To start with of the nineteenth century, a big Welsh city referred to as Newtown on the River Severn turned the middle of the woolen business. Like different cities within the higher Severn Valley, Newtown’s inhabitants exploded inside a brief interval, as mills jostled for a spot by the riverside. Weavers paid extortionate hire to flannel producers to dwell on the decrease flooring, the highest flooring being occupied by subtle machines such because the spinning jenny, that spun threads from wool in massive open workshops. It was right here in Newtown, in 1859, that Pryce Pryce-Jones opened his personal draper store. He named it the Royal Welsh Warehouse. Two years later, Pryce-Jones would construct the world’s first mail-order enterprise.
A postcard promoting Pryce Jones mail order enterprise. Photograph: Northumberland Archives
Pryce Pryce-Jones had inherited the store from his employer John Davies, below whom Pryce-Jones had labored since he was twelve. After Davis died, Pryce-Jones took over the enterprise, bought married and opened his personal little store promoting material simply off Broad Road. That very same 12 months the railway got here to Newtown.
Maybe it was whereas watching the trains go away for various locations on a regular basis, that Pryce-Jones got here to appreciate that right here was a brand new alternative to take advantage of. As a substitute of promoting his wares over-the-counter, similar to every other wool retailers on the town, Pryce-Jones thought why not let prospects get them organized by mail and he may dispatch his items by parcel put up. This may very well be a handy manner for folks dwelling in remoted places to buy, with out taking the time or effort to journey to city.
To assessments the waters, Pryce-Jones despatched out samples of his merchandise in addition to leaflets with tariffs to native prospects. Their orders had been dispatched by stage coaches. As soon as he was assured the concept would work, Pryce-Jones rented a warehouse subsequent to the railway line and started sending out catalogues.
Flannel samples from the Royal Welsh Warehouse. Photograph: Powys: A Day within the Life
A Pryce Jones Catalogue. Photograph: Bodleian Libraries
Pryce-Jones’s mail-order enterprise was a roaring success. With the assistance of the increasing railway community, Pryce-Jones was in a position to promote Welsh flannel throughout Europe, and finally to America and Australia as effectively. He dealt with so many deliveries that the London and North Western Railway Firm offered him with three vans for day by day deliveries alongside the Newtown to Euston line, and he was in a position to promise subsequent day supply to most of England. By 1880 he had in extra of 100,000 prospects, and even Florence Nightingale and Queen Victoria used to order from his catalogue. Pryce-Jones marketed this truth on the corporate’s adverts, which in flip attracted much more enterprise.
“Florence Nightingale appreciated his stuff a lot he named a particular width of flannel after her, the Florence Nightingale flannel,” native historian John Evans advised BBC.
“Queen Victoria was an early buyer and it was mentioned Queen Victoria solely wore Welsh flannel bloomers!”
Having outgrown his authentic warehouse, Pryce-Jones moved into a brand new spacious constructing in 1879. This was enlarged in 1887 and 1904. Such was the amount of mail orders that the warehouse even had its personal put up workplace department inside.
Flannel was the mainstay of Pryce-Jones’s enterprise. Certainly one of his merchandise was the Euklisia Rug—an all-in-one rug, scarf, blanket and pillow—that Pryce-Jones invented and exported around the globe. Hundreds of those rugs had been bought to the Russian and British military. They had been additionally used extensively by German troops in the course of the Franco-Prussian Struggle of 1870-1 and later impressed the invention of the “sleeping bag”.
For his efforts, Pryce-Jones was knighted in 1887 by Queen Victoria. He additionally turned the Excessive Sheriff of Montgomeryshire.
The Royal Welsh Warehouse nonetheless stands in Newtown. Sadly, his enterprise didn’t survive. Through the financial melancholy of the Twenties, Newtown’s flannel enterprise was hit arduous, and the Royal Welsh Warehouse bought its enterprise to a Liverpool agency in 1938.
The Royal Welsh Warehouse in Newtown. Photograph: Alex Liivet/Flickr
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