Welsh Textile history

button-theme-textile-hubWelsh Textile history

Production of textiles was one of the main economic activities in Wales for many centuries. Abundant river water powered 325 woollen mills in South-west Wales alone in 1895, and there was no shortage of wool from sheep reared on the hilly terrain.

Use the list below to find stories and locations of Welsh textiles, including places where fabrics and clothes were made or sold. We’ve also featured the stories of people linked to the industry, including social reformer Robert Owen, fashion designer Laura Ashley and Harry Crompton, a descendant of the inventor of the cotton-spinning mule whose career in textiles was cut short by his death in action in the First World War.

You can also access the stories by using your smartphone to scan our QR codes at each location. 

 

Manufacture
Newborough, Anglesey - mats woven from marram grass were particularly useful on farms
Trefriw, Conwy CB - woollen mill still uses Snowdonia water to produce blankets, tweeds and other fabrics
Ruthin - town had a thriving weaving trade when Nantclwyd y Dre was a weaver’s home in the 15th century
Llangollen - tentering racks in a field by the canal were used to dry new flannel under tension
Newtown - textile museum is in an 1830s weaving factory
Newtown - the Robert Owen Museum celebrates the social reformer and mill owner
Newtown - Cambrian Woollen Mill, reputedly the largest in Wales, was producing tweeds by 1870s
Welshpool - a fulling mill at Pool Quay served the town’s dozen flannel factories
Dre-fach Felindre - National Wool Museum is in the Cambrian Mills, still operating commercially
Amroth - remains of Earwear Woollen Mill, aka The Factory, can still be seen in Factory Woods
Bridgend - Riverside Tavern is in former home of manager of mill which boasted a Spinning Jenny in the 1790s
Abergavenny - wigs were made in the town in 18th century. Hair-bleacher James Jones lived in Nevill Street
Abergavenny - Flannel Street name reflects a local industry. Part of a loom was still in situ in 1960
Cardiff - a medieval fulling mill, known as Newmyll, was located in what is now Bute Park
Cwmcarn, Caerphilly CB - flannel factory badly damaged in 1875 dam disaster which killed 12 people

People
Llanfair PG - draper Thomas Hughes reputedly had the idea to create Europe’s longest place-name to attract visitors
Blaenau Ffestiniog - railway station-mistress Bessie Jones wore Welsh lady costume as her work uniform
Penmaenmawr - country seat of Owen Owen, whose drapery stores spread across Britain and Canada
Llandudno - Robert Baxter, from a poor family, went from a Saturday job in a draper’s shop to owning a department store
Colwyn Bay - Harry Crompton, killed in WW1, was memorialised in a Textile Institute student prize
Denbigh - weaver Gwen ferch Elis was hanged for witchcraft in 1594
Mold - tailor Daniel Owen was the first significant Welsh-language novelist
Ruabon - cotton magnate James Ordell built Penylan church as a memorial to his wife
Newtown - statue of mill owner Robert Owen, who founded the co-operative movement
Newtown - flannel maker and mail-order pioneer Pryce Jones enlarged Dolerw after buying it in 1879
Swansea - fashion model Lillian Davies appeared in Vogue before marrying into the Swedish royal family
Pontypridd - wool-factory owner Evan James wrote the words of the Welsh national anthem
Abergavenny - Lady Augusta Hall of Llanover established the Welsh lady costume 

Place-names
Llinegr, Flintshire - llin is Welsh for flax, used to make cloth and rope. The hamlet probably had a flax mill
Dre-fach Felindre - Felindre means ‘mill farm’. This village was the ‘Huddersfield of Wales’, with 52 mills by 1900

Sale, use and care
Dinorwig, Llanberis - shop sign of slate quarry community’s linen and woollen draper survives
Conwy - a Belgian refugee family kept a tailors’ shop after WW1 until 1924, then returned as refugees in WW2
Llandudno - Clare’s department store was previously an outlet for serges and tweeds spun by WS Williams in Dolgellau
Llandudno - Bohemia-born Hynek Zaloudek sold ladies’ clothes and remodelled furs
Llanrwst - draper’s shop Regent House was the town’s tallest building, used by fire brigade for escape practice
Llanrwst - London House sold clothes, hats, carpets and curtains and had a mechanised cash conveyor
Rhyl - Grange Laundry washed tourists’ clothes and bedlinen. Fined in 1909 for making women work long hours
Machynlleth - Laura Ashley’s first shop, opened in 1961
Newtown - the world’s first mail-order business dispatched clothing from the Royal Welsh Warehouse
Swansea - Penclawdd cockle women wore gowns or red and black, shawls and half bonnets
Caerphilly - wool merchant Evan Evans, born in Caerphilly in 1809, penned the words of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Textile craft
Llandudno - a home-made wartime wedding dress from Merthyr Tydfil is displayed at the Home Front Museum
Hawarden - church features rug designed by Isla Gladstone, daughter of Prime Minister WE Gladstone
Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog - millennium tapestry, showing local history, hangs in the church
Presteigne - 16th-century Flemish tapestry of Christ was given to St Andrew’s Church in 1737
Fishguard - ‘Last Invasion’ tapestry tells how women in red overgarments outwitted invading French soldiers in 1797
Cardiff - Makers Guild Wales exhibits textile craft and holds workshops at ‘Craft in the Bay’ 

Toys and puppets
Penmaenmawr - local women dressed Rogark dolls in national costumes for export around the world
Llandudno - Britain’s longest-running Punch & Judy still uses original puppets and proscenium
Abergavenny - Wendy Boston’s soft-toy factory pioneered safe eyes and fully washable teddies