It was not unusual for people to leave money in their wills for the care of the poor. Some were given a place in an alms house and were provided with distinctive clothing – often a hat and cloak.
A row of alms houses was built at Holyhead by Henry, Third Lord Stanley in 1872. It is said that he insisted on the women who occupied it should wear Welsh hats and cloaks (presumably red), when he visited them but the tradition ceased on his death in 1903. There are many postcards and photographs of groups of women sitting outside the building taking tea, dressed in tall hats and cloaks.
Roberts, Huw, Pais a Becwn, p. 51
Alms House at Holyhead. Hand coloured postcard of ‘Old Welshwomen at Tea’ published by Pictorial Statinery Co. Ltd., Peacock ‘Autochrome’ Series, 1909 (postmark).
Alms House at Holyhead. Postcard published by R.B.Ld.
Women at Holyhead Almshouses, published by Photochrom Co. Ltd., c, 1900
Bedewomen at Trinity Hospital alms house at Castle Rising, Norfolk
The sugar-loaf hat with round top was worn by Bedewomen at Trinity Hospital alms house at Castle Rising, Norfolk and with the scarlet cloak that they wore, the costume was thought to be related to Welsh costume. They changed the model of the hats in 1961. The hats were originally made in King’s Lynne, but were later made in London. A photograph of them was included in the article on Welsh costume by Ff. G. Payne, but it contributed little to the article, except to cause confusion.
Cunnington, P., Charity Costumes, p. 246; Oakes, A., and Hill, Margot Hamilton, Rural costume: its origin and development in Western Europe and the British Isle, (London : Batsford, 1970), p. 230; Payne, Ff.G., ‘Welsh Peasant Costume’, Folk Life, II, 1963, pp. 42-57
[Both the National Museum of Wales and Bangor Museum have photographs of and notes on the Castle Rising costume and hat.]
Women at the Swiss Garden, Old Warden, Bedfordshire, owned by Lord Ongley [Robert Henley Ongley (1803-1877)], were also expected to wear tall hats and read cloaks.
Mavis Batley, Swiss Garden, Old Warden, Bedfordshire, Garden History, vol 3, no 4 (Autumn 1975), pp. 40-43