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Dress and Dresss Materials for a 'Serving Maid'. circa 1600

Ellis, Megan. Original Documents series, National Library of Wales journal, Winter 1939, Vol I/2

Extracted onto the pages of Genuki by Gareth Hicks with the kind permission of the NLW

The article comprises the introduction followed by 2 lists, one in Welsh and one in English - with an explanation of some obscure English words.



Little has been written so far regarding the clothes worn by Welsh women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and reliable information is scarce. The Wigfair collection of manuscripts in the National Library contains one manuscript which throws some light on this subject. N.L.W. MS. 12,450 consists of lists of payments made by Ieuan ap Rees ap David of Wigfair to his serving maid 'Ellin vawr.' Many of the payments are in kind, and most of the entries relate to payments for clothes, materials, and the making up of these materials into clothes for Ellin, the said 'serving maid.' It is interesting to note that while the more complete list is in Welsh, a briefer and incomplete list in English, tallying, in so far as it goes, with the Welsh list, is also included. From the note at the beginning of the English list it would appear that both were compiled, or, as is more probably the case, copied, from an older original, as the result of an impending lawsuit in which Ieuan ap Rees ap David was the defendant and George Gryff' ap d'd ap m'dd and 'Ellin' his wife were the plaintiffs. It appears therefore that these lists were copied after Ellin's departure from Wigfair and after her marriage to George Gryff' ap d'd ap m'dd.

Ieuan ap Rees ap David of Wigfair, a member of the well-known Lloyd family of that place, and father of John Lloyd of Wigfair, burgess and recorder of Denbigh ( ob. 1618), is said to have died in 1610 (see The History ... of Powys Fadog... by J. Y. W. Lloyd, Vol. V, p. 303), although the year of his death is given as 1600, with the added information that he was ' an aged gent.', by D. R. Thomas in the introductory chapter to Y Cwtta Cyfarwydd ... London, 1883. 1   It is interesting to note that included in the Wigfair collection of manuscripts is a letter (N.L.W. MS. 12,401) in the autograph of the well-known Welsh poet Sion Tudur ( ob. 1602) addressed to 'vy anwyl gar a chyfaill Ieuan ap Rys ap Davydd' (see Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, Vol. VII, pp. 112-117). In the same collection there are also several deeds, dated circa 1577, in which Ieuan ap Rees ap David appears as a party to the transfer of land or in financial transactions. In these deeds he is designated 'gentleman.'

1. The manuscript of The Register Note-Book of Thomas Rowlands ... which D. R. Thomas published as an Appendix to Y Cwtta Cyfarwydd is among the Wigfair MSS. in the National Library (N.L.W. MS. 12,447).

The approximate date of the death of Ieuan ap Rees ap David being known, it is safe to assume that the lists relate to a time preceding that date, although it has to be borne in mind that the Welsh list appears to have been copied by his son, as it is endorsed 'Payments made to Elin my fathers mayd.'

Taking into consideration the number and variety of the clothes supplied to 'Ellin Vawr' by Ieuan ap Rees ap David, and the fact that they were intended for a serving maid, it would appear that the payments covered a number of years. Ieuan appears to have been a generous employer, as several of the items are described as having been made of his own cloth, and for these no charge was made.

It is interesting also to find the prices of the various articles of clothing mentioned, as well as the sums paid to the tailor, the fuller, and the dyer. While gloves were to be obtained for threepence a pair, and shoes at prices ranging from sixteen pence to two shillings a pair, a felt hat bought at Chester cost eight shillings, whilst another felt hat cost ten shillings.

Linen or linen cloth was widely used for smocks, aprons, and partlets, while jerkins and petticoats appear to have been made usually of cloth or flannel. Stockings were made of wool or of  'kersie,' some of the kersie being home-made and some of it being obtained  'o'r dre.'

In addition to such utilitarian articles of wear as smocks, petticoats, and aprons, Ellin was also supplied with linen and strings for her ruffs, fringe for her petticoats, a silk girdle for which eighteen pence was the amount paid to Richard the 'pedler,' and a fillet for her hair.

The respective Welsh and English lists are printed below.


Taledigaethe i Ellin vawr of chyflog gen Ieu'n ap Rees ap david sydd yn Calyn.

Endorsed :

Payments made to Elin my fathers mayd


Extractor's notes;-


A true and p[er]fect note of such things as Ieu'n ap Rees ap David def[endan]t at the sute of George Cruff' ap d'd ap me'dd & Ellin his weif paid to the said Ellin for her waige at such tymes as she the said Ellin served the said def[endan]t as his servant mayed as following

1.  [Ludlow. See Welsh list].



Facing page 78 in the journal is a photograph of the first Welsh page of the original lists of payments from NLW MS 12,450

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