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Mail order pioneer

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Thomas Hood (1799–1845) described this often dark, gloomy month in his poem “November” which begins “No sun, no moon! No morn, no noon! No dawn, no dusk, no proper time of day . . .”. It continues in similar vein with verses that include the lines “No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease. No comfortable feel in any member . . .”.

Clearly Hood, like many of us, dreaded the onset of winter, so this could be an appropriate time to remember Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones and the way he sold warm clothing to the world.

Pryce-Jones was born in 1834 near Newtown, Powys. In 1856 he took over a drapery business, the mainstay of which was supplying Welsh flannel. Making this soft woven fabric from carded wool or worsted yarn was originally a cottage industry in mid-Wales, where the main requirements, wool and water, were plentiful. But by the mid-1800s technological advances meant that production moved to places like Newtown.

The coming of the railways and improvements to the postal service enabled Pryce-Jones to reach customers living in isolated rural locations. He sent out leaflets detailing his wares so that people could chose the items they needed and have them dispatched by post or rail. In doing so, Pryce-Jones invented the world’s first mail order clothing business, the precursor to every modern mail order clothing catalogue and online fashion supplier.

As the railway system expanded Pryce-Jones was able to take orders from further afield. He built up an impressive customer list, including Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale, and even exported Welsh flannel to the Americas and Australia.

In 1879 Pryce-Jones built the Royal Welsh Warehouse, a tall red-brick building that still dominates the centre of Newtown. By 1880, he had over 100,000 customers and his knighthood. He died in 1920, leaving us his own brand of global warming.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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