the price of Welsh hats

Records for the sale of hats which were specified as being Welsh are very rare. The account book of Isaac Restall of Abergavenny, dated 1860-1901 (Gwent Record Office D1210.519) is concerned solely with hats.  Many of these are described as “best hats”, “round hats”, etc. but there are 3 specific mentions of a Welsh hats

  • February 1860 “Welsh hat – M. Lewis” 9/-.
  • 14 May 1866 “One Female Welsh Hat” 10/-.
  • 19 Sept. 1879 “Ladies Welsh Hat (Her Ladyship)” 16/- [meaning Lady Llanover]

Following the 15% reduction on import tax on silk plush in 1846, Welsh hats might have dropped in price.

One of the most striking parts of the women’s dress is the black beaver hat, which is almost universally worn and is both picturesque and becoming. It is made with a very high crown, narrowing towards the top, and a broad, perfectly flat brim, thus differing entirely from any man’s hat. They frequently give thirty shillings for one of these hats, and make them last the greater part of their lives.
From ‘The South Wales Farmer: his modes of agriculture, domestic life, customs and character’ written in 1843, published in Alfred Russel Wallace, My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, London, 1905, vol I, pp. 207-222

Anne Beale wrote a fictional account of the purchase of a hat by a young girl from the Llandeilo area in Carmarthenshire. The girl and her father found a good beaver hat in a shop and asked its price. When they were told it was fifteen shillings the father said that it was more than a woman was worth. The shopkeeper said that it was as soft as silk or satin and reduced the price to 12 shillings.
Anne Beale ‘The Vale of the Towey ; or Sketches in South Wales’ (1844), p. 62, republished as ‘Traits and Stories of the Welsh Peasantry’ (1849) pp. 62

It seems likely that Welsh hats were comparatively expensive: silk men’s hats cost between about 8 and 16 shillings during the early 1860s
Silk hats sold by Morris and Son, the Cambrian Establishment, Barmouth, 1860-1861
Prices   number   description
8s         1          for John Williams’ son
8/6d     1          Farmer’s silk hat
9/-        1
10/-      1
10/6     3
12/-      1
12/6     2          1 for Evan Evans, School master
14/6     2          1 for Miss Todd
15/-      1
16/-      1
16/6     2          for a surgeon and rector
NLW Morris and Son, Barmouth, 1 (day book).