Welsh gentry and Welsh hats

Welsh gentry might have influenced the manufacture and wearing of Welsh hats in two ways: by sponsoring Eisteddfod competitions and by wearing Welsh hats themselves.

EISTEDDFOD COMPETITIONS
Isaac Restall won a prize at the 1848 Abergavenny Eisteddfod and both prizes at the 1853  Abergavenny Eisteddfod (which Lady Llanover helped organise).

1848
A prize of three guineas, by Mrs Maddocks, of Tregunter for the best beaver hat. Winner : Mr Restall, hatter, of Abergavenny.
A prize of two guineas, by Mrs Keymes Tynte, of Cefn Mably, for the second-best beaver hat. Winner : Mr Davies, Crickhowel. Hereford Times of Saturday October 21, 1848

1853 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
Competition no 42: Lady Chetwynd, 2 guineas for the best Welsh hat, manufactured in Brycheiniog, Gwent and Morganwg. Awarded to Mr Restall of Abergavenny
Competition no 43: Miss Roche, the Gwenddolen prize of £1 10s for the second best ditto. Awarded to Mr Restall of Cambrian (newspaper), 21.10.1853

1858 Llangollen Eisteddfod
There was a competition for the Best Welsh hat
Cheshire Observer – Saturday 18 September 1858

1876
Prize offered at the National Eisteddfod of 1876 at Wrecsam for the best ‘Complimentary Epigram on a Welsh Woman’s Hat’ was won by Mrs. J. R. Hughes of Denbigh. The judge stated: “It will be admired for its neatness. It is its last epithet that gives its ‘crowning’ excellence.”
Let other maids their heads unfold
In tresses dark or coils of gold;
Fair Cambrian maids, believe me that
Your crowning beauty is your hat.  Y Cymmrodor (1887), p. 83

INFLUENCE OF THE GENTRY

Lady Llanover is reported to have purchased and worn a Welsh hat, and provided Welsh hats for her staff, but there is little evidence that other members of her circle or her peers in Wales did so. One correspondent to Archaeologia Cambrensisin 1855 reported that the ‘ancient’ Welsh hat was more commonly seen in Llanover than in the surrounding district.
Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1855, p. 143-4

1853
The inhabitants of Llangasty-tal-y-llyn [Breconshire] have at this festive season experienced another proof of the beneficence of Robert Raikes, Esq., of Treberfedd, and his worthy lady. On the Wednesday before Christmas-day, each poor woman in the parish was presented with a new dress and a bonnet ; those who preferred it receiving a Welsh hat instead of bonnet.
Hereford Times – Saturday 01 January 1853

One of the hats in the National Museum of Wales was probably owned by Lady Howard Stephney (otherwise known as Catherine Meriel Cowell-Stepney, 1876-1952) of Llanelli House and Cilmaenlwyd, Pwll, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire and is of adult size, suggesting that it was made in the 1890s or later. It was made by Christys and has woollen fabric on the underside of the brim.