OBJECTS AND THEIR STORIES
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
Replica of Euklisia rug on display at the museum, showing the pillow
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 of a pedlar. The details of her stock are amazing.
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.
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.
Crimean War quilt
There is a picture hanging in the Royal College of Surgeons of a man sitting in bed sewing a quilt. His quilt was made of triangles, while the one on display at the Museum is tiny squares of densely woven worsted used in the production of military uniforms, predominantly in red. Soldiers were encouraged to take up needlework as a form of therapy for those injured in conflict and recuperating in hospital but many questions remain as to why and how they were made. Further information here.
They are generally called Crimean War quilts, even when made in other parts of the world. Our quilt was made by Private James Reeves, a soldier in the 108th (Madras Infantry) Regiment of Foot. It is wonderful to have a photo of him with the regimental number on his cap, the great grandfather of our curator. The quilt is on loan to the Museum and is on display.
Medallion awarded to Pryce Jones at the Exhibition in Vienna in 1873.
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.