Welsh costume dolls, contemporary references

There is some evidence that large numbers of dolls, dressed in traditional Welsh costume were made and sold as souvenirs in Wales from the early 19th century. At least 100 19th century dolls are known, 38 of which, from museum collections, were the subject of the Welsh costume doll project. The remainder are in private collections.

It is likely that the bodies were purchased, some from Germany where doll bodies were made from the 18th century. Many of the surviving doll’s hats appear to have been made professionally but the costumes are mostly of local fabrics and may have been made by individuals, although there are several similar red cloaks with black feather stitching which might have been mass-produced.

Newspaper and other references to Welsh costume dolls, 1800-1915

The only tourist who mentioned Welsh costume dolls between 1770 and 1900 (of over 1,000 read) was Rose Broughton in 1860. The remainder are adverts or reports of special events or presentations to members of Royal families.

Princess Victoria visited Wales for several months when she was aged 13 with her mother, the Duchess of Kent. By the age of 12, Victoria had acquired 132 dolls which she and her governess, Baron Lehzen, dressed and named, so it was appropriate for her to be offered one during the visit. At Llangollen ‘The youngest daughter of Mr Phillips of the Hand Inn, Llangollen presented the Princess with a Welsh doll in true Cambrian costume’. Cambrian (newspaper) 25.8.1832; Victoria, An Anecdotal Memoir of Her Majesty (1837); Anecdotes, personal traits, and characteristic sketches of Victoria, (1840), p. 192

Letter from Mrs Berrington, Llanover, to Lady Greenly, 3rd May 1829
… we were dressing dolls for old Betty Morgan’s fair … By the bye, I had a Pembrokeshire Gower woman dressed, to send with the book to the princess – she was quite correct, with the proper checked flannel, the whittle and hat .. [two full stops in the transcript – does this mean there was more in the original?]
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837

c. 1850
Guide Books, Maps, etc. Views in North Wales, Specimen of Snowden Spars, etc and Slate Ornaments, DOLLS Dressed according to Welsh Costume.
Advert at back of Humphrey’s Guide to the Summit of Snowdon (c 1850)

1850s (fiction)
[At Caernarfon Castle]. A curious old Welsh woman sits at the entrance with a table of books, toys and pictures for sale. Sylvine bought a doll dressed in Welsh costume, with the high black hat. Mademoiselle [bought] a pair of worsted stockings for her father … .
Betham-Edwards, Matilda, Holidays Among the Mountains: Or Scenes And Stories of Wales, 1850s, (Fiction –written from the point of view of young girls on a visit to north Wales with their parents, governess and maids. It is a moral tale, possibly based on a real visit.)

Advert: Dolls dressed according to Welsh costumes at various prices.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), August 5, 1853
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), August 12, 1853

Advert: English Books, Views etc. Just Published by H Humphreys, Publisher, Bookseller, Stationer and printseller. Castle Square, Carnarvon.
includes:Dolls dressed according to Welsh Costume, at various prices
Parry, Robert, (Robyn Ddu Eryri), Teithiau a Barddoniaeth‎, (1857), p. 410

This was our last day at Aberystwyth.  We had been packing part of the day before, & making our last purchases at the toy shop etc.  I had invested in an 8d. horse, & 2 sixpenny dolls, which I purposed dressing for uncle in the Welsh costumes as a remembrance of the country.  I put them, the lady behind the gentleman on a pillion, as one sees them returning from market.
Rouse Boughton, Frederica, Bedfordshire Record Office OR 2244/5A, Sept 18, 1860

The tradition of presenting royalty with Welsh costume dolls persisted when Mrs Levy of Gower Street, Swansea sent Princess Alexandra a doll in Welsh costume as a wedding present. The gift was not accepted as was usual, but a letter of thanks was sent on behalf of the Princess.
Cambrian (Newspaper), 8.5.1863

Lottery prizes in aid of debt of the infirmary, Cardiff.
26th (and last) prize. Doll in Welsh costume worth £2 10s
The Bristol Mercury August 12, 1865 and frequently until at least December 23rd.

Among the incidents of St David’s Day are included a gift to the infant daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught of a large Wax doll dressed in real Welsh costume from materials made to order by Mr John Meyrick Jones of Dolgelly
Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Saturday, March 4, 1882
The doll presented to the Duke and Duchess of Connaught was given by Miss Frances Evans of Dolgelly.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, March 25, 1882

Mr Ogden’s shop was decorated with a large doll in Welsh costume seated on horseback
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), October 25, 1884

Queen Victoria made her last visit to Wales, to Palé near Bala (the home of Mr Robinson) in 1889. She was accompanied by Prince Henry and his wife and they visited Wrexham and Llangollen.
At Llangollen a doll, dressed in Welsh costume was presented to Princess Victoria of Battenberg (the two year-old daughter of Prince Henry) by Lady Martin on behalf of Mrs Owens of Llangollen. [The present location of this doll is unknown.]
The Times, August 27th, 1889, p. 8
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), August 31, 1889

Her Majesty accepted from the hands of Miss Carrie Farrington, the daughter of the borough surveyor, a large doll dressed in Welsh costume and carrying a basket bearing the Roumanian colours.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), September 12, 1890
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 12, 1890

Exhibition included dolls in fancy knitting in Welsh costume
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, May 2, 1891

Truth’s doll show of 26,000 dolls at the Royal Albert Hall includes Mr Gladstone in the centre of a number of Welsh peasant women. It is supposed that they are all old women who inspire the Premier with his Welsh policy.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Tuesday, December 20, 1892

The Lady Mayoress was given a doll dressed in Welsh costume
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), September 9, 1892

Miss Morris, daughter of Mr M.T. Morris, one of the honorary secretaries, had the privilege of presenting to the Princess and her daughters some specimens of textile fabrics made in Wales. Before leaving the castle, the Princess was presented with a doll dressed in Welsh costume this being an invariable presentation on the occasion of Royal visits.
North Wales Chronicle, 14.7.1894

The venerable fraud who sits outside the Goat Hotel [Beddgelert] in full Welsh costume selling rag doll replicas of herself.
Ross, Martin, (1862-1915) and Someville, E., Beggars on horseback : a riding tour in North Wales (1895), pp. 86-87

At the Town Hall, included competition for doll dressed in Welsh costume
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), February 27, 1897

Duke and Duchess of York stayed at Gwydyr Castle (Llanwrst). There was an absence of Welsh symbols and mottoes (and those which had been prepared were incorrectly spelt). Of the few symbols the ‘best of all was an old country woman dressed in National Welsh costume busily twirling her spinning wheel.’
This afternoon the Royal party will visit Caernarfon where the Mayor’s little daughters, Miss Olga and Enid Parry will present her Royal Highness with a doll dressed in Welsh National Costume for the Princess Victoria Alexandra’s second birthday.
Liverpool Mercury, April 25, 1899

Dressed Doll, a correct and complete Welsh costume, Mrs Williams, High Street, Caernarfon.
Liverpool Mercury etc July 20, 1899
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 20, 1899
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), July 22, 1899

The Queen of Roumania’s dolls, (Elizabeth, 1869-1914) which have been lent for this exhibition … These dolls were originally brought together by the queen of Roumania for the purpose of benefiting a good cause in her own country. From Queen Victoria are dolls in English and Scotch dress while the Empress Frederick sends some characteristic examples of the fast disappearing Welsh costume. Other European royalty lent dolls from their own collections.
The Era (London, England), Saturday, May 12, 1900
Queen Victoria is sending a quaint little Welsh doll
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, June 3, 1900
Women’s exhibition Earl’s Court, 1900 Daily Programme. London, (Bodlean, 2474 e.172(6)).

1910-1911 Caernarfon
Lloyd George was waking in Caernarfon to the archway entrance to the ancient grey turrets where sat Mrs Watkins-the-Castle, the stout, cheery saleswoman in the black straw mushroom hat, who kept a stall and sold picture postcards, and dolls in the Welsh costume of high hat, shawlan bach, check apron and red cloak. {Mrs Watkins bemoaned the state of the Castle, which made Lloyd George think that the new Prince of Wales could be invested there}.
McCormick, Donald, The mask of Merlin: a critical study of David Lloyd George‎, (1963) p. 264

1911 The Welsh Industries Association
Depot at 5 Belgrave Mansions, Grosvenor Gardens.
They sold baskets, pottery, tweeds, toys, little coloured figures of Welsh Ladies in national costume singing at the Prince of Wales investiture.
A Royal purchase was a large Cardiganshire Welsh doll.
Wales, I, (1911), pp 143-145

1915 Advert in National Eisteddfod programme, Aberystwyth
Depot for the Welsh Industries Association for Welsh tweeds, flannels, pottery, Carving, dolls in Welsh costume etc at 64 Marine Terrace, Aberystwyth

Early 20th century.
Postcard : Portrait of a woman in Welsh costume. By her foot is a basket containing three dolls in Welsh costume. publisher : THE GRAPHOTONE CO, no 6886,