Mystery surrounds history of Caernarfon blanket

By Julie McNicholls Vale   |   Deputy news editor   |
Friday 29th July 2022 3:30 pm
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Caernarfon blankets, sometimes called Pwllheli blankets, have been described as an oddity in Welsh textiles.

In the centre of the pictured blanket, which is Storiel Gallery in Bangor’s Object of the Month, is a picture of the Old College, Aberystwyth University with the words ‘Cymru Fydd’ (Wales To Be) above it, and a picture of Caernarfon Castle with the words ‘Cymru Fu’ (Wales That Was) underneath it. Above and beneath these pictures are two dragons and leeks; the rest of the blanket is then covered with leeks and daffodils.

There has been some dispute about the origins of the original design of the blanket

Ann Sutton, an authority on Welsh textiles, credits the original blanket to weaver John Roberts, who presented the blanket to Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) in 1876 on a visit to Caernarfon to open the water works.

According to Welsh historian D G Lloyd Hughes this cannot be accurate as the water works opened in 1868 and The Herald Cymraeg refers to a gift from John Roberts to the Prince of Wales in 1868.

John Roberts moved to Liverpool in 1879/80 and emigrated to America.

Pwllheli Woollen Mill boought the pattern and patented the design in 1895. When they bought the pattern, the design only had a drawing of Caernarfon Castle.

The drawing of Aberystwyth’s Old College was added later. The college was not built until 1872, but the drawing features the building included in a design by architect John Seddons in 1885 that was never completed.

The family of Edward Davies-Bryan claim he was the person who put in the first order for the blanket. The family had a great interest in Aberystwyth and Joseph Davies Bryan, his brother, was a student there, but this is unlikely.

It appears there were two different blankets – one only with the picture of Caernarfon Castle, possibly designed by John Roberts, and the second one with Caernarfon Castle and the Old College, designed after 1885.

It is unclear who designed the second blanket or what happened between 1880 and1895.

This blanket used to belong to the donor’s great grandparents, Robert and Leusa Roberts from Deiniolen.

Robert Roberts (1856-1936) was a quarryman known as Bob Doctor after his father of the same name who was a doctor at Dinorwig Quarry before the hospital was built.

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