drum shaped and conical hats


There were two main types of Welsh hat: the almost straight-sided hat with a relatively low crown, and the taller hat with a conical crown. Both have broad, flat, stiff brims.

see also: The Welsh hat


Mrs Edwards knitting. Photograph by John Thomas, National Library of Wales

Many of John Thomas’s photographs were taken in north Wales. She is wearing a north-Wales type of Welsh hat






An essay written in 1834 confirms that both these types of Welsh hat were recognised at the time.
One of the first things that attracts the notice of strangers in the Principality is the general custom among the females of wearing hats. In some districts sufficient distinction is not observed between the male and female hat. The women of Anglesey and Dyfed, however, show a superior taste in the matter. In Dyfed, the brim is rather broad and the body of it inclines to a cone as it approached the crown. In Anglesey and Meirion, smaller hats are worn by the woman than men, and these look extremely well.
The Rev John Blackwell, (Alun, 1797 – 1840), curate of Holywell and Rector of Manordeifi (Pembrokeshire), On the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales.’ The Welsh version was published anonymously under the title ‘Gwisgaid y Cymru in Cylchgrawn y Gymdeithas er Taenu Gwybodaeth Fuddiol am 1834, dan olygiad y Parch John Blackwell, B.A., (Llanymddyfri, gan D.R. and W. Rees, 1834), pp. 274-276 and was published in English, as a translation from the Welsh original in Beauties of Alun; being the Literary Remains, in Welsh and English, of the late The Rev John Blackwell, B.A., (Ruthin and London, 1851), edited by G. Edwards (Gutyn Padarn), pp. 253-266

Other references to broad-brimmed hats:

1803 north Pembrokeshire
the women of north Pembrokeshire wore ‘a large, broad brimmed, high-crowned, beaver hat’
Evans, John, Letters written during a tour through South Wales, in the year 1803. (London, 1804), p. 257

1837 Briton Ferry / Neath
Instead of wearing gaudy bonnets brimmed with ribbon of all the colours of the rainbow like our English peasants, they have been wise enough to take an example from their husbands in the style of their headdress and most commonly wear a broad brimmed hat with something of the Quaker stamp about it which is very well calculated to set off persons.
Horace, Francis, Journal of a tour 1837, NLW MSS 11596B, pp. 197-199

1839 [Aberystwyth]
I cannot say that I have seen much worth the trouble of the journey, always excepting the Welsh-women’s hats which look very comical to an English eye, being in truth men’s hats, beavers, with the brim a little broad, and tied under the chin with a black ribband. Some faces look very pretty in them.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, writing from Aberystwyth in 1839. Halam Tennyson, Alfred Lord Tennyson : by his son, (Macmillian, 1897)

A medal for the Eisteddfod of ‘Cymdeithas Cymreigyddion Caerdaf’ [sic], 1839 shows two women in drum-shaped Welsh hats.  This is one of the earliest dated representations of a Welsh hat, but the engraving onto the silver medal is rather crude, so it is difficult to be certain whether the engraver intended the hats to look like a drum-shaped north Wales type, or a taller, conical, south-Wales version.
National History Museum, St Fagans, 33.72/11

The national dress or costume of the men (if ever they had any) is not now in use; that of the women, however, is still very peculiar. … 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

at the first glance, the aspect of the black hats is ungraceful, particularly in North Wales where they are large and high: in the South they are flatter and the rim rounder and broader, so that they have not so masculine an air.
Costello, L.S., (Louisa) Falls, Lakes and Mountains of North Wales, (1845), p. 96-98. This was also published in ‘Littell’s Living Age, vol 6, issue 63, 26 July, 1845 (New York), and in Graham’s Magazine, vol 43, no 5, Nov, 1853, p. 573

1844 Dolgellau
Attended the Quakers meeting at Tydden-y-Garreg two miles from Dolgellau, the only members were three females all above 80 years of age … Two of the Friends dressed in the costume of the country, with taper crowned hats on their heads, were seated before a peat fire. {one, Lowry Jones, could speak Welsh}
Matthews, John and Hannah, ‘Journal of a Tour in North Wales in the Summer of 1844’, NLW MS 23063C, f. 98r

1846 Bethesda
On reaching Bethesda (a village near the slate quarries) a great number of people attending market and laying out to best advantage their hard earnings of the week; the women here invariably wear high top’d, broad brimm’d hats of very good beaver, with a broad band fastened with a brickle, which looked very grotesque and pleasing.
Doveston, S., Miss, A Few Remarks on a Journey to Shropshire and North Wales, Cardiff Central Library, MS 3.149

1848 Merthyr Tydfil
One may laugh at the Bretoin and Normandiase head-dress, but the woman’s “hat” of Glamorgan is the most hideous and unbecoming thing in creation; thought they consider it the height of ton [sic] to wear a hat that is fabulously high in the crown, broad and flat in the brim, and as much in the style of Mother Shipton’s as it is possible to arrive at.
Clarke, T.E., A Guide to Merthyr Tydfil and the travellers Companion in Visiting the Ironworks, (1848), pp. 43-45

1848 [Aberystwyth]
The majority of the female portion of the congregation were dressed after the London fashion; many, like myself were visitors and the remainder belonged to the elite of the place; those ladies who wear the broad brims without a doubt preferred to worship in the melodious accents of their native tongue.
Anon, [Charles Lucey of Clapham], Journal of an excursion to Wales and Ireland, August, 1848, NLW MS 23064 i, p. 21

1848 Caernarfon
At a chapel in Caernarfon, the congregation included ‘Women with large broad faces, high Black fur hats, broad brims, caps with ruffles three inches wide and checked blanket shawls.
Olmstead, Lemuel G., Rev, (American), Private Collection
Williams, Peter Howell, The causes and effects of tourism in North Wales 1750-1850, Thesis (Ph.D.) Aberystwyth, 2000, p. 427

Fe fyn rhai haeru, fod y penguwch (bonnet) yn gweddu yn well, i’r rhyw fenywaidd nâ’r het, o herwydd paham nis gallant ddweyd; ond yn ol fy chwaeth i, nod oes dim yn harddach ar benau merched Cymru, na het deg dda, tebyg i’r rhai a wisgir gan “Forwynion glân Meirionydd” a Môn. – Nid wyf yn hoffi hetiau Dyfed, am fod y cantel yn rhy lydan, a’r coryn yn rhy hir, a rhy fain tua’r pen uwchaf. [Some will insist that a bonnet suits the fair sex better than a hat, but why, they cannot say; but to my taste, nothing is more beautiful on the heads of Welsh women than a good, beautiful hat, like those worn by the ‘Fair maids of Meirionydd’ and Anglesey. – I am not fond of Dyfed hats because the brim is too wide, and the crown too long and too narrow at the top.]
Gwisgoedd Merched Cymru gan Llawdden, Treoes [Welsh Women’s Clothing by Llawdden, Treoes], Y Gymraes, cyf 2, rhif 9, Medi 1851, td 268-270 [‘Llawdden’ was the bardic name of the Rev. David Howell, b. 1831 in Treoes, Llan-gan, Vale of Glamorgan, vicar in various parishes. He ended his career as Dean of St David’s]

1852 Neath Fair
The costume of many of the females was the male hat of higher crown and broader rim than worn in north Wales with a frill on the side of the face and a striped shawl of many colours. f. 16v
Anon, A journal of a tour to Chester and North Wales, 1842, and a tour to South Wales, 1852. The tours were made in the company of ‘Mr. Thomas Hunt’. NLW, mss. 4946 C27

1854 Merthyr Tydfil
One of the characteristics of the Welsh population remain in force to a degree sufficient to attract the notice of English persons – the wearing of black beaver hats by the women. Why a woman should wear a black cylinder on her head, and think it becoming, is for the Welsh to say. It may be all very well for Jenny Jones who lives in Llangollen to display a pretty face underneath the broad brim of such a hat but would not the face appear fully as pretty if the head were covered by something more graceful than the masculine hat?
Anon, Two days on the Welsh border. Chambers’s repository of instructive and amusing tracts: Volume 4, no 63, (1854), p. 27

1854 Bala
In this neighbourhood we encountered the hat, for the first time, as a portion of the female attire, the girls with their wide-awakes, and the young women with their beavers tapering nearly to a point, and their snow white caps, look well enough, but the old hags, with shrivelled faces and antiquated hats, would do well for the witches in Macbeth.
Billinghurst, H.P., A Pedestrian Ramble through Oxford, Chester and North Wales, 1854. Women’s Library, London, 7RMB/B/1, pp. 169-17


Photograph by John Thomas, c. 1865,  Mary Parry, Llanfechell She is wearing a vertical-sided north-Wales Welsh hat.