seven summers, who was picturesquely attired in the Welsh costume of days gone by.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Thursday, September 4, 1890
The Queen of Roumania [sic] attended and was interested in the two young ladies in Welsh costume who stood at the entrance to the pavilion. They extolled the shop of Mr W.O Williams, draper, Manchester House, Bangor.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Friday, September 5, 1890; North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, September 13, 1890; Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 12.9.1890

An admirable drawing of the National Eisteddfod appears in the Graphic of last week. It represents a girl in full Welsh costume playing the harp at one of the meetings; and very charming does the young lady look in the old familiar dress.
Aberdare Times 5.9.1891

Miss Jane Parry, a Liverpool Lady of a dozen summers, correctly dressed in the Welsh costume won prize for harp solo.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Saturday, August 8, 1891; North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, August 15, 1891

The harp competition followed. Two youthful lady performers, who appeared on the platform dressed in Welsh costume, were heartily received.
Cardiff Times 10.9.1892
Harp players ~ seven entrants, two of the girls wore the quaint old Welsh costume
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Thursday, September 8, 1892
Messrs Kent & Jones desire to engage the services of two or three attractive young Ladies to assist at the exhibit in Welsh Costume, Must be Welsh speaking. — Apply by letter to Messrs Kent & Jones, High Street, Rhyl
Rhyl Record and Advertiser 27.8.1892
On Monday morning Lady Augusta Mostyn formally opened, in the presence of a large gathering, the Arts Exhibition held in connection with the National Eisteddfod.
Another chief feature of the exhibition was the undoubtedly magnificent collection of Welsh textile goods, shown by Messrs Kent & Jones, of Rhyl, for Messrs Jones Evans & Co., Manufacturers, Welshpool, great interest being centered in the manipulation of a working loom, upon which the finest Welsh whittles were being made by a practiced operator. In attendance to this exhibit, were five girls dressed in Welsh costume, three of whom were engaged in knitting.
Rhyl Journal 7.9.1892

1892 NATAL
At the second African Eisteddfod, held recently at Natal, Miss E. Caney, niece of Mr Edward Grogan, of Cardiff, was awarded the chief prize, a silver medal, for her rendering (in the competition for girls under 13) of The Bells of Aberdovey. Miss Caney appeared in Welsh costume and responded to an encore
Evening Express 26.9.1892

Mr Owen gave a recitation in Welsh costume.
North Wales Express 3.6.1892

There were two competitions and two prizes of £5 each were offered to the soprano singers who would best sing Y Gwenith Gwyn and “Clycliau Aberdyfi,” and O Loving Heart. The young ladies selected for singing the two former compositions in public were five in number, all members of the Welsh Ladies’ Choir, … The competitors appeared in Welsh costume, and sang with a harp accompaniment.
Weekly Mail, 30.9.1893
Many Welsh prize winners at the Chicago Eisteddfod including the Welsh Ladies Choir and Miss Emily Francis of Penarth (in Welsh Costume) for the soprano solo.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Thursday, September 21, 1893

A characteristic feature was given the gathering by the presence of several ancient dames dressed in the costume of Bala when George the First was King. Mrs Jan. Thomas, Cwmronen, Llanuwchllyn, who was dressed in ancient Welsh costume, having been invested with a prize of 10s. for spinning.
Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 21.7.1893

Maelor Welsh costume choir performed.
Y Genedl Cymreig (Caernarvon, Wales), Tuesday, August 15, 1893

A competition in weaving with a hand loom in Welsh costume only attracted one entry, Mrs Grace Davies, Gwytherin. The old lady received the prize.
Rhyl Record and Advertiser 12.6.1897

Dressed doll, in correct and complete Welsh costume—1st prize, Mrs Gwilym Thomas, Newport, 2nd prize, Dolly Jones.
Cardiff Times 7.8.1897
The Welshiest little bit to be seen in the Eisteddfod was in the art section. She was Miss Mullock, the daughter of the enthusiastic curator, Mr Richard Mullock. She was dressed in a perfect Welsh costume, and as she moved with the grace of a Welsh maiden through the art section she seemed to give a Cymric flavour to every painting in the exhibition.
Weekly Mail, 7.8.1897
In front … was a fine goat in charge of Mr W. Parry, dressed in old Welsh costume
North Wales Express 9.7.1897
Patriotic Welshmen (the Daily Graphic remarks) are much concerned at the abandonment of their national costume by their fair sisters, wives, cousins, and aunts. Where formerly a dozen or more women were to be seen in Welsh costume in East and South Glamorgan -so we are assured by the South Wales Daily News not a single body now dons that picturesque garb. Slowly, but surely, continues the writer in melancholy accents, nationalism in the matter of wearing apparel is gradually passing away. Last year when a Welsh female choir appeared at the Albert Hall they wore their Welsh costume in the first part of the programme, but changed it for the sophisticated habiliments of the fashionable Saesonach during the interval. How can we expect unanimity from the Welsh Parliamentary party when the women of Wales exhibit such deplorable inconsistency in regard to their clothes philosophy ? We trust that the question may be taken up at the next National Eisteddfod. A prize for the neatest Welsh costume might very well be included in the programme, provided always that the adjudicators were supplied with accommodation in a bomb-proof citadel on the announcement of their decision.
Cardiff Times 4.12.1897

Several assistants required to dispose of the music at the National Eisteddfod in July. Each young lady will be required to wear the Welsh costume, which will be provided by Thompson and Shackell (Ltd.), who have acquired the sole right to sell music at the Eisteddfod. Apply personally to Managing Director, Thompson and Shackell (Limited), Queen’s Music Warehouse, Cardiff
Evening Express 16.6.1899
A tender for the right to sell music on the grounds was accepted, the firm undertaking that the attendants should wear Welsh National Costume.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Wednesday, June 14, 1899
Then again, in accordance with a venerable usage, the harp was called for, and a Welsh maiden in the old costume, which is surely more Flemish than Cymric, tuned her harp and sat ready before it.
On Wednesday the following awards were declared : Dressmaking: Original costume in Welsh flannel, £1, H Griffiths, High Street, Swansea; Dressed doll, in Welsh costume, £1,
Montgomery County Times and Shropshire and Mid-Wales post 22.7.1899

Proclamation Ceremony procession included Miss Jenny Parry, the harpist, appropriately attired in the old Welsh costume.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Monday, September 18, 1899
Penellion singing with harp by ‘Eos Caledffrwd’ the harpist being a young lady dressed in Welsh costume, or what passes for such, bearing the name ‘Telynores Llynlleifiad’.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Monday, September 18, 1899

A North Wales lady, Mrs Trevor Smith, sang in the old fashioned Welsh costume.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Wednesday, May 30, 1900

It would have pleased the crowd immensely to see the efforts of the dainty lady competitor, so quaintly in the picture with her old Welsh garb, tall hat, “betgwn streip” and all, crowned with victory, but the Llanerchymedd harpist fairly earned his laurels.
North Wales Express 12.9.1902

The poster for the Caernarfon Eisteddfod in 1906 shows a woman in a green bedgown. (NLW)

The majority of women in the procession wore the typical tall hat and Welsh flannel dress.
The Times, Friday, Jun 29, 1923; pg. 12