Cambrian costumes dedicated to the nobility and gentry of Wales, Augusta Hall (1802-1896)

Reference: NLW Drawing volume 299

Augusta Hall, Lady Llanover, was one of the most important sponsors of Welsh folk culture in the nineteenth century, especially in the fields of music, dance and traditional costume.


She was born into a family of gentry in Monmouthshire, and although she could not speak Welsh fluently, she took an avid interest in Welsh culture throughout her life. Through her friendship with Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc, 1787-1848) she became an important member of the local cultural and patriotic society, the Cymreigyddion. In 1834, she won a prize for an essay on the Welsh language and traditional dress in the eisteddfod in Cardiff. About this time she began using the pseudonym 'Gwenynen Gwent'. She supported Maria Jane Williams (Llinos, 1795-1873), Aberpergwm, in the work of collecting the folk tunes of Morgannwg and Gwent. She was also primarily responsible for the popularity of the triple harp about the middle of the nineteenth century.

Through her links with the Cymreigyddion she was influential in forming the Welsh Manuscripts Society in 1836. Later she obtained the manuscripts of Iolo Morgannwg, and these are now part of the Library's collections.

She is remembered primarily, however, for creating the traditional image of Welsh costume with the hat, petticoat and bedgown. She argued in her essay for the eisteddfod in 1834 that Welsh women should wear traditional clothing. According to her, clothing from Welsh wool were more practical as it is suitable for all weathers and could even guard against consumption! She was so committed to furthering her version of traditional dress that she forced her maids to wear it at their work in Llanover. In the volume Cambrian Costumes there is a series of 17 watercolours by A. Cadwaladr commissioned by Augusta of women's costume from some of the shires of Wales. It is likely that this volume influenced other artists such as Alexander F. Rolfe (fl. 1839-fl. 1873) and H. Jones (fl. 1824-fl. 1849) to create similar images.

There are a number of other works by Augusta Hall in the Library's collections, e.g. NLW PB6178, The Bard and NLW PA3982, Self Portrait.

Further reading

  • Rachel Ley. Arglwyddes Llanover Gwenynen Gwent, Caernarfon : Gwasg Gwynedd, 2001.
  • Mair Elvet Thomas. Afiaith yng Ngwent, Caerdydd : Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 1978.

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