OBJECTS AND THEIR STORIES 

Wedding shoes

Museums cherish objects of all sorts, but best of all they like to have ‘provenance’ and the ability to date the things in their care. Nowadays at the Newtown Textile Museum we only collect objects from the Newtown area, but in 1967 when the Museum was established, it was more important to collect treasures that were being offered, where the history was known.

We know about these shoes, they were worn at the wedding of Hannah Salton Peacock, daughter of a master mariner from Robin Hoods Bay, to Thomas Charles Osborne, a Londoner, on 11 September 1889 at the Wesleyan Chapel at Trentham, Staffordshire.  Circumstances had brought them both to Trentham, home of the Duke of Sutherland, she to stay with her uncle who was the Estate Manager, and it is presumed that he came to work in the house, probably as a butler. How do we know? The shoes were donated by the granddaughter of the happy couple.

Hand-made and elegant, they are not very different from wedding shoes worn at any time in the intervening 130 years.  Check out their history[1] and also the story of wedding dresses. [2]  

It is interesting imagining Hannah going into Stafford to find a shoe-maker to create these for her. All sorts of questions remain. How much did they cost her, and what did her wedding dress look like?

That is what is interesting when you work in a museum, there are always lots of things you don’t know and it is fun finding the answers. [3]. Come and join our team to help us to fully understand our collection.


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Knocker up stick 

an ornamental stick or a time-keeper? 

Until the 1860s the mechanised weaving factories were not a feature in Newtown and it is likely that the hand-loom weavers who worked in our building used all hours when there was light, and had no need of a knocker upper to wake them, but we have a carved knock-up stick from Lancashire as part of our collection. Our beautifully carved but functional stick – shown above -fully extended to 2.64m - has an important history and the carving demonstrates how cherished it was. You can find it in Room 4 in one of the cabinets.

Fully extended knocker upper - shown above

We often forget that there was a time when mechanical alarm clocks were unreliable and expensive. Now battery clocks, smart watches or phones and digital clocks, are more commonly used to remind us when to get up and go to work. During the Industrial Revolution your livelihood however depended on being at work on time.

So, what did you do if you were expected to work different shifts in factories driven by modern industrial machines, or indeed by the tides in maritime environments, if you had no clock to tell you when to get up?

The answer is that you employed a ‘knocker upper’, a human alarm-clock[1].  The job began to be a regular trade and was a respected profession as it was important to be reliable. These men and women were paid by each client and they only wanted to wake ‘their’ client so they had sticks – or sometimes, pea-shooters – with which to target the right windows in the houses in the street. It seems that they were mostly employed in industrial cities, and it was not until 1973 that the last knocker upper retired in Bolton, Lancashire[2].

 Loving cup

A loving cup is a large ornamental drinking vessel. It is commonly used as a presentation trophy given to winners of games, or as a shared drinking container at ceremonial events such as weddings or banquets. Loving cups usually feature two handles, and are frequently made of silver. They can be found in several European cultures; variations include the Celtic Quaich and the French Coup de Mariage[1].


The Museum has a loving cup which is made of china, with a gilt rim and inscription, and two delightful frogs fastened to the inside. It was donated to the Museum in 1967 by Miss Mary Hamer, niece of the Herbert Hamer who was the owner of the cup.  Research into the Hamer family shows that Herbert Hamer was the son of a farmer from Bettws who was baptised there in April 1849. The cup was presented in 1872, so this would indicate that Herbert was 23 at the time and he did not marry so the reason for the presentation is a bit of a mystery, maybe it was a sporting trophy.  The farming family moved to Llanllwchaiarn and Herbert died there in 1877.  Herbert’s younger brother Richard married and had three children, one of whom was Mary – our donor.

Look for it in the display cabinets on the top floor.

The history of the loving cup dates back to Saxon times, before the Norman conquest of 1066. The ceremony surrounding it is said to derive from the assassination of King Edward the Martyr. The King was murdered while drinking, as by lifting the cup with both hands he left himself vulnerable to attack. Consequently, it became customary for those who stood to drink to have a companion stand with them also. The companion was then able to protect them as they drank.[2]

Sugar cutter (or nips)

Nowadays our sugar comes in different colours and different forms – lumps, soft, brown, granulated – and all instantly useable from the packet. Before the second half of the 19th century, it was sold as a ‘sugarloaf’, or a cone up to 60cm tall and it needed to be cut into manageable pieces, first by the grocer and then subsequently in the home.

These cutters sometimes called sugar nips, were used like scissors to cut pieces from the sugar loaf and were considered an ‘essential’ in the kitchen of those with a sweet tooth[1]

In medieval times, sugar was brought to Europe from the near East and sold in tiny quantities as it was so expensive. It became more available as the centuries passed. Now 75% of our sugar in the UK is made from a root vegetable – sugar beet with the remainder being from sugar cane grown all around the world. Sugar cane was grown extensively using slave labour in the Caribbean and southern US, where it was a valuable commodity.[2] Check out the Sheep to Sugar exhibition in the Museum for more of the story of Wales’s links to the slave trade. 

A pair of sugar nips was once used as a murder weapon in an Agatha Christie mystery[3]. It was also one of the features in the BBC ‘A History of the World in 100 objects’ program – giving the Museum 2 out of the hundred in its collection[4].

There is a new jigsaw for this object, or for more information and a video to show how  they were used [5], click on the references in the text.

Clog making

The Museum has a large collection of clog-making equipment and the associated leather for the production of new ones. 

Clogs were essential footwear and were cheaper than shoes for the ordinary working people.  Clog dancing was also popular with the weavers as they went about their work.

There are now only a handful of crafts people in the UK who make clogs (which now cost quite a lot more than the average pair of shoes!).  In 2018 the clog-maker from St Fagan’s Museum spent a day in Newtown demonstrating the various techniques for making a pair of clogs which was a great day.  (Examples shown on the far right.) As the Covid restrictions limit the number of people at events, we have postponed plans to invite a clog maker to come again but hope he will be able to join us again one day.

If you are interested in the story of clogs, and want to see how they are made, there are a series of YouTube videos which give you the full story. The links to the first two are given, but there are six in all which take you through the whole process.

Clog making Part 1 - Hand cutting a clog sole

Clog making Part 2 - The wooden last and knives used

 
The clog shop at the Museum
A pair of old clogs in the Museum's collection
Modern clogs

The four photographs are named.

Top row:  Mr Anthony, Ostler at New Inn, Kerry:  Hannah Jones. cook to the family of Mrs Poundley.

Second row:  Fred the Jockey (Fred de la Rue). A note says his grandmother was a camp follower of the French prisoners of war at Bishops Castle during the Napoleonic Wars. Stephen of Kerry. This photograph was sent to Nigel Playfair who used it as a model for a costume in a production of Beggars Opera. 

Kerry Characters

These four photographs are from a series of 25 images of people living in Kerry in the early 20th century taken by J W Poundley (1873-1932).  He was a solicitor, land agent and amateur photographer. He lived at Black Hall in Kerry but gave up his legal practice to further his interests, particularly photography. This series, known as ‘Kerry Characters’, is heavily influenced by the pictorialist movement. The pictorialists emphasised photography as means of creating images with purely artistic quality rather than for any documentary or social interest. From these photographs we can see how successful J W Poundley was in his artistic achievements, though these pictures have great social interest as well.

These photographs were given to JDK Lloyd and passed on to the Museum in 1967. After discussion with the National Library of Wales in 1967, the trustees of the Museum passed these images to the Library in Aberystwyth, but were given copies of these interesting photographs.  

JDK Lloyd (1900 - 1978) was born in London but lived in the town of Montgomery. His life was devoted to antiquarian research and public service.  He wrote many books about Montgomeryshire, and was closely involved with the establishment of the Newtown Textile Museum in the 1960s.

For further information, check out these links.

Poundley photographs

JDK Lloyd

French prisoners of war

Nigel Playfair

Early Christmas cards

The Textile Museum has a few examples of old Christmas cards in its collection, of which this is one.

The idea of sending Christmas cards began in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole (founder of the Victoria & Albert Museum and a keen supporter of the Penny Post) asked an artist friend J C Horsley to design a card for Cole to send to his friends instead of writing a letter.  It took several decades for the idea to become popular.  The postal service was developing at the time with trains carrying the mail.  

Our card was printed by Raphael Tuck & Sons of London. Their first Christmas greeting card was made in 1871. In 1880 the firm launched a nationwide contest for the best Christmas card design, receiving over five thousand paintings, which gives some idea of the enthusiasm for the idea.  In 1893 the company were granted a Royal Warrant which enabled the Tuck cards to have the message ‘Art Publishers to Her Majesty the Queen’. Our card doesn’t have this detail, so it would seem that this card probably dates from the 1870s or 1880s. The pictures show the two sides of the same card, and it is interesting to note that on one side the pictures are the same, but on the reverse, they are different.

All of us at the Newtown Textile Museum wish you a happy Christmas.  Jigsaws of these cards are available on the jigsaw page.


Early Christmas card
Shopper tokens - an early Canadian example.

Some of us remember Green Shield Stamps, first developed in 1896 and running until the 1960s, and many of us now own a loyalty shopping card, or perhaps several. Around 1900 seems to have been the time when labels, tickets and stamps became popular, at least in America, as a means of giving customers a small reward for their purchases. The trend has continued to this day.

The Textile Museum has two tokens, examples of this idea. Produced by the Pryce Jones department store in Calgary, Canada, each token offered $1.00 on any purchase of $10.00 or more for cash, a generous discount of 3%. No doubt the aim of these tokens, in this case in particular, was to encourage trade both in the shop and by mail order as their mission was to offer a Metropolitan Store in the ‘fenceless prairies of the west’.

The Calgary branch of the famous mail-order company in Newtown was first mooted in June 1910 and by February 14, 1911 the three-storey building had opened for business. Its success spurred competition from the Hudson’s Bay Company who also built a big new store in the area but there was not room for two such shops with such limited population.

The shop was open six days a week – ‘an elegant emporium chock full of fine merchandise’. Newspaper articles detailed the layout, floor by floor, (many equivalent department stores still have a similar plan), and ‘the crowning glory was the Royal Welsh Tea room, furnished in the Mission style, where an orchestra played’.

Along with the parent store in Newtown, the shop won medals for best merchanise displays in Alberta in 1911, and then in the Canadian category the following year, but strong emphasis was also placed on the mail-order business with coloured lithograph images in the 176-page catalogue.

Circumstances changed however, competition from the new Hudson’s Bay store, the economic fall-out from WW1, and the absence of the managing director when Albert Pryce-Jones enlisted in the Army in 1916 proved too much and the doors were closed for good.

Albert Pryce-Jones had taken his father’s entrepreneurial spirit to the distant prairies of Alberta. The building still stands in Calgary but little else remains of this courageous venture. 

For more information, open this link

Information on the 'Mission Style' used in the restaurant here.

Dr Richard Jones and his wife Jane

These two portraits were donated to the Newtown Textile Museum by JKD Lloyd, author and antiquary of Montgomery. He was closely involved with the establishment of the Museum in Newtown in the 1960s. The artist is unknown, but middle-class people started to commission family portraits in the mid 1800s – a time just before photography became common.

Dr Richard Jones was born at Mochdre and after gaining his MRCS at St Andrews, is first recorded in Newtown in 1841, as a surgeon living at ‘Bowling Green’ with two servants. In 1851 he lived at The Bank in Newtown with his wife and five children. He died in July 1872 aged 57, after a long illness.

His obituary states that in his professional life he ‘gained the esteem of his fellow-townsmen for his care and attention, and many good qualities. He had taken an active and prominent part in the public affairs of the town including being a trustee of more than one of the town’s public schools, a commissioner of taxes and a magistrate. He was a churchman and in politics a Conservative.

Jane Jones nee Mountford.  Jane was born at Hopton, Churchstoke and married Dr Richard Jones around 1844. They had five children, the youngest two were twins.

The one son Edward Mountford Jones was educated at Shrewsbury and St John’s College Cambridge and went into the church. He was the Rector of Llanmerewig from 1878 – 1890.

Jane Jones nee Mountford
Dr Richard Jones, Newtown
Locomotive on Llanidloes to Newtown railway
Locomotive on Llanidloes to Newtown Railway

This engine ‘Milford’ was one of two engines to run on the Llanidloes to Newtown Railway. Work started on this railway line in 1855, the first in Montgomeryshire, and it was opened to goods trains in April 1859, and to passenger trains on 31 August that year.

The railway linking these two towns was isolated from any other railway until 1861 when a link to Oswestry was opened, and then in 1863 it also linked to the Newtown to Machynlleth line with a junction at Moat Lane. This token was made to celebrate the opening of the line.

Passenger services continued to run through to Llanidloes in 1962, with the goods service continuing to October 1967. During the final years the line was used to bring in supplies for the Clywedog Dam.

For a longer account of the history of the railway,  check this link

Newtown Old Church

The relief carving of the Old Church in Newtown, once the parish church of the town known as St Mary’s, is one of four similar oak carvings made by John Jones, of Parkers Lane, Newtown.

John Llewelyn Jones (1816 - 1876) and his son Edwin, also a wood carver, worked on a project to move the late medieval carved rood screen from St Mary’s to St David’s – the new parish church in the mid 1840s. St Mary’s, sited on the banks of the Severn was subject to repeated flooding so a new larger church designed by Thomas Penson, was built between 1843 and 1847. Edwin was responsible for the new pulpit at St David’s.

When this work was completed, the Joneses were employed by the Sudeley family on the job of restoring the carved parlour at Gregynog Hall. First created in 1636 when the house was built, the panelling was restored and reconstructed when Gregynog was redesigned in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Joneses then moved to Toddington in Gloucestershire to work on the Sudeley’s principal residence there. They returned to Newtown for a period in the 1870s and then moved to Yorkshire.

The elegant snake is also thought to be the work of either John or Edwin Jones.

There are four known copies of this relief carving, one held by the Jones’ descendants, one at Gregynog, this one at the Museum, and the fourth was sold recently at auction and its location is unknown.


Euklisia rug in use

soldiers wrapped in Euklisia rugs

Replica of Euklisia rug on display at the museum, showing the pillow

Euklisia rug

The Euklisia rug, thought to be the world’s first commercially produced sleeping bag, was patented by Newtown entrepreneur Pryce Jones in 1876. It is more of a folded rug than a bag, but it featured a sewn-in blow-up pillow lined with rubber, and was thick and warm, with fasteners to hold it together.

Pryce Jones received a contract to provide 60,000 rugs to the Russian Army, but in 1877 after the Siege of Pleven resulted in the Turkish Army being defeated, the order was cancelled as the Russians no longer needed them. This left Pryce Jones with a surplus of 17,000 which he tried to sell on both the local,and export market. Records have been located of the rug being used in the Congo and the Australian outback.

No examples of the rug appear to have survived but researchers on the BBC Wales Television series, Wales and the History of the World, decided to recreate it using the original patent so that they could feature it on their program. The replica was made by Jane Beck, an antique cloth specialist from Tregaron in Ceredigion. This reproduction is now in our Museum.

The Euklisia rug was just one of Pryce Jones' business innovations. He is probably best remembered as the father of mail order shopping, producing one of the world's first mail order catalogues in the 1860s.

More on the history of sleeping bags

A link to the BBC program

Information on The Siege of Pleven (Plevna). 

Spinning – a great wheel

Spinning is the process of drawing out and twisting fibres into a continuous thread. It has been done for centuries.

To achieve this twist, spinners used a variety of different hand spindles and then, as demand for yarn grew, alternative means of achieving the twist were developed. In Wales the technique of spinning with a spindle and distaff goes back to prehistoric times.

In the 14th century the major break-through was the introduction of the spinning wheel. The spinning wheel was the mechanization of the spindle and whorl. The great wheel, as we know it, uses a large drive wheel revolved by one hand while the other pulls out the fibres, which are then wound on to the metal spike that also inserts the twist.

Then around the 16th century a flyer wheel was created. Smaller in size, with a treadle, it allowed the spinner to sit at the work. Until the introduction of the spinning jenny in the mid-1700s which allowed multiple threads to be spun at the same time, these two types of wheels produced all the yarn that was then woven into cloth.

Great wheels, cheaper to make than the flyer wheels, continued to be used in particular for woollen yarn rather than worsted, even into the 19th century, and their use was notable in Wales. The use of great wheels is dying out now as modern spinners turn to flyer wheels, but the considerable skill required is demonstrated in this short video.

For information on types of yarns, and cloth see here. For more information on the two types of spinning wheels, see here

Watch a video of spinning on a great wheel by following this link.

Below is a photograph from our collection which shows the two types of spinning wheels together. It was taken c1967 when the Textile Museum first opened. Then a photo of spinning on a great wheel.

What is Flannel, and how is it different to Worsted

We are often asked about the definition of flannel, and how it differs from another woollen fabric known as worsted.  The simple answer lies in the type of woollen thread used in the production of the cloth. For worsted the woollen thread is made by the long fibres being parallel to each other and therefore smoother. For flannel, the fibres in the thread are intermingled and shorter giving a rougher texture.

The first thing to note is that the modern use of the word flannel often refers to a fabric made from cotton or synthetic fibre as well as wool. In the Museum we are only talking of the woollen cloth – the original fabric of that name where the woollen threads, woven together, produce a soft fabric. The main characteristic of which is the soft, fuzzier appearance. Flannel is just one type of fabric made from this sort of yarn.

Worsted is also a woollen cloth but it has a smooth appearance and is best known for its use in men’s suits and smart, crisp garments.

So, how is it that wool is the raw material used in both flannel and worsted, but the end result is so dissimilar?  It seems that the characteristics of the threads are as different as is possible, and it is the processes involved that create this variation. 

In a woollen thread used for flannel the fibres are intermingled in the teasing and carding process by separating and then re-blending the fibres in one common but confused thread which is subsequently twisted on itself to provide strength.

In a worsted thread, all the processes of manufacture are aimed at arranging the fibres to lie parallel with each other, producing a symmetrical and smooth thread, which in turn produces a smooth cloth.  For more information check this link.  Or this one.

There is more to the history of flannel, of course. Click here for more information

Newtown White Stars

This photograph of 1879 shows the victorious Newtown White Stars football team. It is special in several ways. Firstly, it is a very early photograph of a team at the very beginning of organised football in mid Wales. North-east Wales is credited as being the cradle of Welsh football, with Wrexham FC forming in 1864, followed soon after by Cefn Druids. But the game was quick to catch on in Newtown, with Newtown FC being established in 1875. Newtown White Stars was formed at about the same time and very soon there were a plethora of teams in the town. Many of these teams were formed of workers in the flannel mills. This was made possible by the growth of free time thanks to legislation which gave factory workers a half day off on a Saturday afternoon.

 Secondly, the photo emphasises this was a team in the early stages of formation whose members had little money to spend on a ‘team strip’. Instead, they wore whatever they could find and sewed a white star on their shirts in order to identify themselves from their opposition.

 Thirdly, the photo can be said to be the earliest showing a team posing with the actual Welsh Cup trophy. The competition had been established two years earlier. The first winners were Wrexham, but no trophy existed at the time. So the White Stars were the second team to win the trophy but the first team to be awarded it.

 Finally, as well as having a copy of the photograph, the Museum also possesses the framed certificate which is featured with the cup. The pair therefore represent a unique record of the early days of Welsh football.   If you want to read more about the White Stars follow this link.   

Sarah Owen sampler
Sarah Owen - Sampler

Sarah Owen born in 1798, was the niece of Robert Owen, famous socialist pioneer. Her father Richard was one of Robert’s brothers. In 1841 she lived in Newtown with her mother, also called Sarah, and sister Charlotte, in Glandwr House, Pool Road and was variously described as a Landed Proprietor, and an Annuitant in the various later census records. At a time when it was common for wealthier families to have resident servants, there is no such record in Sarah Owen’s household.

Samplers have a long and varied history and were found in many different cultures. The name derives from the Latin ‘exemplum’ meaning ‘example’. In Britain, by Tudor times they were commonly used as a reference work, "an example for a woman to work by". By the nineteenth century they had evolved into practice pieces for girls learning needlework.They were almost entirely worked in cross stitch and were particularly popular between the 1830s and 1870s. Sarah’s work, dated 1834, is of interest because samplers were more frequently completed by school age children, but Sarah was 36 when this work was completed. It contains her name and moral text, common features of these works, but does not include other common items such as the alphabet or the numbers. For more information, check this link.

This sampler was donated to the Newtown Textile Museum in 1967 by Miss Hamer, a Newtonian but by then a resident of Northampton.

Mary Jones - pedlar doll

One of the items on display in the Textile Museum is this lovely model doll displaying the goods of a pedlar. The details of her stock are amazing.

The real Mary Jones was born in 1823 in Llanllwchaiarn and her mother Anne Jones born in 1790 in Denbighshire. In 1871 they are recorded, as living in Frankwell, Llanllwchaiarn and her occupation was Hawker.

A hawker was a person, who traded in goods, wares and merchandise from horse drawn vehicle or travels by any means of locomotion to other places.

A hawkers license was issued by the local authority and cost 4/- p.a. in the 1820s. It lasted for one year from date of issue. To obtain such a license, the applicant had to produce references of good character from a clergyman and two householders or a Justice of the Peace or Superintendent or Inspector of Police. They had to have their name and the words ‘Licensed Hawker’ visibly written, painted or printed on every box, package and every vehicle used for the carriage of goods and on every room or shop in which his/her goods were sold etc.

Mary Jones was apparently licensed to sell tea, tobacco and snuff. Her travels took her from Newtown to Aberystwyth four times a year. More examples of Pedlar dolls can be found here.  Or here.

Mary Jones, Pedlar doll
Mary Jones's wares
Unused work token
George Morgan's mill work token
Tally check token George Morgan, Crescent Street Mills, Newtown, c1880

During the early years of the nineteenth century, Newtown developed as a centre of the flannel industry. Although parts of the industry such as spinning had been mechanised, weaving remained a manual process. Dozens of three or four storey buildings sprang up, particularly in the Penygloddfa area of the town, many of which had small back to back cottages on the lower floors. Our building is one of the remaining ones in Newtown in near original condition. On the upper floors, open rooms, running the whole length of the building, accommodated the handlooms of the weavers where both men, women and children laboured to produce the fine quality woollen cloth. George Morgan took over the Crescent Street Mills in the late 1870s, by which time the handloom factories were being converted to steam power. Morgan installed a steam engine in his factory in November 1881. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1938, by which time flannel production in the town had ceased.

Each worker in the mill was issued with a brass token, individually stamped with his own number, which was used as an attendance check. Work tokens have a long long been used by employers as a simple check to see who was in work on any given shift. They were always used in mining because of the additional safety checks needed. Our token is connected to the flannel industry. This example appears to have been unused, as it lacks a number. Information on mining tokens can be found on this link.

Pryce Jones, a native of Newtown, began life as a humble draper’s apprentice but became a pioneer of the mail order business and revived the flagging mid Wales textile industry in the second half of the nineteenth century. He was one of the first entrepreneurs to recognise the potential of the new universal postal system and the growing railway system. From his magnificent Royal Welsh Warehouse in Newtown he established a global trading empire based on mid Wales woollen cloth. Each day three special rail carriages ran daily to London Euston carrying his goods for onward transit to all parts of the UK and the world. He directly employed more than 300 workers in his factories in Newtown and Welshpool and indirectly provided a livelihood for many hundreds more. A master of publicity, he capitalised on the patronage of the crowned heads of Europe. He also displayed his wares at the great trade exhibitions at Vienna, Sydney, Philadelphia, Paris and Berlin where he won prestigious awards for the quality of his produce. Sadly, success did not last, as mid Wales ultimately could not cope with the more efficient textile centres of Lancashire and Yorkshire. By 1914, the mid Wales textile industry was in terminal decline.

Medallion awarded to Pryce Jones at the Exhibition in Vienna in 1873.
Pryce Jones medallion. Vienna