Published and manuscript references to the Custom of Bundling in Wales

Until the end of the 19th century, bundling was an approved custom enabling a young courting couple to spend nights together before marriage. It was practiced in Wales, parts of England, Scotland, America and some other places.

The meeting was preceded by a young man, normally from another farm, knocking at the young woman’s window with small stones, a practice known as cnoco (knocking), or cnoco lan (litereraly knocking up) or cnoco ac agor (knocking and opening). He might only be allowed to stay in the kitchen,  noswylio or noswaith o wylad (a night of watching) but some couples moved into the young woman’s bedroom where they were supposed to spend the night with clothing or a blanket or boulster between them. This was known in Welsh as Caru yn y Gwely (loving in the bed) or Caru ar y Gwely (loving on the bed)  Strictly, the latter is correct, but generally the former was used in Welsh language contexts. It was also known as Caru’r Nos (literally ‘the evening loving’).

The description of the custom in Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, and part of Yorkshire, (1800), suggests that one advantage was that it saved time, candles and fuel!

The following quotations are from accounts written by tourists, some local people and reports published in Welsh newspapers and magazines.

While this list is extensive, it is unlikely to be exhaustive and there may well be much more on the subject in the Welsh language (although digital searches suggest that this might not be the case).

Only a few tourists were really interested in Welsh customs – most of them did not have the opportunity to observe them in practice, while some simply copied (and perhaps embellished) accounts from other sources. It seems likely that some are fictional accounts disguised as personal observation.
Among the following comments written by and for tourists are several by Welsh people or by those who lived in Wales for longer than the tourists who spent only a few weeks rushing about the country. Local authors would have known of the custom and of its acceptance or otherwise within the community, and its abuse by unwise or immoral individuals, but very few would have been able to judge to what extent it was practiced in other parts of the country, nor indeed, to the extent it was actually practiced in their own community, because, by its very nature, it was a secret and private activity. However, they could give a more balanced view on bundling: some defended it (suggesting that it was more innocent than tourists implied); others defended the Welsh against impropriety while a few said that it was far less common than some writers suggested. A few others said only enough to suggest that they thought it was a subject that should not be written and read about, and it is likely that the silence on the subject from the great majority of tourists who left accounts of their tours, considered that it was not relevant to the descriptions of their experiences of the landscape.
In general, the earliest published accounts of tours of Wales defined the range of subjects that their successors wrote about: bundling was not one of these but the few who did comment on it alerted both tourists and the inhabitants of Wales to a subject that engendered some discussion. In 1770, the author of Letters from Snowdon alluded to bundling, but Pratt’s, perhaps embellished, comments were the first to be published in detail (in 1797), and they were quoted or reviewed by others (1799, 1803, 1810, 1869), giving them a wider readership in England, confirming not only was bundling actually practiced, but that it was a Welsh custom. Some tourists were delighted to see evidence of material culture (costume, coracles etc.), and customs (flowers on graves, harp playing, etc.) which were outside their own experiences, and even though some of these may well have been prevalent in other parts of Britain, Ireland and elsewhere, the association with Wales became very strong. During her visit to Wales in 1796 (letters published in 1815) Catherine Hutton wrote: ‘The courtship of the Welsh, in bed, with no other fence for the virtue of the woman than a flannel petticoat, are well known’, but it is not clear how this was well known since nothing yet has been found in print on the subject, other than some mediaeval works, until Pratt’s comments were published the year after her visit. This indicates that there is more research to be done on the public perception of the subject in the late 18th century of the subject. [A quick search of ECCO and ‘The Times’ on line produced very few hits for bundling.]
For some unexplained reason, Pratt, John Evans and William Williams referred to Swift’s poem Strephon and Cloe (1731), the latter two perhaps indicating Pratt’s influence on their comments on the subject while Barber and Bruce make this influence explicit. Similarly, Dulcinea from Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote was spirited up by Pratt, and quoted by Barber.
It appears that the strongest criticism of the custom was espoused by officials from the mid to late 19th century, such as the witnesses and authors of  ‘An inquiry into the state of education in Wales‘ – (The Blue Books, 1847) and some religious leaders, who probably made their views known, in Welsh and English from the pulpit, in religious publications and newspapers.  For some, bundling was considered to be the worst trait of the Welsh.

However, as Ieuan Gwynedd, one of the most determined of the critics of the Blue Books showed, the rate of illegitimacy in Wales was only 0.8% higher than that in England.
Ieuan Gwynedd (Evan Jones, 1820-1852), A vindication of the educational and moral conditions of Wales, (1848)

The terms ‘Bundling’, Caru yn y Gwely, Caru ar y Gwely and Caru’r Nos were searched for on the web site ‘Welsh Newspapers on line’. This produced a great many reports in English relating to ‘bundling’ which was often used in both English and Welsh contexts but in almost every occurrence of the term it was enclosed in double quotation marks. Occasionally the term “bundling” was used in Welsh language articles and ‘Caru yn y Gwely’ was used in English articles. The search for Caru ar y Gwely produced no hits.

The small number of references to bundling in Welsh language publications is partly because there were not so many Welsh language newspapers in 19th century Wales and possibly because such reports were published in other formats, such as chapel magazines which have not yet been digitised. It is also possible that there was a difference in attitude to publishing reports on the subject by English and Welsh speakers.

Newspapers published reports of several court cases in which men were accused of making woman pregnant as a result of bundling but had not married them. There are also reports of cases in which a man had been taken to court, often by the mother of a pregnant woman with whom he had ‘bundled’, for breach of promise. These paternity court cases might have used the custom of bundling as an excuse for what was becoming increasing considered to be very immoral behaviour. In several of these cases the men claimed that they knew the woman involved had ‘bundled’ with other men.
In addition, there are reports of a few men who were accused of wounding males who had entered private property with the intention of bundling.

Newspapers also published extracts from and comments on official reports:

  • Report of the Commission to Enquire into the Poor Law, 1834;
  • Report on the Rebecca Riots, 1844;
  • Tremenheere’s Report into the state of the population in the mining districts, 1846;
  • An Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales (The Blue Books), 1847
  • Reports of the Women and Children’s Employment Commission (various dates to 1867)

Generally, these commented unfavourably about ‘the Welsh peasant’. For example, several contributors to the Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales suggested that the majority of women were pregnant before marriage and that this was ‘unhappily the scandal of the Principality’ but it was acknowledged that generally, once a woman became pregnant, a marriage immediately followed. Such ‘immorality’ became one of the main criticisms of the Welsh in this report but there is some evidence to suggest that the prevalence of pregnancy at marriage was lower in Wales than than in England at the time.

Newspapers also published various letters, often in response to these reports, some defending the people of Wales against accusations of the immorality of bundling. These occasionally resulted in lengthy correspondence in great detail on the subject.
Newspapers also published reviews of and comments on books about Welsh customs which mentioned bundling and they also occasionally published fictional stories which included an episode involving bundling.


It is likely that there are some comments on bundling in various autobiographies. Of note are the memories of D.J. Williams (1885-1970) prompted by his uncle going bundling when he, (D.J. Williams) was very small, see 1890 below.


For some early references to Bundling, see Stevens, Catrin, Welsh Courting Customs, (Llandysul, 1993), p. 83-94.
Stiles, Henry Reed, Bundling; Its Origin, Progress and Decline in America Albany: Knickerbocker Publishing Company, 1869; [1871], pp. 23-35; Book Collectors Association, New York, 1934. It includes extracts from Woodward, Pratt, Bingley, Barber and Carr (see below)
Stiles book was listed in a catalogue of books on the History of Wales and described as:
‘The author, having been taken to task in regard to what he had written in a previous work about bundling (caru yn y gwely), [presumably his Monograph on Bundling in America (Albany, 1861)] set to work to vindicate himself and collected together all that had been published and written on the subject; he draws largely on Wales, where bundling was thought nothing of, and this not a great many years ago either.’ Drych, (American publication) 21 April 1887.

Gillis, J.R., For Better, For Worse: British Marriages, 1600 to the present (Oxford, 1985)
Stevens, Catrin, Arferion Caru (Llandysul, 1977)
Stevens, Catrin, Welsh Courting Customs, (Llandysul, 1993), p. 83-94
Jones, Emyr Wyn, Medical Glimpse of Early Nineteenth Century Cardiganshire, National Library of Wales journal. Volume XIV/3, (1966), pp. 264- This includes an extensive survey of comments on bundling, including an Aberystwyth doctor’s views on the subject in about 1837 (see below).
Jones, Emyr Wyn, ‘Carwriaeth y Cymru, Neu Cipdrem Feddygol ar Flynyddoedd Cynnar y Bedwaredd Ganrif ar Bymthed yng Ngheredigion’, National Library of Wales Journal, (1966), pp. 1-40
Davies, Russell, Secret Sins, Sex, Violence and Society in Carmarthenshire, 1870-1920, (1996), pp. 165-167.

Monger, George P. Marriage Customs of the World: An Encyclopedia of Dating Customs …, Volume 1, pp. 108-111 which quotes Burnaby (1775) and Twiss (1776), both quoted below.

For references to other rituals relating to marriage (rather than weddings) such as clandestine, trial and besom or broomstick marriages, see David W. Howell, The Rural Poor in Eighteenth-Century Wales, (2000), pp. 146-149. David Jenkins described traditions relating to courting, bundling and marriage in The Agricultural Community in South-West Wales at the turn of the Twentieth Century, (1971), pp. 125-139, without quoting sources.

References to bundling in Wales, arranged in chronological order.

“A woman of full age who goes with a man clandestinely, and taken by him to bush, or brake, or house, and after connection deserted; upon complaint made by her to her kindred, and to the courts, is to receive, for her chastity, a bull of three winters, having its tail well shaven and greased and then thrust through the door—clate; and then let the woman go into the house, the bull being outside, and let her plant her foot on the threshold, and let her take his tail in her hand, and let a man come on each side of the bull; and if she can hold the bull, let her take it for her wynet—werth [face shame or face worth] and her chastity; and, if not, let her take what grease may adhere to her hands.”
Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales, etc., etc., printed by command of his late Majesty King William IV, under the direction of the commissioners on the Public Records of the Kingdom. MDCCCXLI. Folio. From page 369.–The Gwentian Code.

Early to mid 14th century
William Williams wrote the following in what appears to be the draft for a book, dated 1806.
‘We see by Dafydd ap Gwilym’s [c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370] amorous poems that it was practiced by him which is upwards of 400 years since; which is a strong proof in favour of those that assent that he was an Anglesey man; … ‘ [See below for full transcription. This requires more research.]
[Williams, William], A Survey of the Ancient and Present State of the County of Caernarvon by a Landsurveyor, NLW Ms 821C, f. 464v

1770 Wales
In all countries custom has established some forms, previous to connubial, connections. In many places, custom acts the part of an inexorable tyrant, whose rigid commands we must implicitly obey. Here she bears a milder sway. I will not offend the ear of delicacy, with a description of what had better be concealed. I may say, that in general the women discover such prognostics, before they enter into the marriage state, as denote they will not be unfruitful members of society. Nor does custom stamp the opprobious stigma of infamy upon such an appearance.
Anon, Letters from Snowdon: Descriptive of a Tour Through the Northern Counties of Wales. Containing the Antiquities, History, and State of the Country: With the Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants, (1770), pp. 28-29

J Jackson was housekeeper, steward and clerk of the kitchen at Peniarthuchaf, Merionethshire by 1768. He wrote a series of detailed letters to friends, among which was an account of a week-long tour of Snowdonia which included the following. The letter is undated, but the internal references suggests that it might postdate the publication of Twiss’s A Tour in Ireland (London: 1776) because he mentions both van Egmont’s and Burnaby’s references to bundling – unless Jackson and Twiss both found them in another, earlier source.
The mode of courtship peculiar to the descendants of the Old Britons should with propriety have preceded that ceremony [of marriage] as it goes before it in point of time, and of which it generally, though not always, is the result. Here the nymphs receive their admirers in bed. The circumstance is notorious, yet common as it is, it is a difficult matter especially by one that is married and an Englishman to ascertain with any appearance of credibility. Singular as the subject is, I flatter myself I shall be able to effect it without the least offence to delicacy.
I was attended at supper … by the daughter of the house, whom I could not help remarking for the neatness of her dress and that florid glow of nature the Ladies in our metropolis, by the assistance of art, are so fond of imitating. It was Saturday night and I concluded she expected her lover. My supposition was not ill founded.
{He went to bed and discovered that he could see the young woman in question through a hole in the wall between his bed room and hers.}
To assist my narrative … I shall call the principal personages of the drama Colin and Phebe. … The young woman was pulling off her shoes and stockings while her companion ushered in a youth of a very respectable appearance … in his holiday clothes. He was the son of a neighbouring farmer … She had taken off her head dress and was adjusting her hair which she had neatly twisted up under the bandage of a close coif. She then very deliberately pulled off, and folded up her outer garments, being the same as are usually worn in England, by young women of her rank in life which were whole and neat, keeping on only a short coat over her chemise, the tucker of which she very carefully drew very close about her neck. Colin all this time, with everything on but his hat and shoes, was standing near the head of the bed … The affairs of her homely toilet at length being adjusted, she took the candle in her hand. Colin sat upon the bed. Phebe went round and got in on the further side. The crimson of her cheek brightened as she gave her lover a last look for the evening and putting out the light left me and yourself to form our own conclusion from the foregoing transactions.
During this whole progress I must confess there were such striking marks exhibited of innate virtue as entirely to expunge from my mind every disadvantageous prejudice lodged there by the repeated accounts I had heard of a Welsh courtship. And I am thoroughly convinced that the conversation which afterwards succeeded betwixt the young couple was as truly modest as the dumb show of the candle-light scene had been unexceptionally innocent.
Authors of repute take notice of the same custom in the Isle of Texel in north Holland [note by editor: where it is called questing – see Travels of Van Egmont and Heyman, see below]; in the province of Massachusetts Bay [note by editor: where it is called tarrying see Burnaby’s Travels in north America, (see below)] and in some parts of Ireland [note by editor: Twiss, (see below)] ?and in Portugal [something missing in the original transcript].
The origin of the custom is sometime difficult to ascertain, conjecture being frequently the uncertain standard by which it only can be fixed. {The houses of the old Britons were small and couples would not want to be with other members of the family, and could not meet outside in bad weather, so they resorted to the bedroom. …} Then by and easy gradation the custom, in many places still prevailing which has been and still continues a great object of censure among their neighbours, was amidst the Cambrian mountains naturally established.
This custom, it should be observed, is practiced only by the lower and middle classes of life, among the servants and farmers daughters; sometimes indeed the heiresses of substantial freeholders, through a patriotic principal of adhering to the maxims of their ancestors, choose to comply with this their country’s ancient mode of courtship. It may naturally be concluded that this unrestrained intercourse of the sexes by the hymeneal ceremony is performed may give the woman an excitement  to liberties afterwards incompatible with the laws of matrimony. This rarely happens as wives and mothers they are faithful and affectionate, in the management of their family concerns careful and industrious. Infidelity in the married state is here scarcely known.
Jackson, J., (1742-1792) Letters from and relating to North Wales now first published from originals and transcript copies written at different periods, comprising a series of observations and incidents introductory to a general history of the Principality at large, with a treatise on the origin of hills and the formation of Strata by J Jackson with sketches by the late W Parry, Esq, Cardiff Central Library, MS 4.1163, letter 9, pp. 128-129
Partially transcribed in Stevens, Catrin, Welsh Courting Customs, (Llandysul, 1993), p. 86-87
Most of Jackson’s letters were published in the Journal of the Merionethshire Historical and Record Society, vol. 3, pp. 360-373; vol. 4, (1962) 146-159; vol. 5, 208-220, vol. 6 (1972), pp. 343-358 but not letter 9 because it did not relate to Merionethshire.
The references he made to queesting and tarrying came from the following:
1759 (pre) North Holland
The women are good tempered and handy, and not entirely without beauty; very fond of courtships, which among the youth of the peasantry is carried on in a manner like queesting. This is an ancient custom of evening visits and courtships among the young people in the islands of Vlie, Wieringen, but especially in the Texel. It is indeed of an antiquity, the date of which cannot be traced. The spark comes into the house at night, either by the door, which is left upon the latch, or half open, by one of the windows, or through the stable, and makes his way to the bed-chamber of his sweetheart, who is already in her bed. After a compliment or two he begs leave that he may pull off his upper garment and come upon the bed to her. This being of course granted, he lifts up the quilt or rug, lays himself under it and then queests, that is, chats with her ’till he thinks it time to depart, which is invariably done by the same entrance he came in at. This is a custom from which the natives will not soon depart : the parents thinking it equitable not to deny their children a freedom they themselves were indulged in. Their innate tenacious parsimony also finds it’s account in this -custom, which dispenses with the articles of fire and – candle in the long winter evenings and nights.
van Egmont, Johannes Aegidius and Heyman, John, Travels Through Part of Europe, Asia Minor, the Islands of the Archipelago … giving a particular account of the most remarkable places … together with the Customs, Manners, Religion … and Manner of Living of the Inhabitants. Translated from the low Dutch, vol. 1, (1759), pp. 3-4

1759 Massachusetts Bay
The Rev. Andrew Burnaby, vicar of Greenwich, joined a voyage from Spithead [Portsmouth] to Virginia [USA] in April 1759.  
Singular situations, and manners will be productive of singular customs; but frequently such as upon flight examination may appear to be the effects of mere grossness of character, will, upon deeper research, be found to proceed from simplicity and innocence. A very extraordinary method of courtship, which is sometimes practised amongst the lower people of this province, and is called Tarrying, has given occasion to this reflection. When a man is enamoured of a young woman, and wishes to marry her, he proposes the affair to her parents, (without whose consent no marriage in this colony can take place); if they have no objection, they allow him to tarry with her one night, in order to make his court to her. At their usual time the old couple retire to bed, leaving the young ones to settle matters as they can; who, after having sate up as long as they think proper, get into bed together also, but without pulling off their under-garments, in order to prevent scandal. If the parties agree, it is all very well; the banns are published, and they are married without delay. If not, they part, and possibly never see each other again; unless, which is an accident that seldom happens, the forsaken fair-one prove pregnant, and then the man is obliged to marry her, under pain of excommunication
Burnaby, Andrew, Rev, Travels Through the Middle Settlements in North America, in the years 1759 and 1760..., Volume 3, (2nd edition, 1775), pp. 144-145

1775 Enniskillen, northern Ireland
I was informed that in these parts of Ireland a particular custom prevails among the common people, which, however, it seems is not peculiar to them; for in the Travels of Van Egmont and Heyman, I find the following minute account, which exactly describes the same custom.
In the island of Texel, in North Holland, the women are very fond of courtships, … fire and candle in the long winter evenings and nights.
And in a book lately published, entitled the Reverend Andrew Burnaby’s Travels in North America, is this passage. A very extraordinary method of courtship is sometimes practiced amongst the lower people … and then the man is obliged to marry her, under pain of excommunication.
I am pretty certain that the persons who informed me of this custom prevailing in Ireland, had never seen nor heard of the two above citations, and possibly the author of the latter might never have seen the former; but their credibility rests entirely with the reader.
Twiss, Richard, (1747-1821), A Tour in Ireland (London : 1776), pp. 103-106

In his compilation of tours, Mavor paraphrased Twiss:
Here Mr. Twiss was informed of some local customs among the common people, particularly respecting courtship and marriage, which, though curious enough, are not singular, as the same are found among the vulgar in North Holland, and among the Americans in Massachusetts Bay. It seems the enamoured youth, instead of ” living on a smile for years,” is quickly permitted, without any scandal, to visit his mistress in her chamber by night, and if they agree, a marriage immediately takes place; if not, they part, perhaps to meet no more. According to our ideas of propriety, such an intercourse could not take place without censure; but we forget that habit reconciles us to all things, and that the most criminal, are frequently those who apparently shew the most fastidious delicacy in their public manners.
W Mavor, (1758-1837) The British Tourists’; or Traveller’s Pocket Companion through England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, Comprehending the most celebrated tours in the British Islands, Vol. 2 (2nd edition, 1800), p. 201-202

Pennant, Thomas, Tour in Wales, (1778)
Said to contain a reference to bundling, but I have failed to find it.

1793, Harlech
[Got a good dinner at Watkin Anwells, who told him that his wife’s grandmother was married at 10 years old, and his wife’s mother born when she was 14½. …] ‘The mode of courting which he assured me was become pretty general is for the swain and the girl he is attached to, to go to bed together and say the same things there as are generally said under less favourable circumstances but it is to be noticed the friends of both are frequently present and the lady is only half undressed.’
Anon, NLW ms 20073A, pp. 31-32 

1795 Caernarvonshire
And here, amongst the usages and customs, I must not omit to inform you that what you have, perhaps, often heard, without believing, respecting the mode of courtship amongst the Welsh peasants, is true. The lower order of people do actually carry on their love affairs in bed, and what would extremely astonish more polished lovers, they are carried on honorably, it being, at least, as usual for the Pastoras of the mountains to go from the bed of courtship to the bed of marriage as unpolluted and maidenly as the Chloes of fashion; and yet you are not to conclude that this proceeds from their being less susceptible of the belle—passion than their betters; or that the cold air which they breathe has ‘froze the genial current of their souls.’ By no means; if they cannot boast the voluptuous languor of an Italian sky, they glow with the bracing spirit of a more invigorating atmosphere. I really took some pains to investigate this curious custom, and after being assured, by many, of its veracity, had an opportunity of attesting its existence with my own eyes. The servant maid of the family I visited in Caernarvonshire, happened to be the object of a young peasant, who walked eleven long miles every Sunday morning to savour his suit, and regularly returned the same night through all weathers, to be ready for Monday’s employment in the fields, being simply a day labourer. He usually arrived in time for morning service, which he constantly attended, after which he escorted his Dulcinea home to the house of her master, by whose permission they as constantly passed the succeeding hours in bed, according to the custom of the country. These tender sabbatical preliminaries continued without interruption near two years, when the treaty of alliance was solemnized, and, so far from any breach of articles happening in the meantime, it is most likely that it was considered by both parties as a matter of course, without exciting any other idea. On speaking to my friend on the subject, he observed that, though it certainly appeared a dangerous mode of making love, he had seen so few living abuses of it, during six and thirty years’ residence in that country, where it nevertheless had always, more or less, prevailed, he must conclude it was as innocent as any other. One proof of its being thought so by the parties, is the perfect ease and freedom with which it is done; no awkwardness or confusion appearing on either side; the most well—behaved and decent young woman going into it without a blush, and they are by no means deficient in modesty. What is pure in idea is always so in conduct, since bad actions are the common consequence of bad thoughts; and though the better sort of people treat this ceremony as a barbarism, it is very much to be doubted whether more faux pas have been committed by the Cambrian boors in this free access to the bed chambers of their mistresses, than by more fashionable Strephons and their nymphs in groves and shady bowers. The power of habit is perhaps stronger than the power of passion, or even of the charms which inspire it; and it is sufficient, almost, to say a thing is the custom of a country, to clear it from any reproach that would attach to an innovation. Were it the practice of a few only, and to be gratified by stealth, there would, from the strange construction of human nature, be more cause of suspicion; but being ancient, general, and carried on without difficulty, it is probably as little dangerous as a tête-à-tête in a drawing—room, or in any other full dress place where young people meet to say soft things to each other.”
Pratt, Samuel Jackson, (1749-1814), Gleanings through Wales, Holland and Westphalia : with views of peace and war at home and abroad : To which is added Humanity; or The rights of nature. A poem, revised and corrected, (London, 1795), 3 vols, p. 110; (3rd edition, 1797), vol 1, pp. 105—107
Some of what Pratt wrote was considered suspect. See below ‘Cymro’, [Theophilus Jones (1759-1812)] ‘Cursory Remarks on Welsh Tours or Travels’, Cambrian Register II, (for 1796), (1799), pp. 421-454 ; Charles Lamb (1775 – 1834), described his work in a letter to Southy as ‘a wretched assortment of vapid feelings’; Samuel Meyrick wrote: ‘the malevolent aspersions of that self-sufficient writer Pratt relative to the courtship of the Cymru are like the rest of his productions, the “gleanings” of his own ignorance.’ (Cambrian Eccentricities containing a Brief Sketch of the Ancient customs, Legends, and Superstitions of the Welch together with an account of their Weddings and Burials, Herefordshire Archive Service 914.219; Anne Seward strongly criticised him (letter to the Rev Polwhele in his Traditions and Recollections (1826)); John Britton wrote: ‘Pratt’s “Gleanings” obtained much notoriety’ ( A descriptive account of the literary works of John Britton (1849))

The courtship of the Welsh, in bed, with no other fence for the virtue of the woman than a flannel petticoat, are well known, and have scandalised them in the eyes of many of their English fellow subjects. But it is certain, that proofs of incontinence are not more frequent among them than among the farmer’s servants in England, who sit up all night by the kitchen fire; and for same reason, that their courtship may not interfere with the labours of the day.
Hutton, Catherine, Letters written during a Tour in North Wales by Miss Hutton, of Bennett’s Hill, near Birmingham, letter IV, Barmouth, Aug. 7, 1796, Monthly Magazine, Vol. 39, (1815), pt. 1, pp. 490-491

1798 Anglesey
The manners of these islanders, as I before observed, are simple, and exactly similar to their brethren of Merioneth and Caernarvonshire. Like all other ignorant people, they are extremely superstitious; and of the power of witches, the appearance of ghosts, and the tricks of fairies, they hold each strange tale devoutly true. Much singularity is observable in their funerals, and some curious circumstances distinguish the North-Wallian courtship from the mode of making love in South Britain.
The process of courtship is to the full as extraordinary, as that observed at funerals. In America the inhabitants call it bundling, a practice which is supposed to have contributed greatly to the rapid increase in population made by the United States in the course of a few years. The same consequence, it should seem, ought to arise from the Welsh method of making love, few marriages being celebrated amongst the ancient British peasantry, which are not rendered absolutely necessary by the previous situation of the female parties.
Warner, Richard, Rev. (1763-1857), A Second Walk through Wales in August and September, 1798, (Bath, 1799), letter 12, pp. 301-302, 303-304

The peasantry of part of Caernarvonshire, Anglesea, and Merionethshire, adopt a mode of courtship which, till within the last few years, was scarcely even heard of in England. It is the same that is common in many parts of America, and termed by the inhabitants of that country, bundling. The lover steals, under the shadow of the night, to the bed of the fair one, into which (retaining an essential part of his dress) he is admitted without any shyness or reserve. Saturday or Sunday nights are the principal times when this courtship takes place, and on these nights the men sometimes walk from a distance of ten miles or more to visit their favourite damsels. This strange custom seems to have originated in the scarcity of fuel, and in the unpleasantness of sitting together in the colder part of the year without a fire. Much has been said of the innocence with which these meetings are conducted, but it is a very common thing for the consequence of the interview to make its appearance in the world within two or three months after the marriage ceremony has taken place. The subject excites no particular attention among the neighbours, provided the marriage be made good before the living witness is brought to light. Since this custom is entirely confined to the labouring classes of the community, it is not so pregnant with danger as, on a first supposition, it might seem. Both parties are so poor that they are necessarily constrained to render their issue legitimate, in order to secure their reputation, and with a mode of obtaining a livelihood.
Bingley, W., Rev, (1774-1823), A tour round North Wales, performed during the summer of 1798 … (London, 1800), p. 228-229 [slightly different wording to the above]; North Wales, including its Scenery, Antiquities, Customs, etc. (London, 1804), vol. 2, p. 282.
Bingley, W., Rev, A Tour round North Wales including its Scenery, Antiquities, Customs and some Sketches of its Natural History; Delineated from two Excursions through all the interesting Parts of the Country, during the summers of 1798 and 1801, (2nd edition, 1804), p. 504
Bingley, W.R., Excursions in north Wales including Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge intended as a guide to tourists by the late Rev. W. Bingley. 3rd edition with corrections and additions made during the year 1838 by his son W.R. Bingley, (1839) makes no mention of bundling.

Among a variety of Welsh customs, those in courtship, marriage, and at funerals, cannot fail to excite attention. Hymeneal negotiations are literally carried on by the Welsh peasantry in bed. The young Strephon frequently goes several Welsh miles to visit the object of his choice ; either to her place of servitude, or the residence of her friends. The young couple retire to a bed-room, and between the blankets converse on those subjects which the nature of the occasion may suggest. The youth generally goes on a Saturday night, and returns to his work on the Monday morning. This familiar intercourse continues for the space of two or three years, and seldom fails to terminate to the honour and happiness of the parties.
This singular custom, which has been compared, not very happily, to the American Bundling, is one of those that served to mark the original British character; and among many others, remains to distinguish this people to the present day. To those who conjecture that every familiarity must be accompanied by improper ideas, this mode of making love must appear highly objectionable; and those, who consider every custom that differs from their own as founded in barbarism, will be inclined to censure it as productive of evil.
I was almost illiberal enough to suppose, so near a contact of the parties, at a time of life when passion is seldom subservient to reason, must have a dangerous tendency. An attention to facts, however, soon corrected this hasty judgment upon what, has been for ages the custom of a country. Inquiring of those, who, by long residence, have had opportunity for observation, I found this mode to be as innocent as any other: that it is considered so by the parties themselves is evident from the case with which it is conducted. No awkwardness of guilt appears in Strephon’s step, nor blush of confusion in the fair one’s check. The parents never refuse to acquiesce in it; nor do the most fastidious of the sex offer a single objection.
It has been observed, that a custom otherwise perilous, by becoming general, loses much of its dangerous tendency; and that, what is considered as a matter of course, seldom produces improper ideas. The power of habit, sanctioned by popular opinion, may rise superior to passion ; and the desire of fame above the charms that inspire it.
Such, (says an elegant writer,) is the nature of human depravity, that what is common is not esteemed a precious opportunity; what is most difficult to attain is thought the most desirable; and the fruit of stealth more delicious than that more easily and more publicly gained : and privacy becomes dangerous, not because no eye sees, but because to privacy is ever attached the idea of suspicion. After all, depravity of conduct is generally the offspring of impurity of ideas ; and though the reverse is not uniformly the case, yet, for the most part, he that thinks no evil, seldom commits any ; and where simplicity of manners and conduct abound, the gartered motto may be more aptly used than on the original occasion,—
‘ Honi soit qui mal y pense.’ By this justification of a custom that appears strange because it is singular, I do not mean to insinuate that virtuous love is confined to the mountains of North Wales; or that degrading consequences are not sometimes the result of these congressus cubiculares; but this I may assert, that the Cambrain fair goes more frequently from the chamber of wooing to the altar of Hymen, than the more polished females to the East of the Severn.
Evans, John, Rev, Letters written during a Tour through parts of North Wales in the year 1798, and at other times; containing views of the History, Antiquities, and Customs of that part of the Principality; and interspersed with observations on its Scenery, Agriculture, Botany, Mineralogy, Trade and Manufactures, (1800), pp. 357-358
2nd edition, (London, 1802)
3rd edition, (London, 1804)

To be obliged continually to contradict the too precipitate assertions of travellers, is truly a painful task: but when the truth of their assertions is stated to have been confirmed by the attestation of their own eyes, it becomes a more delicate business to controvert them. But I must … aver that “courtship in bed,” does not form one of the general usages or customs of the lower classes of people in Wales. Among folks of this description, clandestine visits, under the shade of night, is a general practice; but their assignations of this kind are, I believe, much as what takes place in England. Indeed, the wit of Miss’s stealing out by moonlight to Pappa’s garden, may apply equally well to the mountains of Wales, as to the purlieus of London: with this difference, that a barn, or an outhouse generally shelters the Cambrian wooers, instead of the gay arbour, or a gingerbread alcove, in the neighbourhood of the metropolice. That a favoured Welsh lover has not occasionally – or even frequently had access to the bedside of his mistress; that he has frequently said soft things to her upon that bed, and that nothing improper has followed that permission, cannot be denied; but that it is a general custom to settle the preliminaries of a more lasting connection in bed, is so distant from the fact, that it scarcely requires a serious refutation; and I must, therefore, presume that the author … could have but very slender authority to vouch for the universality of the custom.
Cymro [Theophilus Jones], Cursory Remarks on Welsh Tours or Travels (1799), Cambrian Register II, (for 1796), pp. 429 [reviewing Pratt’s ‘Gleanings’]
Davies, Hywel M., Wales in English Travel Writing 1791-8: The Welsh Critique of Theophilus Jones, Welsh History Review, xxiii, 2007, pp. 73- 75 (for a review of Cymro’s comments on bundling).

1800 England
In the Courtships of the country people there is something singular, which, although certainly imprudent, is not attended with those criminal effects which, it might be apprehended, would be the natural consequence. Connections are often formed early in life, which the numerous dancing parties, not only at fairs, but at most of the village alehouses several times a year, and the indiscreet connivance of parents, afford easy opportunities of doing; At these places of rural amusement it is usual for almost every lad to select his lass.
The acquaintance (I speak of the sons, daughters, and servants of farmers, mechanics, and country tradesmen) generally commences at these public meetings; and the youth afterwards visits his sweetheart at her own home. These visits are most commonly made on the Saturday evenings, that the next day’s work may not be incommoded. After the family are gone to bed, the fire darkened, and the candle extinguished, he cautiously enters the house. In this murky situation they remain for a few hours, adjusting their love concerns, and conversing on the common topics of the day, till the increasing cold of a winter’s night, or the light of a summer’s morning, announces the time of separation. With these proceedings the parents, or masters of the lovers, are well enough acquainted, but generally connive at them: they have no notion of denying those under their care that indulgence which they themselves and their ancestors have practised with impunity before them.
This dark method of courtship is economical; here is no loss of time, at least for work; nor of those expensive articles fire and candle. That is, however, its only advantage; and the inconveniences, or rather misfortunes, attending it are weighty, and of the most serious nature. Two young people, perhaps, with the purest intentions, form a connection; repeatedly pay and receive visits of this sort; when, alas! the ardour of youth and of love, aided by the most enticing opportunity, too often breaks down the barriers of virtue, the frail fair one yields to lascivious love, and wholly throws herself upon the mercy of her paramour. The natural consequence of this criminality soon appears in her pregnancy, and the unhappy couple must either endeavour to palliate their shame and guilt by perhaps a premature marriage, or suffer the ruin of the poor girl to be completed. These considerations ought to induce parents and masters of families to be strictly cautious how they admit these private addresses to be paid the females under their care. I do not mean to say that illicit amours are always, nor even generally, the consequence of Cumbrian courtship, but that it happens not unfrequently; and, I believe, the number of illegitimate children is more to be attributed to that than to any other cause.
When a marriage is nearly concluded on, and it is understood that the girl’s parents have no objection to the match, the young man ventures to shew himself, and continues in conversation with the family till they retire to bed. This is the manner in which Cumberland courtship is usually conducted; but there are certainly many instances wherein more prudent and rational modes are adopted.
Housman, J., Topographical Description of Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, and part of Yorkshire, (1800)
‘Customs Peculiar to Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. Extracted from a Topographical Description of Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, and part of Yorkshire, by J. Housman. Just published. The Union Magazine, and Imperial Register …, Volume 2, pp. 95-97

Their courtships, marriages, christenings, and funerals, differ in nothing from what is practised on those occasions among the Lowlanders, or other Welsh people : but as there are some distinct and local customs in use in North Wales, not adopted in other parts of Great Britain, I shall, by way of novelty, relate a few of them.
When Cupid lets fly his shaft at a youthful heart, the wounded swain seeks for an opportunity to have a private conversation with the object of his passion, which is usually obtained at a fair, or at some other public meeting; where he, if bold enough, accosts her, and treats her with wine and cakes. But he that is too bashful will employ a friend to break the ice for him, and disclose the sentiments of his heart: the fair one however disdains proxies of this kind; and he that is bold, forward, and facetious, has a greater chance of prevailing, especially if he has courage enough to steal a few kisses: she will then probably engage to accept of his nocturnal visit the next Saturday night. When the happy hour arrives, neither the darkness of the night, the badness of the weather, nor the distance of the place, will discourage him so as to abandon his engagement. When he reaches the spot, he conceals himself in some out-building till the family go to rest. His fair friend alone knows of and waits his coming. After admittance into the house, a little chat takes place at the fire-side, and then, if everything is friendly, they agree to throw themselves on a bed, if there is an empty one in the house; when Strephon takes off his shoes and coat, and Phillis only her shoes; and, covering themselves with a blanket or two, they chat there till the morning dawn, and then the lover steals away as privately as he came. And this is the Bundling, or Courting in Bed [*note below] which the Welsh are so much bantered by strangers. This courtship often lasts for years, ere the swain can prevail upon his mistress to accept of his hand. Now and then a pregnancy precedes marriage, but very seldom, or never, before a mutual promise of entering into the married state is made. When a matrimonial contract is thus entered into, the parents and friends of each party are apprised of it, and an invitation to the wedding takes place; where, at the appointed wedding-day, every guest that dines drops his shilling, besides payment for what he drinks : the company very often amount to two or three hundred, and sometimes more. This donation is intended to assist the young couple to buy bed-clothes, and other articles necessary to begin the world. Nor does the, friendly bounty stop here : when the woman is brought to bed, the neighbours meet at the christening, out of free good-will, without invitation, where they drop their money ; usually a shilling to the woman in the straw, sixpence to the midwife, and sixpence to the cook; more or less, according to the ability and generosity of the giver
*[note] The Cambrian fair would blush as much at the term courting in bed as any other modest female would, that has never heard of this custom before. It is not expressed, Caru-yn-y Gwely, which means courting in bed; but Caru-ar-y-Gwely, courting on the bed. Should the lover offer any indecency, his mistress would not only fly from him with the velocity of lightning, but he would be fortunate if she would so leave him without giving him a bloody nose at parting. In a few days also, the tidings of his impudence would reach the ears of every lass in the neighbourhood; his company would be shunned with the greatest caution: and were he so successful as to prevail upon a young woman to accept of his visits, her continency would be considered as doubtful. But to allow this to be the custom in part of North Wales, I think it may not be difficult to trace out the origin of it.
Cæsar says, (but falsely, as it may be fairly proved) that men and women in Britain lived and cohabited together without distinction, the women being in common. This ravager, in order to skreen his own ambition and villainy, represented other nations as nothing better than savages, or mere beasts : his assurance for recording this account must have proceeded from his ignorance of their custom of sleeping all together in one common bed, made every night on the floor of the room, male and female promiscuously. This custom was followed in the time of Giraldus, who assisted in preaching the Crusade in Wales, about the time of Henry II and no doubt for ages after : and we are told, that this practice still continues in the isles of Scotland and Ireland : we are also assured, that it exists amongst the American Indians. The traveller Du-Veil informs us, that the Africans use the same custom. From which examples, and several more which might be mentioned, it appears, that this was the primitive manner of resting in the night amongst most, if not all, nations : from which instances we may naturally suppose, when love was the object of conversation, the youthful parties withdrew from the common bed to a more private one, where they might be by themselves. In imitation of this, the Welsh girls to this day do not think it anything immodest in adhering to the custom practised by their mothers before them, as long as nothing is meant but innocence and purity. This is one strong proof that the Welsh people are not composed of a mixture of nations, but that they have continued one and the same people, adhering to their ancient modes and customs from time immemorial.
Williams, William, (1738-1817), Observations on the Snowdon Mountains with some account of the customs and manners of the inhabitants. (1802) p. 9-11
Partly quoted in The Cambrian Tourist; Or, Post-chaise Companion Through Wales …” 6th edition, 1828, pp. 167-168 and in Poole, J., Gleanings of the Histories of Holywell, Flint, St Asaph and Rhuddlan, with Statistics and Geographical Account of North Wales in General, (1831), pp. 17-20
[Williams had a slightly different viewpoint on the subject in the draft for his book on Caernarvonshire – see 1806 below]

1802 south Ceredigion
No young woman, even the daughter of a respectable Freeholder ever marries till pregnant. The man seldom forsakes her.
Davies, Walter, Itinerary no VIII: 1802 Cardigan and north Pembrokeshire, Notebook 18 [[NLW NOTEBOOK 17]], NLW 1760A, pp. 30-32

1803, Llanrhystud
[met a badly dressed but well educated man from nearby who told them about the]
… mode of courtship; which is declared to be carried on in bed; and, what is more extraordinary, it is averred, that the moving tale of love is agitated in that situation without endangering a breach in the preliminaries. Mr Pratt, in his “Gleanings,” thus affirms himself an eye-witness of the process:
“The servant-maid of the family I visited in Caernarvonshire happened to be the object of a young peasant, who walked eleven long miles every Sunday morning to favour his suit; he usually arrived in time for morning’s service, which he constantly attended; after which he escorted his Dulcinea home to the house of her master, by whose permission they as constantly passed the preceding hours in bed, according to the custom of the country. This tender intercourse continued without any interruption near two years, when the treaty of alliance was solemnized.”
Our companion, like everyone else that we spoke with in Wales on the subject, at once denied the existence of this custom that maids in many instance admitted male bed-fellows, he did not doubt; but that the procedure was sanctioned by tolerated custom he considered a gross misrepresentation. Yet in Anglesey and some parts of North Wales, where the original simplicity of manners and high sense of chastity of the natives is retained, he admitted something of the kind might appear. In those thinly inhabited districts, a peasant often has several miles to walk after the hours of labour, to visit his mistress; those who have reciprocally entertained the belle passion will easily imagine, that before the lovers grow tired of each other’s company the night will be far enough advanced; nor is it surprizing, that a tender-hearted damsel should be disinclined to turn her lover out over bogs and mountains until the dawn of day. The fact is, that that under such circumstances she admits a consors lecti, but not in nudatum corpus. In a lowly Welch hut, this bedding has not the alarm of ceremony: from sitting or perhaps lying on the hearth, they have only to shift their quarters to a heap of straw or fern covered with two or three blankets in a neighbouring corner. The practice only takes place with this view of accommodation.
Barber, J.T., (1774-1841), Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire, Comprehending A General Survey of the Picturesque Scenery, Remains of Antiquity, Historical Events, Peculiar Manners, and Commercial Situations of That Interesting Portion of the British Empire. (1803), p. 103-105
[George Eyre Evans refused to repeat this when quoting Barber. He wrote:
“What befell Barber at the Red Lion inn, … and what he and a native squire talked about that night the curious must see for themselves. I have too much respect for the laws of our country to run the risk of quoting any further from this account. Cardiganshire, A Personal Survey of some of its Antiquities …, (1903), p. 21]

1804 Dolgellau (information from Jones the guide)
From him I learned the ready practicability of what, I confess, had hitherto staggered my Saxon faith;—an innocent, and even secure, prosecution of a tender suit in the ancient Welsh fashion. Mr Jones, though, still a bachelor, had made love twice in his time, and at each period had been permitted by the kind fair one to explain the ardency of his passion to her—in bed! In point of dress, it seems, the indulgent damsel places herself in as hazardous a situation as what she is pleased to call delicacy will permit; and the youthful couple frequently remain several hours in their lover-like retreat. Jones expressed himself strongly on the inviolable honour to be preserved by the suitor on these occasions; and even replied to a doubting question or two of mine with mingled surprise and indignation. In fact, it appears that custom in these instances has so powerful an effect, as to overcome entirely those feelings to which the situation would seem liable. The result of frequently repeated enquiries was to the same effect. The practice is now retained very partially, even among the recluse and nearly “inaccessible” mountains of Merionethshire and Caernarvon, but is scarcely ever known to produce the ill consequence of a third person bearing witness on the subject. Should such, by great chance, be the case, the father is never known to desert his forlorn companion, is, like herself, he is aboriginal. Should the credulous damsel rely too much on the force of custom, and trust a Saxon neighbour with the privilege due only to her countrymen, the consequence is uniformly disastrous; and as uniformly is she left to mourn over her folly in deserted misery. The seducer, however, whether Welsh or English, is subject to a general detestation and disgrace, which are to be removed only by performing penance, or, as it is termed, “sharing white bread.” This ceremony consists in the expenditure of a certain sum of money forfeited by the offender in wheaten bread, which is distributed by proper officers in the parish- church, who proclaim the while the culprit’s name, offence, and penitence. The great infrequency of the Welsh incurring this scandal may be considered as a proof of the powerful effect of shame on a people in any degree familiar with habits of simplicity.
Brewer, J.N., A Tour Through the most interesting parts of North Wales, The Universal Magazine, New Series, vol. 2, pp. 403-404

1805 Aberystwyth
In regard to the Welsh mode of courtship, among the peasantry, about which so much has been said, pro and con, in the counties of Cardigan, Caernarvon and Merioneth at least, the following he [a friend in Aberystwyth] affirmed to be a fact. When two young persons have agreed to visit each other, the woman soon receives her admirer into her chamber, and they court sitting or lying on her bed. The natural consequence is, that the female becomes pregnant; and it is seldom that a marriage takes place without that being the case. To the honour, however, of the Welsh gallants, it must be confessed, that they very rarely desert the woman who has made them happy; nor does either sex feel any impropriety in the practice to which we have referred.
Mavor, William Fordyce, (1758-1837) A tour in Wales, and through several counties of England: including both the universities ; performed in the summer of 1805, (London : 1806), pp. 59-60

1806, Caernarvonshire
There is another ancient custom still practised in this part of north Wales by the peasantry; being that which they call courting in bed; but others more contemptuously give it the appellation of Bundling. When a lover visits his mistress, which is always in the night; after chattering for some while on the hearth stone, they will, to spend the remainder of the night, retire softly to a bed chamber, where they lay themselves on the bed; the man takes off only his upper greatcoat, she takes nothing off; and covering themselves with a rug or blanket; there they will mutually caress and talk till the morning dawn, when he marches off before any of the family are up.
This certainly must be the remains of a very old custom. We may with authority say, that it is not a great many ages since the custom of making one common bed on the middle of the floor for all the family ceased.
When youthful parties had a desire to converse upon the subject of love, it could not be done without embarrassment in the public bed; they of course, we may conceive, shifted themselves to a private corner and spread their blankets there. We see by Dafydd ap Gwilym’s amorous poems that it was practiced by him which is upwards of 400 years since; which is a strong proof in favour of those that assent that he was an Anglesey man; the parts that the other party allot to him in South Wales could not have that custom amongst them, as strangers had overwhelmed that province many ages previous to his time, and had mixed themselves with the inhabitants, and so all ancient customs were lost and forgotten.
I have made fuller remarks on and explanation of this custom in my observations on the hills so it is needless to repeat them here. [Observations on the Snowdon Mountains with some account of the customs and manners of the inhabitants, (1802), pp. 9-11 – see above.]
[Williams, William], A Survey of the Ancient and Present State of the County of Caernarvon by a Landsurveyor, NLW Ms 821C, ff. 463v-465v

One evening, at an inn where we halted, we heard a considerable bustle in the kitchen, and, upon inquiry, I was let into a secret worth knowing. The landlord had been scolding one of his maids, a very pretty plump little girl, for not having done her work; and the reason which she alleged for her idleness was, that her master having locked the street door at night, had prevented her lover from enjoying the rights and delights of bundling, an amatory indulgence which, considering that it is sanctioned by custom, may be regarded as somewhat singular, although it is not exclusively of Welsh growth. The process is very simple: the gay Lothario, when all is silent, steals to the chamber of his mistress, who receives him in bed, but with the modest precaution of wearing her under petticoat, which is always fastened at the bottom, not unfrequently, I am told, by a sliding knot. It may astonish a London gallant to be told, that this extraordinary experiment often ends in downright wedlock—the knot which cannot slide. A gentleman of respectability also assured me, that he was obliged to indulge his female servants in these nocturnal interviews, and that too at all hours of the night, otherwise his whole family would be thrown into disorder by their neglect: the carpet would not be dusted, nor would the kettle boil. I think this custom should share the fate of the northern Welsh goats.

In some Dutch travels we read, that a courtship similar to bundling is carried on in the islands of Vlie and Wieringen, in Holland under the name of queesting. At night the lover has access to his mistress after she is in bed; and upon an application to be admitted upon the bed, which is of course granted, he raises the quilt, or rug, and in this state queests, or enjoys a harmless chit-chat with her, and then retires. This custom meets with the perfect sanction of the most circumspect parents, and the freedom is seldom abused. The author traces its origin to the parsimony of the people, whose economy considers fire and candles as superfluous luxuries in long winter evenings. Another traveller also mentions, that the lower people of Massachusetts Bay indulge themselves in a custom called tarrying. If the parents of the young lady approve of her enamorato, they permit him to tarry with her one night. After the old people have retired, the young couple go to bed together with their under garments on: if they like each other, they marry; if not, they part, perhaps never to meet more, unless the forsaken fair one proves pregnant, in which case, under the penalty of excommunication, the man must marry her.
Habit has so reconciled the mind to the comforts of bundling, that a young lady who entered the coach soon after we left Shrewsbury, about eighteen years of age, with a serene and modest countenance, displayed considerable historical knowledge of the custom, without “one touch of bashfulness.”
Carr, John, The Stranger in Ireland or a Tour in the Southern & Western Parts of that Country in the year 1805, (London, 1806), p. 11-13
another edition, Philadelphia, 1806.
French translation (1809)
Reprint with introduction by Louis M Cullen of London (1970)
“On his way to Ireland he passed through Wales, and gives us a slight sketch of the character of that people and country. It must afford no small gratification to a New England man to learn that the practice of BUNDLING is not peculiar to us, but that this pleasing though dangerous art was probably imported from abroad.”
A review of The Stranger in Ireland, in Connecticut Courant for November 19th, 1806

In the section of Meyrick’s introduction entitled ‘The Ancient Customs and Superstitions now remaining in Cardiganshire’ he comments of the superstitions on Nos glangauâv, or Allhallows eve, one of which he describes:
Three furrows are made in the ash which have fallen from the fire, and one person desires another to think of the names of three young men … and asks “Pwy ngharro chwi”, who will you love; … “Pwy ngbriodo chwi” who will you marry … “Pwy ngdoulo chwi dros o gweli” who will you throw over the bed. [note:] The courtship is carried on, on the outside of the bed, where the sweetheart sits with his dearest, whispering soft tales of love. [end of note.]
Meyrick, Samuel, The History and Antiquities of Cardigan, (1808), pp. cxxii-cxxv
This is his only published reference to bundling but in a draft for an unpublished book which formed the basis of those parts of the introduction in his The History and Antiquities of Cardigan which dealt with marriage and funeral customs, he had more to say about bundling:
On the gallantry and Courtship of the Welsh
Woman! be fair, we must adore thee;
Smile, and a world is weak before thee! (Anacreon in Feminas)
[From More’s translation of an ode by the Greek poet, Anacreon, 582 – c. 485 BC the two lines of which Meyrick reproduced in Greek.]
Gallantry is a striking feature in the Cambrian character, but it has, however, honour for it’s ?basis; and the malevolent aspersions of that self-sufficient writer Pratt relative to the courtship of the Cymru are like the rest of his productions, the “gleanings” of his own ignorance. [Here he is referring to the much criticised Samuel Pratt’s Gleanings through Wales, Holland and Westphalia : with views of peace and war at home and abroad, (London, 1795), 3 vols, p. 110; (3rd edition, 1797), vol 1, pp. 105—107, see above.]
That <the further end> [of] the bed room <of the men servants>, and not the bed, is the dedicated to tales of love, and professions of sincerity cannot be denied; but this only is the case among the poorer kind of peasants, and farmer’s servants.
Even this perhaps may shock the modesty of the English female, but on enquiring, she will find the custom originates in necessity.
The servants of <a> farmer generally sleeps on a truss of straw in the loft over the cow house or stable, and as at a certain time she is locked out from the house, her only shelter is in her bed room.
The men servants sleep generally in the loft over the stable or cow-house, and as the girl seldom has the opportunity to take her lover to the kitchen fire, the further <one> end of this room is made use of as a substitute. At the other end are the men servants in bed & asleep. Their beds consist simply of a truss of straw put in a wooden frame, three blankets & a woollen rug.
As the family generally retire to rest about nine or ten o’clock at night; this event then takes place, and the lover eager to revisit his inamorata, flies by the wing of cupid to the
Object of his love.
If you would have the nuptial union last
Let virtue be the bond that ties it fast
Rowe’s Fair Penitent.
These are his thoughts, and thus persuaded he ventures to unfold his mind to the dear partner of his passion. That faux pas have been made cannot be denied; but this is to be attributed <ascribed> to the frailty of human nature. However, such is not sanctioned by custom, nor is it to be attributed to the inhabitants of the principality more particularly than to any other people. Saturday night is generally fixed on for his purpose, and the lover if he is known to the girl having repaired to her abode wither by wetting his finger and sliding it along a pane of glass in the window, or throwing up <stones or> his Hat gives the signal of his arrival. The girl takes the first opportunity after of going out to him and acquainting him whether or not she shall be able to attend him that night. If unknown to the girl, he procures some friend acquainted with her to ask the question and anxiously waits the event of his mission. Sometimes five or six men come after one girl, but the only ?goes to him she admired. A Great noise is made in general by the dogs about the house which these lovers endeavour to stifle by throwing stones or sticks at the poor animal. They are also very destructive to the girl’s master, stealing his apples etc. from the orchard sometimes they quarrel about this girl & fight proceed to blows.
[Meyrick, Samuel], ‘Cambrian Eccentricities containing a Brief Sketch of the Ancient customs, Legends, and Superstitions of the Welch together with an account of their Weddings and Burials’, Herefordshire Archive Service 914.219
While much of Meyrick’s account of bidding weddings is derived directly from Lewis Morris, it was not the source of his comments on bundling.  [Lewis Morris, ‘The Manner of their solemnizing their Marriages among the Mechanics, Farmers & Common people in Cardiganshire, peculiar I think to this Country and its borders’ in the hand of Lewis Morris, NLW ms 13226C, pp. 313-326. (A composite volume containing miscellaneous material, chiefly in the hand of William Owen [-Pughe] also including a transcript by William Owen [-Pughe] of Lewis Morris’s description of wedding customs in Cardiganshire, pp. 88-107, published in full in Ifans, Dafydd, ‘Lewis Morris ac Arferion Priodi Yng Ngheredigion’, Ceredigion, vol. 8, no. 2 (1977), pp. 193-203 and published with some deletions in Morrisian Miscellany, Article 3, Cardigan Weddings. Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 61, (1791), p. 1103 and Cardigan Weddings, Gentleman’s Magazine, (February 1792), pp. 109-111]

{Theft in Wales is less common than elsewhere, but wrecking is as prevalent as elsewhere.}
There is a practice of a more amicable character, and one in truth so full of love as to create scandal in its very highest degree. Bundling, when described to a stranger appears at first incredible and when proved barbarous contempt and ridicule and disgust are combined to stigmatise a custom which can only be called even in its most decorous terms “making love either in or on a bed.” That the practice is always safe, or at any time delicate, I presume not to say; but those who connect with it the notions of prostitution and moral abasement will certainly be wrong. The origins of the habit is referred to those days when the evils of cold and darkness in an inclement climate were not yet met and mitigated by the more recent contrivances for securing the comforts of light and warmth. The idle house which could be spared from labour, and which alone acknowledge, it appears, the dominion of love, were thus spent together by the lovers under the coarse expedient of a blanket. The custom of the parties continuing clothed in this situation is still retained, but the innocency of it, however, it may be maintained in the more secluded and mountainous parts of the country has certainly been somewhat broken in upon nearer the coast and where a freer communication prevails. New modes of manners, greater allurements of dress, and, it may be, fuller and better kinds of food, have occasioned a greater degree of licentiousness, which, however, has yet proceeded no further than concubinage guarded with the conditions of marriage in case of pregnancy. Among the objects of this sort of courtship female servants are in course included, but the signal from the favoured lovers, whether made by a tapping at the door or by casting up gravel at the windows for admission, are by no means so favourably dealt with by masters and mistresses, as they are said to have once been. An increased sense of propriety may be one cause of this, but considerations of prudence are probably not without their weight, for among the tribe of tentative lovers some are stated to be so sadly deficient in sentiment and the higher aspirations of the first of passions, as to mainly select their mistresses with a due regard to the opportunities of their employers’ larders. Like the band of suitors by whom Penelope was besieged they are “Non tantum veneris, quantum studiosa culinae.”
Upon the whole the practice is unquestionably declining, and it remains for us to hope that the force of opinion, if directed against the sin of unchastity in unmarried females with greater energy than it has been hitherto, will still continue to mark it with its accustomed reprehension in the matronly character.
Hall, Edmund Hyde, A Description of Caernarvonshire (1809-1811), University College of North Wales, Bangor, Penrhyn add. ms. 2942; Jones, E Gwynne, (ed.), A Description of Caernarvonshire, Transaction of the Caernarfonshire Historical Society, (1952), p. 323

The Lower order of people in Caernarvonshire, Anglesey and part of Merionethshire have a mode of courtship which, till within these few years, was scarcely every heard of in this kingdom. What I here allude to is called “Bundling”. The lover generally comes under the shadow of night, and is taken, without any kind of reserve, into the bed of his fair one. Here, as it is generally understood, with part of his clothes still on, he breathes his tender passion, and “tells how true he loves”. This custom would appear to have originated in the scarcity of fuel, and the discomfort of sitting together in cold weather without fire. Much has been said of the innocence, with which these meetings are conducted: it may be so but there has been such things as a son and heir creeping in the way within two or three months after the marriage ceremony has been solemnised. No notice, however, has been taken of it, provided the nuptials have actually taken place. As this custom is entirely confined to the peasantry, it is not so pregnant with danger, as it might otherwise be supposed; for both parties being poor, they are constrained to marry, in order to secure their reputation and by this means, a method of getting a livelihood.

Mr Pratt witnessed this novel manner of courtship and therefore certifies the truth of its existence. [but other things Pratt wrote were considered suspect] {here he paraphrases Pratt’s account } The lower order of people do actually carry on their love affairs in bed, and what would extremely astonish more polished lovers, they are carried on honorably, it being, at least, as usual for the Pastoras of the mountains to go from the bed of courtship to the bed of marriage as unpolluted and maidenly as the Chloes of fashion; and yet you are not to conclude that this proceeds from their being less susceptible of the belle—passion than their betters; or that the cold air which they breathe has ‘froze the genial current of their souls if they cannot boast the voluptuous languor of an Italian sky, they glow with the bracing spirit of a more invigorating atmosphere.This might be a dangerous mode of making love one proof of its being thought so by the parties, is the perfect ease and freedom with which it is done; no awkwardness or confusion appearing on either side; the most well—behaved and decent young woman going into it without a blush, and they are by no means deficient in modesty.
Bruce, William Joseph, A Peregrination through part of the Counties of Somerset, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire with a portion of South Wales and a tour round north Wales as performed in the Autumn of the Year 1810, NLW mss. 19405 C, p. 296-297

Bundling, (based on Evans, John, Rev, Letters written during a Tour through parts of North Wales in the year 1798 … , (1800), pp. 357-358, see above)
Evans, J., Rev, North Wales for ‘The Beauties of England and Wales (Volume 17), (1812), p. 113https://sublimewales.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?post_type=page&cap#cap

DEAR SIR,— I am but a poor countryman, but indeed want very much to be married, for although the expence of keeping two is more than one — yet there are many comforts in a married state- but this does not frighten me, I am much more afraid about another thing—BUNDLING!—Now you see, according to the custom of this country, I have bundled all round it, and have known more than I chuse to tell, or would be fit for you to hear—and from my experience indeed, indeed, I cannot take a wife here !—for how do I know but what long usage may influence her to bundle again. — I therefore wish you, Sir, to enquire in your paper for one who has not bundled – if such a one could he found, and I would be married directly—but I am very much afraid it is impossible—for all do it, by the privilege of the custom of the country—and then to be sure they have an advantage in chusing them the ladies like best, which I am afraid they will say is not much in my favour; but then you see I am only a poor labourer, and they generally fix upon those that can provide for them best—but do, do, good Mr. Editor, try all you can get some virtuous woman, (who never bundled,) for me, and as in duty bound, I will ever pray.
North Wales Gazette (Bangor), 17 June 1813


  1. EDITOR-With a view to counteract, and as far as possible to suppress the odious and indecent practice of Bundling, (the only remaining badge of Barbarism amongst us), we earnestly recommend to every father of a family, every master of an establishment, to associate for that purpose – for unti1 a custom, so abhorrent from reason and shame, is put down—very little efficacy can be hoped, either from the extention of education, or from the circulation of the Scriptures. The following Resolutions would perhaps assist the object:—
  2. That associations similar to, or connected with, those for the Prosecution of Felons, be formed, for the purpose of suppressing the odious and (in the eye of the world) felonious offence of Bundling.
  3. That the expences be equally borne by all the members, in detecting and prosecuting any persons obtruding themselves at unlawful hours.
  4. That any servant detected in receiving such Bundlers in the houses of any member, shall be immediately dismissed, and on no account received again into service.
  5. That rewards be offered on the discovery of any persons guilty of this offence, and a further reward on their conviction before a Magistrate.
  6. That the members pledge themselves to be provided with arms, and such other means of defence as the law places in their power, in order mere effectually to secure the objects of the Society [not signed]

North Wales Gazette (Bangor), 11 March 1813

I cannot pass over the ceremony of bundling, a mode of courtship that is still in full force in many parts of Wales. It is generally known, I believe, that bundling signifies the admission of the lover into the bed of his mistress; all scandal being hushed, not only by the universality of the practice, but by the prudent precaution adopted by the parties in keeping their clothes on. Unpleasant, and not wonderful consequences, nevertheless, do sometimes result from these very familiar conferences, and lovers have been known to rise from their mistresses beds, who could never be prevailed upon to lead them to church. But the situation of a lady, under such untoward circumstances, is not regarded with much harshness, and she may still hope for a husband. It is not uncommon for female servants in England to insist, as a condition of their service, upon their right of followers, and we were informed by a gentleman at Holyhead, that all his maids had stipulated, as a sine qua non, upon this primitive immunity of bundling. It were to be wished that the sex could be induced to abolish so dangerous a custom, but in addition to its agreeable nature, it is recommended by ancient use, and this has such weight in the principality, that I know not by what force of reasoning or art of persuasion it could be attacked with any hopes of success. I beg to say, before I quit the subject, that the Welsh-women, in spite of the freedom of their system of courtship, are not to be reproached with any general laxity of manners; they may be very indulgent in their secret conversations with their lovers, but it is not from their open behaviour that a stranger could decide upon the evils of bundling.
Ayton, Richard, A Voyage Round Great-Britain, Undertaken in the Summer of 1813 … with a Series of Views … by William Daniell, vol. 2 (London, 1815), p. 69

Bundling!-On Tuesday a female servant was taken before a Magistrate at Bangor, North Wales, under the following circumstances. Her master stated that she was a servant in husbandry; that he who had a wife and family, had been much distressed at detecting a man in bed with his female servant—that he had offered her the proportion of her year’s wages which would be then due, according to the time she had served, and designed to dismiss her immediately, but that the woman refused to leave the service upon these terms—She acknowledged before the Justice that his statement was correct, who ordered her to be dismissed the service, and to accept the wages her master offered, deducting from them the expences arising out of the proceeding. The Magistrate said, that if application had been made to him in the first instance, he should have desired her to be dismissed without the wages due to her, it being his wish to abolish the indecent custom of bundling, which prevailed in that neighbourhood.
Cambrian, 8 April 1815

Peter Roberts devotes a whole chapter to Marriage Ceremonies, but does not mention bundling.
Roberts, Peter, The Cambrian popular antiquities: or, An account of some traditions, customs, and superstitions of Wales … , pp. 159-168

Hymenial negotiations are frequently carried on by the Welsh peasantry in bed. The young swain goes sometimes several miles to visit the object of his choice at her residence—the lovers retire to a bedchamber, and between two blankets converse on those subjects which the occasion suggests. This usage is confined to the laboring classes of the community, and is scarcely ever productive of those improprieties which might naturally be expected.
Rees, Abraham, [Born Llanbrynmain, Montgomeryshire, 1743], Rees’s Cyclopaedia, first published serially 1802-1820, vol. 37, (1819), ‘Wales’.
Rees re-edited Chambers cyclopaedia
Goodrich, Samuel Griswold, Manners and Customs of the Principal Nations of the Globe, (Boston: 1845), pp. 93-94 (and subsequent editions (1849)

It is at these rendezvous [a wedding party] that the custom of courting in bed commences. This usage is derived from the ancient Britons whom their descendants, the Welsh endeavor to imitate, and whom they hold in great veneration. If the woman consents, the parties retire to her house, and it is not known for a Welshman to fail to make reparation by after marriage – It is indeed not unusual for a girl? house to be summoned by strangers whose appointment has been previously concerted by some willing inmate unknown to the proprietor. This practice is with little variation adopted in the North of England.
Mr and Mrs Woolrych ‘Journal of a Tour in Wales performed during the summer of 1819’
NLW, 16630B, pp. 62-63

A custom peculiar to the Welsh is their method of courtship called Caru ar y Gwele. The gentry have used their utmost endeavours to abolish this custom, but hitherto without success; and as it cannot be justified on the principles of prudence, or morality, it might suffice to express a decided disapprobation of the custom and drawing a veil over the subject, proceed to speak of their marriages.
Batenham, A., The traveller’s companion in an excursion from Chester through North Wales. Imprint Chester : Printed for G. Batenham, by R. Evans, [182-?]
The traveller’s companion in an excursion from Chester through North Wales. Imprint Chester : Printed for G. Batenham, by R. Evans, [1825?]
The Traveller’s companion in a pedestrian excursion from Chester through North Wales, including a description of the suspension bridge at Bangor. (Chester [1827?]), p. 61
The traveller’s companion in a pedestrian excursion from Chester through North Wales, including a description of the suspension bridge at Bangor. (3rd. ed.   [n.d., after 1831])

This book devotes chapters to the stories of various individuals the author claimed to have met but this story is more like a gothic horror, for the subject of the story was wrongly transported for injuring a man and returned after fourteen years to find that his former girlfriend had been killed by the man whom he had injured.
I am the only son of the proprietor of a small rhos, or poor mountain farm, that runs down to Llandyssil. It seems to me, in my partiality, one of the loveliest spots in the creation. … My father, who was educated at St. Peter’s, Caermarthen, had acquired some smattering of Latin, and spoke English without an accent …
You have heard of the custom of Caru, which the Americans denominate bundling. It is almost universal in this country, and is doubtless extremely ancient, for we Britons, in preserving our language, have preserved with it the primitive manners of our ancestors. This mode of courtship, you, I know, look upon as barbarous, but the annals of our parishes will prove it in general to be an innocent one, much as you may think the contrary. … my attachment to my cousin was encouraged by both families, and it was mutually agreed, that our bidding should take place as soon as we were of age.
I was sixteen when I first began to ‘caru an gwilly,’ with my little Mary. No language possesses so many terms of endearment as ours; our ‘ungariad y’, (sweetheart,) lodis bach pert, (pretty little dear,) “anwyl bach,’ (my pretty dear,) seem to me the most musical of all sounds; and in the confidence of our hearts, that throbbed with one impulse, many a night have we lain awake lavishing them on each other, and raising air-built plans for our future years that imagination made more real than realities.
For two years, every Saturday night did I share her couch – Years ! they were moments ! there was a flood of rapture in them that has made all the course of my long life seem made up of shoals and shallows. Harbour a thought against her innocence! no; passion formed a small part of what I felt for her. Some might suppose that I was not happy, that a communion not of souls alone, but of the senses of our whole nature, is thirsted after, and becomes an imperious claim and a necessity in lovers. I know not how others feel, but I thought there was no greater heaven than in her arms, and morning found her sleeping in mine with no blushes that night had need to have concealed. Would you coldly censure would you condemn this intercourse! Was she not the soul of virtue? was not her honour dearer to me than my life? Was she not my betrothed – mine, by all the ties that twine about our hearts in infancy, that had been indissolubly strengthened by years into a bond of the tenderest affections? mine – by the protestations of unalterable love, a thousand times repeated and sealed by her lips.
Medwin, Thomas, The Angler in Wales, or Days and nights of sportsmen, vol. 1, (London: Richard Bentley 1834), pp. 122-127

WALES — In the lower class of people in Caernarvonshire, Anglesea, and part of Merionethshire, they have a mode of courtship which seem similar to that called tarrying in America ; the lover generally comes under shadow of the night, and is taken, without any kind of reserve, to the bed of his mistress. Here, as it is generally understood, with part of his clothes on, he breathes his tender passion, and tells how true he loves;” and hence it is no uncommon thing for a son and heir to be born within two or three months after the marriage ceremony.
Lady Augusta Hamilton ‘Marriage Rites, Customs and Ceremonies of all Nations of the Universe (1822), p. 172

American Customs. But there is no bundling in New England; that is confined to Pennsylvania, New York, and to the Dutch and German settlers, and their descendants. it seems a most unseemly custom for a young woman to go to bed (though the greater part of her clothes are not taken off) with a young man but those gentlemen who have been thus honoured, almost universally declare that they are not suffered to take any improper liberties. It is not unusual (such is custom) even for the mother—and a mother, too, of character and good connections, to invite a young man to bundle with her daughter. But America is not the only place where the custom of bundling exists; it is prevalent, to this very day, in our own island—among the Welsh.
North Wales Gazette (Bangor) 12 May 1825

Here we were surrounded by our countrymen and heard some strange tales of the manners and customs of the Welsh of Bundling, of their uncleanliness, of their abstemiousness … [but he says nothing else on these subjects]
Lloyd, Captain, A Diary of Journey from Charring Cross, London, through Wales, by Captain Lloyd, 1827, NLW MS 786A, p. 22

This novel was based on a real character who lived in the early 16th century Cardiganshire but reflects the experiences and concerns of the author, T.J. Llewelyn Prichard at the beginning of the 19th century.
It may not be unknown to our readers that there has existed a custom, in some parts of Wales, time out of mind, of courting in bed; this comfortable mode of forwarding a marriage connexion prevailed very generally at Tregaron, to the great scandal and virtuous indignation of the lady of Squire Graspacre. It was amazing to witness with what energy this good gentlewoman set about reforming the people, by the forcible abolishment of what she was pleased to call, this odious, dangerous, blasphemous, and ungodly custom. Her patronage was for ever lost to any man or woman, youth or maid, of the town or country, who was most distantly related to, or connected with any person who connived at bed courtship. There was not a cottager who called at the great house for a pitcher of whey, skim milk, or buttermilk, as a return for labour in harvest time, but she closely examined on this head; and woe to the wretch who had the temerity to assert that there was no harm in the custom; or that that the wooers merely laid down in their clothes, and thus conversed at their ease on their future plans or prospects; or who denied that such a situation was more calculated for amorous caresses and endearments than sitting in the chimney corner. Mrs. Graspacre was certainly, most outrageously virtuous – a very termagant of decorous propriety! if any person dared, in her presence, to advocate this proscribed and utterly condemned mode, disdaining to argue the point, she would settle the matter in a summary manner, peculiarly her own, by protesting she would have any woman burnt alive who would submit to be courted in bed. To such a fiery argument no reply could possibly be made; and in time she found her account in this silencing sort of logic which gave her her own entire unimpeded way in every thing, which wonderfully restored her equanimity, and saved both time and temper to the parties concerned, who otherwise might have spent their precious hours, and more precious patience, in idle and irritable discussions on the subject.
In the course of two years there were no less than four young men, and twice as many damsels turned away from her service for courting in the hay-loft; and on those occasions the poor girls never escaped personal violence from the indignant and persevering Mrs. Graspacre. In her flaming zeal for decorum, the tongs, the poker, the pichfork, or the hay-rake, became an instrument of chastisement; a double advantage was discovered in the terror thus created, the dignity of her sex being in the first place asserted and supported, and in the next, the offenders preferred running away without payment of wages, to standing the chance of having their heads or arms broken with a poker, or their bodies pierced by the terrible prongs of a pitchfork.
All the lowly dependants of Mrs. Graspacre found it their interest to become her spies, who soon vied with each other in giving the earliest intimation of any amorous pair who committed this most diabolical offence; and those who were least forward in bringing intelligence on this score, immediately sunk in her esteem, and were mulct of their allowance of skim milk and blue whey. But in time the old hen-wives of the neighbourhood discovered the virtue of sycophancy, and the efficacy of a little seasonable cant; and when they were not warranted by real occurences, they contrived to conciliate their patroness by drawing upon their own fertile inventions; or at other times hinted their suspicions of certain offending parties, always taking especial care to echo her language and blazon their abhorrence of all those imps of the devil who made love beneath a rug and blanket.
Not satisfied with these auxiliaries in the cause of virtue, the zealous Mrs. Graspacre enlisted on her side a very powerful champion, in the person of the reverend Mr. Evan Evans, the curate of Tregaron. Great was her mortification to find her attempts on the rector fail of success, as he declared it dangerous to interfere with the peculiarities and long established customs of the people; especially as he conceived it was rarely, that any bad consequence ensued from the mode in question: but when the evil really occurred, if a faithless swain delayed making due reparation, a gaol, exile from his native place, or a compelled marriage, held the young men in terrorum.
“Besides,” quoth the worthy old rector, with a hearty laugh, “that was the very way in which I courted my own wife, and many persons who are no enemies of virtue, consider it the best mode in the world, and were I young again, ha, ha, ha! egad I think I should pursue the same fashion.” “And I too!” cries Mr. Graspacre, ” as I have no objection in the world to the custom.” Had the foe of man appeared at that moment, as popularly identified-in sooty nakedness, with bloodshot eyes, and arrayed with hoofs and horns, – the stare of horror which distinguished the amiable countenance of Mrs. Graspacre, could not be more strongly marked. “You, Mr. Graspacre! you! I’m astonished, but” (with a severe glance at the rector) “when the shepherd goes astray, no wonder that the silly sheep follow his example;” with that she bounced out of the room, and slammed the door in a high fit of indignation, aggravated by the calm looks of the rector, and the provoking tittering of her own liege lord.
Prichard, T.J. Llewelyn, The Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti, Descriptive of Life in Wales, (Aberystwyth, 1828), pp. 33-35

‘Bundling discussed.’ In the evening, I went to Miss J, she was not at home. Her father said she was at her aunt’s, a short distance in the country, and asked me to accompany him there. I very willingly assented, and after we had gone some little distance en route, I revealed to my worthy friend the state of my heart, and assured him that all my future happiness was in his power, and that I only waited for the final ceremony. “Very well,” said he, ” I’a no objection; I like you very much, and I think my M like you too.” “I have already told her of my love,” said I, “and “have received from her an assurance of the “same for me; and I only, now, have to perform ‘de bundle.'” “Oh!” said old J ,”that is out of fashion now, but it was a good custom of giving the young folks an opportunity of seeing into each other’s dispositions; but you must speak to my sister, who’s very fond “of the good old customs.” I was very glad to hear him speak so favourably, and I was now congratulating myself on a novelty which I almost thought was impracticable.
On arriving at his sister’s house, which was a small neat little stone one, I met M in the hall, and in a true lover’s style, before papa, we kissed each other; and I was then introduced by my worthy “father-in-law” to ” aunt-y,” and we shook hands. Papa now explained to her who I was, and the fact of my having candidly stated that my whole happiness was in his hands. After a few kind remarks made by him, and assented to by the other, he said, I had suggested the propriety of “bundling.” “Well D ,” said the antiquated maid, “I admire the youth’s precaution, and although it ain’t much practised now a days, still that does not say it must not be: I think they’d much better bundle”
It was agreed that a bundling match was to be, and M was instantly informed of it, to which she bowed her immediate consent as a matter of course. This point being arranged, we had some supper, tout a fait a la Galloise, and then some singing; first by the daughter, then papa gave us a Bacchanalian Welch song, and with very excellent spirit. Next followed mine, an extempore Spanish song; any words that came into my head, to the air of ” Poor Mary Ann :” and the good folks paid me many compliments on my taste, as it was like a Welch air. In this way the time passed very pleasantly till all the arrangements for the interesting affair, above alluded to, were completed, and then 1 really think I should not be doing little M justice by a narration of what followed; so, with my reader’s permission, I will conclude the “bundling affair” here.
de Vega, Juan, [Cochrane, Charles,] The journal of a tour made by Señor Juan de Vega [pseud.] : the Spanish minstrel of 1828-9, through Great Britain and Ireland, a character assumed by an English gentleman, (London : Simpkin and Marshall, 1830, pp. 261- 263

Bundling … Pre-nuptial pregnancy is very rare
Anon, A guide to the beauties of Anglesey and Carnarvonshire : comprehending particular notices of Beaumaris, Carnarvon, Conwy, Snowdon, the Menai Suspension Bridge, Bangor, and every interesting place or object deserving the attention of the tourist. (Macclesfield : J. Swinnerton, printers, [c.1830]), p. 9

[1830, about]
The first purity society ever established in this country was founded in Cardiganshire, in the parish of Llangunllo, about 60 years ago. At that date, and even now, in those parts a custom euphemistically called bundling prevails to a great extent. It occurred to a famous Independent minister, of the name of Griffiths, of Horeb, to put a stop to the custom, and he preached and lectured against it. On one occasion he had the grandfather of the present Sir Marteine Lloyd, of Bronwydd, as chairman. His lecture on that occasion was published in pamphlet form, and a society pledging farmers and others to set their faces against bundling was formed at the close of the meeting.
Evening Express , 27 September 1895; County Echo, Fishguard and North Pembrokeshire Advertiser, 3 October 1895

Comments on Bundling in a section ‘On the Legends and traditions of Wales’
Cambrian Quarterly, vol. 4, p. 501

As to the courting in bed, similar to the Dutch custom called queesting, which seems to be a subject of ridicule with the English, on the indelicacy of their neighbours, I must confess that such a custom once existed in “days that are fled,” but it has become obsolete; and a mistaken notion seems to be entertained respecting it, for be it told they never went to bed without their clothes on such occasions, and all due regard was paid to decency, so that they were not so culpable as some imagine.
[Note:] This account, [was] sent by me and inserted in the Mirror.
Howells, W. Cambrian Superstitions, (1831), p. 169

MARRIAGES. The manners and customs which prevail in some parts of North Wales, where the primitive simplicity of the Welsh character still exists, are peculiar. {Payment of one shilling on marriage, payment of one shilling on the birth of a child, sixpence to the nurse and sixpence to the cook}
The custom of bundling or courting in bed, for which the Welsh have frequently been bantered, is only known in the most retired parts of North Wales; and even there is not practiced in the manner which the terms suggest to the minds of those who have had the happiness of living surrounded by all the comforts and conveniences of a more civilised state. It has arisen from the lowly circumstances in which the peasants live, and is totally dissociated in their minds from any idea of impropriety. In those thinly inhabited districts the peasant has to walk several miles after the labour of the day to visit his mistress; the night is far advanced before the lovers grow tired of each other’s company; the bedding of a Welsh hut presents but little alarm of ceremony; and from sitting, or perhaps lying, on the hearth, they have only to shift their quarters to a heap of straw, or fern, covered with two or three blankets, where they chat till the morning dawns. This courtship often lasts for years, ere the swain can prevail upon the damsel to accept his hand; and during this period, the virtue of the parties is equally secure as in those more polished societies where the preliminaries to the matrimonial state are conducted with greater ceremony, but perhaps less sincerity.
Leigh’s Guide to Wales & Monmouthshire: containing observations on the mode of travelling, plans of various tours, sketches of the manners and customs, notices of historical events, and description of every remarkable place, and a minute account of the Wye, with a map of Wales. . . (London, Samuel Leigh, 1831). First edition, with several subsequent editions up to 1844, pp. 15-16

[the custom was so common that] many gentlemen state that they must either overlook the fact of their female servants giving into it or make up their minds to employ only men or old women.
Report of the Commission to enquire into the Poor Law, appendix A, p. 180

Ten thousand times has Pedestres regretted that he never had an opportunity of witnessing, during his sojourn among the Welsh, the custom of cariad ar y wely “bundling,” or “courting in bed.”
The expression sounds funny—but don’t be alarmed. These people have often been bantered for this primitive and simple usage—it has been condemned by some, yet others have defended it as a thing conveying no idea of impropriety to the peasants themselves, but only to those who judge of the deed by their own conception of the expression.
By those who defend it as innocent and unavoidable from circumstances, it is said to have arisen from the lowly means of the peasants of North Wales, among the most retired of whom it is only practised; and that in their minds, the thought of impropriety is totally dissociated with it. The swain who would visit his lady-love, has to walk perhaps several miles after the work of the day is over – ” the night is far advanced before the lovers grow tired of each other’s company: the bedding of a Welsh hut presents but little alarm of ceremony; and from sitting, or perhaps lying, on the hearth, they have only to shift their quarters to a heap of straw, or fern, covered with two or three blankets, where they chat till the morning dawns.” There is nothing in this – but there is quite foundation enough for the devil to build a good tale upon. Some persons tell us that this courting in bed is a premeditated deed, looked forward to by the parties engaged with the sweetest anticipation. From authority which we believe to be good, we have heard that there is a great stretch of forbearance and self-denial exercised – indeed there must be – and that Tantalus, if all be true, suffered nothing in comparison with the tantalization of modern Welsh lovers. The damsel is put in bed, having nothing on but a strong flannel night-dress, sewed up at the bottom – don’t throw down our book in ire, chaste reader; for as we only record with the truth of the historian, that which has been given us well supported; those traits which appertain to the Britons, the ancient possessors of the soil, long before we Romans, Picts, Scots, Saxons, Danes, or Normans turned hitherward; we make no apology for relating them – the damsel then, is put in bed, clothed simply with a thick flannel night-dress fastened up at the bottom. Her adorer is allowed to lie by her side – which side we know not, but probably on her right, the place for all husbands; as that is the side he stands, when at the hymeneal altar with his bride – and it is positively enjoined that he shall wear trousers fastened with braces. They may here chat as long as they like, soberly and honestly; if but the least signs of impropriety are evinced on his part, the parents step in, and he is turned to the right about without ceremony.
What the advantages to be derived from this queer custom are, we are totally at a loss to determine ; but at all events we bless our stars that the anxieties of courtship are not prosecuted on a similar plan in England.
Anon (Pedestres), A Pedestrian Tour of Thirteen Hundred and Forty Seven Miles through Wales and England, (1836), chapter 5, p. 52

In no Country in the World is Chastity so little valued as in Wales and the loss of their Virtue is to be ascribed more to the continuance of rude and barbarous customs than to any innately bad or corrupt feelings in the female Mind.
At a very early age a youth attaches himself to a Young Girl, they keep company together. He is her acknowledged lover and future Husband. He accompanies her to all places of amusement, to the Public Houses and to the Fairs on every Holiday. They play together on the Beds which are to be found in every parlour in the sight and with the approbation of their mutual friends and Relations and are allowed to be alone after the Family have retired to rest. … When the Female becomes pregnant by this immoral practice of Bundling the Man to whom she swears the Child is expected to marry Her but as this formerly sacred obligation is not now in modern days always performed the natural consequence is that more illegitimate Children are born in Wales than in any other part of the Kingdom.
Williams, Richard, (Surgeon of Aberystwyth) ‘Observations on Parturition amongst the Poor in the Upper District of Cardiganshire‘, National Library of Wales, ms. 12165D; full transcription in Emyr Wyn Jones, ‘Medical Glimpse of Early Nineteenth Century Cardiganshire’, National Library of Wales Journal (1966), pp. 253-275.

James v. Jones.—This was a case of seduction. Mr E. V. Williams, in a very powerful and energetic speech, addressed the jury for the plaintiff; he said that the plaintiff in this Case was a widow, whose daughter had been, under a promise of marriage- seduced from the paths of virtue and honour, and had borne a child to the defendant, thereby causing a great expense to the plaintiff, and loss of the services of her daughter, besides putting her to the cost of maintaining the child. The learned counsel then called a number of witnesses (amongst them the unfortunate young woman, the daughter of the plaintiff,) who were subjected to a very severe cross- examination by Mr Chilton, but whose evidence was not in the slightest degree shaken by it. Mr Chilton then, in an eloquent address to the jury repudiated very much the practice of bundling, and calling several witnesses to prove that plaintiff’s daughter was previously of a notorious bad character. Mr E. V Williams replied at great length. The Learned Judge summed up commenting upon the evidence of the witnesses for the defence, in no very measured terms, and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, damages £50.
Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian. 4 April 1840

DOLGELLEY NEW ANTI-“BUNDLING” SOCIETY. A society has been established in this town for the suppression of courting in bed. The first meeting of the society was held at the Methodist Chapel last Sunday, and after it was over about seventeen men signed the pledge, all of whom were on the wrong side of forty. We believe that none of the females have yet signed, and many of them have expressed their determination not to do so until [remainder of report missing].
Cambrian, 5 December 1840

BUNDLING.—At the Carnarvonshire Assizes, in an action Thomas v. Jones, the plaintiff claimed damages for the seduction of his daughter. The defendant was a son of a respectable farmer residing at the same place.— It appears that the defendant had been paying his addresses to the young woman, who was now 26 years of age, for six years, her father having thought them too young to marry. She had since been delivered of a child. The most remarkable case was the production for the defence of a great number of young men, as witnesses that they had each courted the young woman after the strange and absurd “custom of the country.” Mr. Justice Williams in putting the case to the jury, commented on the absurd and perilous Welsh custom of courting in bed, but thought that, considering the usage of the country, it was not proved that the father had not shown that care and caution in the custody of his child which Welshman of his condition should take. Verdict for the plaintiff— Damages £20 and costs.
Cambrian, 3 April 1841

Apperley was from an English family but was born at Plasgronow, near Wrexham, in Denbighshire and married Winifred Wynn of Peniarth, Caernarvonshire. He was the agent for his brother-in-law’s estates between 1813 to 1819 and lived at Tŷ Gwyn, Llanbeblig.
There is one practice which surely ought to yield to the moral improvement that education is said to have effected in other parts of our island —and that is the extraordinary one of what is called “bundling”.
{Quotation from Rev. W. Bingley, M.A., above.}
This, we must allow, is very tolerant language of the reverend author; but not knowing, perhaps, so much of the bundling system as I myself do, he is in error when he says that it is “entirely confined to the labouring people.” There is not a gentleman’s house in either of the three counties he has mentioned [Caernarvonshire, Anglesea, and Merioneth] that bundling does not take place on every Saturday night, if not on other nights; at least such was the case when I knew those counties well. And to shew that good sometimes comes out of evil, I can name a little incident in reference to this apparently licentious practice.
“Do you go to bed,” said I to a reverend friend I was on a visit to in Caernarvonshire, ” with your dinner-room shutters not put to, and all your plate on your sideboard ?” “ No danger,” he replied; “the bundlers protect our houses tonight especially.” (It was Saturday). I wonder how many of Mrs. Martha Price’s genus, named “fusty old maids,” are to be found in these counties, forasmuch as Pope says,
“There swims no goose so grey but soon or late
She finds some honest gander for her mate;”
and we are sure no Caernarvonshire, Anglesea, nor Merionethshire damsel in a certain walk in life ever goes to her grave, unless it be a very early one, without knowing what it is to bundle.
Apperley, Charles James, (Nimrod, 1777-1843), My Life and Times, Fraser’s Magazine, (June, 1842), p. 682
Apperley, Charles James, My Life and Times by Nimrod, edited by E.D. Cuming, (1927), p. 106

DOMESTIC NEWS. At the assizes in Caernarvon, on the 18th instant, an action was brought by a poor widow, named Thomas, against a small shopkeeper named Pritchard, to recovery damages for the seduction of plaintiff’s daughter. It appeared that in the summer of 1838 the defendant became acquainted with Thomas, and after a short interval admitted to such terms of familiarity as to be permitted to “bundle” with the young woman, whose seduction was the cause of the present action. This practice of ” bundling” is still general in Wales, and the recognised mode of courtship. The suitor visits the house of his inamorata by night, and partakes of her bed, without, however, undressing, and thus carries on a courtship which generally ends in marriage. In the present instance the defendant either in taking advantage of the opportunities thus afforded him, or being unable to resist the temptation to which he was exposed, seduced the plaintiff’s daughter, and the result was, that she was delivered of a female child, which her mother was obliged to maintain up to the commencement of the action. Verdict for the plaintiff—damages £12. Another case similar to the preceding, was afterwards tried. The plaintiff (Williams) was a small farmer and a tailor, and a rigid Calvinistic Methodist; and the defendant (Owen) was a quarry man and the owner of a small farm. The plaintiff’s daughter was the eldest of seven children, and after three years “bundling” gave birth to a male child. Verdict for the plaintiff—damages fifteen pounds.
Monmouthshire Merlin   —   9 April 1842

CHARACTER AND HABITS OF THE WELSH. … It is after “service” too on Sunday evenings that appointments are generally made for the week, for that gross system of immorality which prevails here and is known by the name of bundling. …
Welshman   —   15 December 1843

MISCELLANEOUS INTELLIGENCE In a case of seduction (where a child had been got) tried last week at Carnarvon (see “Assize Intelligence”) the learned Judge denounced “Bundling,” the Welsh courtship. He stated it to be in every respect objectionable—indecorous in itself, and calculated to induce the most unhappy results – dangerous alike to both sexes, depriving the female of those extrinsic defences which frailty so much requires, and giving to her partner opportunities and impulses which must essentially tend to premature and illicit intercourse.
Welshman 31 March 1843

BUNDLING Two Welshmen, named Robert Roberts and Joseph Williams, were brought before the magistrates at Liverpool, on Saturday, charged with being found in the house of a Mr Wood, at the unseasonable hour of two in the morning. The two young fellows, it appears, were the sweet- hearts- of two Welsh girls employed as servants in the house, and these had thought it nothing wrong to adhere to the customs of their youth, and admit their friends to a midnight conversation, in their bedroom. As they could not enjoy happiness quietly, however, the other inmates became alarmed, and pouncing on the party, sent the gentlemen off to the watchhouse. The magistrate was highly amused at the drollery of the case, and dismissed the offenders with a reprimand. Shrewsbury News.
Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian 30 December 1843

A more general attention to the comforts and conveniences of the dwellings of the tenants, and, more especially, in reference to those of their house- servants, is most desirable. The larger portion of the farm- servants now sleep in the out-houses of the farmstead, with- out the least comfort about them, and entirely beyond the constraint of the master. To these habits some of the most demoralising features of our domestic character are attributable—”the bundling” the “Ceilylpren,” or Lynch Law of Wales and lastly, the ease and impunity with which the Rebecca movements were accomplished, having all the appearance of concert and well-digested design.
Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, 12 April 1844

What are you? A FARMER. My daughter has had a child by a young man, who is very respectable, and able to maintain the child, but will not give a farthing.— Is your daughter a pauper?—No I maintain her. The badness of the times makes me feel it. I must send her to the workhouse.—Is your daughter’s child by a farmer’s son -Yes. (p. 203), Mr. Davies of “the Independent connexion” told us that girls in this unfortunate way were generally servant girls, who know nothing of the law, and never read or think much about it.” By this we suppose Mr. Davies was anxious to let the Commissioners infer that none but servant girls “bundle.” Had we been at the Commissioners’ elbow we should have put the question home Do farmers’ daughters ever bundle ?” Is there one who is worth looking at that does not! And if so, whoever thinks of “law” or “reading” when the whole soul is engrossed in the act of bundling.” We remember an answer given on this very question by a sharp and intelligent girl:—” Bless your soul” says she folks never think of poverty, or law either, when once they get between the blankets.”
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 10 October 1846

Anrhydeddus yw priodas yn mhawb, a’r gwely dihalogedig; eithr putteinwyr a godinebwyr a farna Duw – Heb xiii, 4
(Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled ; but God will judge fornicators and all the sexually immoral.)
[Appears to criticise the practice of bundling]
Elias, David, (Pentraeth ) Sylwadau ar y pechodau o ieuo yn annghydmarus a’r digred, a’r arferiad lygredig sydd gan rai ieuengctyd digrefydd yn ein gwlad yn ei rhag-gyfeillach : yn nghydag esgeulusdra penau-teuluoedd i wrthwynebu y llygredigaeth : wedi ei gyhoeddi trwy anogaeth cyfeisteddfod Cyfarfod Misol y Trefnyddion Calfinaidd yn Môn (1845), 16 pages

We allude to Mr. Tremenheere’s Report for 1846, under the provisions of the Act 5 & 6 Vic., c. 99, to inquire into the state of the population in the mining districts. …
… in the Reports presented to Parliament by the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the causes of the Rebecca riots, where the fine religious feeling, and its consequent, illegitimacy, is treated at full length. There he will find, shocking to say, Elders sons, and Elders themselves deeply immersed in “the oldest sin.”
When we were at Ystradmeuric we remember a degree of ingenuity, and a knowledge of Scripture not often equalled, triumphantly displayed by a celebrated Elder in order to get out of a difficulty occasioned by a frailty of this kind. Rhysin y Siop was an Elder of Pont Aberberwm. After the fashion of that country, Rhysin, like the rest, would go “a bundling” as soon as the “Seit Brivat” was over. The usual results of bundling followed as a matter of course. Rhysin and Lydia were both of them members of the “Seit Brivat.” The awful evening of examination arrived, Rhysin was questioned before the whole Conclave. Rhysin answered humbly and penitently: “Yn wir, peth whantol iawn ydyw Cnawd; ag hynny ddywedai’r ‘Sgrythyr hefyd ‘Yr Ysbryd yn ddiau oedd yn barod’— i beidio, ‘eithr y cnawd oedd yn wan.” Anglice: “Indeed, very tempting is the Flesh and so says the Scripture The Spirit indeed was willing’—to forbear, ‘but the Flesh was weak’ and would not.”—Whereupon several old women immediately cried out” Gogoniant, Gogoniant! Glory, Glory!—Amen and Amen!” Now the result was this: Rhysin was a man of substance; he paid his five shillings towards Meeting expenses quarterly and most regularly: he was, too, a man of great unction and full of grace. He made Lydia an honest woman nothing more was said about it: he always continued an Elder, and is, we believe, now, or, at all events, was very lately, an Elder still, powerful in prayer and mighty in drink.
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 19 September 1846

The system of bundling, or, at any rate, something analogous to it, prevails extensively. The unmarried men-servants in the farms range the country at night, and it is a known and tolerated practice that they are admitted by the women-servants at the houses to which they come. I heard the most revolting anecdotes of the gross and almost bestial indelicacy with which sexual intercourse takes place on these occasions. vol. 1, p. 33
The want of chastity results frequently from the practice of “bundling,” or courtship on beds, during the night a practice still widely prevailing. vol. 2, p. 294
“The youth of both sexes are very unchaste, and do not consider promiscuous intercourse any disgrace, which is chiefly owing to the want of proper education ; to the ancient practice of bundling, or courting in bed, still prevalent ; to the construction of their dwellings ; and to the bad example of their parents.” vol. 2, p. 299

Reports of Commissioners of Enquiry into the State of Education in Wales, (London, 1847)
[This is all the report has to say specifically on bundling (the term Caru yn/ar y Gwely was not used in it): it has far more to say about illegitimate births generally, e.g. Part 2, pp. 56-57

For more comments on bundling, prompted by the report, see:
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 18 September 1847
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 15 January 1848
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 5 February 1848
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 12 February 1848
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 7 October 1848

Evidence of John Johnes, Esq.—Immorality exists between the sexes to a considerable extent, chiefly among farm servants. The main cause is perhaps the imperfect arrangements in the older farm-houses, which leave the sexes too much together, and this even at night. … The system of bundling, or, at any rate, something analogous to it prevails extensively. The unmarried man-servants in the farms range the country at night, and it is a known and tolerated practice that they are admitted by the women-servants at the houses to which they come. Evidence of Mr. W. Rees.-The farmers connive at young people meeting in their houses after the family has retired to rest. Evidence of Messrs. Roberts, Glantowi.-The male farm-servants sleep in the out-buildings, and keep what hours they please: the women ask leave to go out in the evening, and then the men meet them at the public- houses, of which there are 14 in the town here (among a population of 736) and 8 between here and Llandilo, a distance of 64 miles; in this way much immorality takes place.
Welshman, 10 December 1847

WELSH DISSENT. To the Editor of the Monmouthshire Merlin. SIR,- I have addressed the following letter to the Editor of the John Bull, partly in reply to a series of articles appearing in that paper upon “Education in Wales”, and partly in justice to myself and Church at Tredegar. As the subject is of considerable importance, I take the liberty of requesting the insertion of my letter in the MERLIN, and perhaps that I will ask the same favour for others which I intend to write in defence of my country and my religion, against the most unfounded and libellous attacks that ever disgraced the columns of a newspaper. I am, Sir, yours very respectfully, EVAN JONES, Tredegar.
“WELSH DISSENT. To the Editor of John Bull. “SIR,—I have just received your paper for the 15th inst., in which I perceive an attack upon myself from the prolific pen of my eminent friend ORDOVICIS. …
I proceed to his crowning charge against Dissenting Ministers. After detailing the manner in which the intercourse among the young people is carried on, which is generally known by the term bundling, he states, ‘This practice is quite national in Wales. Prevalent as it is, however, Dissenting preachers never raise their voices against it.’ This charge, sir, I beg to contradict in the strongest terms that my respect for your readers will allow me to employ. It is utterly devoid of truth. The father of lies himself never uttered, nor prompted the utterance, of a more abominable falsehood. Happily, our periodical literature, and other authentic and public documents, contain abundant evidence of the truth of my assertion. Within the last few months, a Dissenting minister has offered a premium for the best essay on the subject. The Calvinistic Methodists, in their connexional capacity, furnish a monument, firm as our everlasting mountains, of the groundlessness of this malicious charge I challenge ORDOVICIS to the proof of his statement. I am willing and ready to meet him in any of the principal towns of Wales, to submit the question to an audience of our countrymen, Individually and collectively, in private and in public, from the pulpit and from the press, Dissenting ministers have raised, and do raise, their voices against the degrading habit, wherever it exists.
Monmouthshire Merlin, 5 June 1847

In reference to the subject, of the Rev. J.W. Trevor’s charge, the Curate of Llanbeulan observes, in his Essay, p. 132 :— “The more respectable part of society in the Principality, set themselves against the habit (bundling), and allow nothing of the kind to their knowledge in their houses. Expulsion is the immediate consequence when servants are found to indulge in the practice. The Calvinistic Methodists as a body have for years carried on a war against it.”
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 29 January 1848

[Sketch appended to a letter from W Jones, Nefyn re The Welsh Layman’s letter]
The following account was obtained on oath by the Magistrates at Caernarvon “Three men accompanied three women from Chapel to the farm house in which the latter resided, in the parish of Llanddeiniolen. The purpose was bundling in bed. In the course of the night each of the three men had connexion with every one of the women. One of them became pregnant and attempted to affiliate the child on the man she liked best; but the man, to save himself, produced the above evidence. As to the truth of this statement, enquire of the Magistrates at Carnarvon W. JONES.
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 19 February 1848

Mr GRIFFITH AND MR BOOKER [Witnesses who provided evidence for the Blue Books report?]
To the Editor of the Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian. Sir  [Defence of the chastity of Welsh women]
I do not allude to the disgusting custom of “bundling,” which, strictly speaking, is not practised in the hilly districts but to the scenes that occur every afternoon in every public-houses in these parts.
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette, 11 March 1848

The commissioners have entirely lost sight of these distinctive features. It is amusing to note with what sanctified horror they narrate the practice of bundling,” or “courting in bed,” which prevails in some parts of North Wales. How their delicacy revolts at the idea! And yet, a more minute inquiry would satisfy them that it is in the idea only that evil exits The same practice prevails to an equal extent in the New England Slates—probably the most moral country in the world. It is notorious, that in both cases this custom is seldom or never abused and a reference to the government returns proves the number of illegitimate births in the former instance to be greatly exceeded in many of the counties of England.
Monmouthshire Merlin, 25 March 1848

CORRESPONDENCE The inhabitants of the City of Bangor must have had a high treat, on the evening of the 13th inst., at the theatrical representation held in the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, under the presiding genius of the celebrated Dr. O. O. Roberts—alias A Welsh Layman. Mankind must have their amusements, and that, very often, at the expense of one another. In this there may be no great harm, but to afford amusement at the expense of truth is what cannot well be tolerated. Leaving aside, for the present, the mass of unfair representations and inferences made, in regard to the state of the Church in the days of the Vicar of Llandovery, and the statements in reference to the period when Griffith Jones, of Llanddowror, and a host of other Churchmen, worked with so much assiduity, in endeavouring to bring about a reformation, I shall only notice some unfair use made again of ‘An Essay on the Character of the Welsh as a Nation, &c.’ I am not aware, that in a single instance, the statements of this Essay have been fairly made use of, in the discussions which have been laid before the public. The speaker who made use of the Essay, at the Bangor meeting, was Mr. K. O. Williams. He represents the Non-conforming denominations of North Wales,” as excommunicating every member found guilty of fornication. This I believe, and I have never stated anything to the contrary but what follows is new to me, and I am not inclined to give it credence; i.e. that those members who allow courting in bed in their houses are excommunicated. The speaker proceeds in the same strain; and in corroboration of his remarks, produced a passage from my Essay. “Expulsion is the immediate consequence when servants are found to indulge in the practice.” But why not attend to the connexion of this sentence. I confess I had not the “Nonconformists” of Wales in my mind, when I made the above remark, and, I think, the preceding sentence proves sufficiently that such was the case. I had my eye on the clergy, and the more respectable portion of the community as regards property. I never heard of any dissenting householder who expelled a servant for bundling in bed; and I do not believe that such an occurrence took place since the Welsh have inhabited Gwyllt Walia. I should be glad to know that the contrary were the case.
In the next place I am made to testify, in my evidence, that” pilfering and stealing are very common” and the speaker says, “That which is true of Wales generally as respects morality, I am credibly informed is true of Lleyn separately. We shall, therefore, take these charges as affecting North Wales generally.” You are nor, sir, at liberty to take my evidence, in this particular, as affecting North Wales generally, nor of Lleyn particularly, but of the parts of it which lies more contiguous to my residence. I will not bear the burthen of charging either Lleyn or North Wales generally with pilfering and stealing. I have made all the explanation and defence, which the case admits of, in a letter which appeared in the Herald of the 12th February. The challenge given in that letter his not been accepted, and I have been informed, by one who felt himself aggrieved by the evidence, that the explanation in that letter was satisfactory. I must say. I wish most sincerely that my evidence had been founded on wrong information, or, if you like, on illusion. I would immediately make known that I had been labouring under a mistake. If there be mistakes, they must have been committed by others and not by myself. As far as I can discover the evidence, with the explanations I have given, is immoveable, and I can recall nothing. Neither will I allow that there is the least inconsistency between the statements of the Essay, taken fairly and as a whole-, and the testimony recorded in the Report of Mr. V. Johnson.
I remain, Your servant, Nevyn, 29th March 1848 [Rev.] W.JONES
We once more protest against the impertinence of our correspondent in presuming to individualize another, who by his signature evinces a disposition to be latent.-ED. OF HERALD
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 1 April 1848

ln a letter of yours that appeared in the last Herald, I am charged with having, in my speech on Mr. Vaughan Johnson’s Report, on the 13th ult., made an unfair use of your “Essay on the character of the Welsh as a Nation”. Having carefully compared the statement in your Essay to which you refer with what I have stated on the occasion adverted to, I cannot conceive that you have any reason to complain of the use I made of it. The passage which you state I have misapplied is the following “Expulsion is the immediate consequence when servants are found to indulge in the practice”. Your statement was not quoted, as you insinuate, to prove that the Non- conforming householders of Wales alone discourage fornication, but that householders generally discourage it, and show their disapprobation of it, by expelling those of their servants found guilty of committing the sin. That I had not the Nonconforming householders of Wales exclusively in view, every person, who will attentively read my statement, next preceding the quotation from the Essay, will perceive. I had already referred to the modes adopted by the dissenting denominations to discourage fornication and bundling; and, in the section you advert to, my object was to prove that householders universally, without regarding them as belonging to my religious sect, discouraged the evil. You seem to doubt that the members of the dissenting bodies who are proved to be guilty of permitting “bundling in bed” in their houses are excommunicated. I can assure you that it is a rule among the Calvinistic Methodists to excommunicate every member found guilty of permitting this practice in their houses. Instances have very lately occurred of persons being excommunicated for this very offence, but I would not like for several reasons to make the names of the parties public. I am quite surprised to find that in your letter under notice you indirectly charge the dissenting house- holders with encouraging the practice of courting in bed. “I never heard” you state “of any dissenting householder who expelled a servant for bundling in bed, and I do not believe that such an occurrence took place since the Welsh have inhabited Gwyllt Walia! I should be glad to know that the contrary were the case.” I am quite astonished that you do not know that the contrary is actually the case, especially when I consider that you feel yourself competent to delineate the character of the Welsh as a Nation. Instances of servants being discharged by dissenting householders for courting in bed are to be found everywhere, and are of continual occurrence. I have not the least hesitation in stating that hundreds of such instances could be easily found. I can, from a very small compass, furnish you with a great number of instances of this kind and for your satisfaction, I shall name four Welsh dissenting house- holders, who have expelled at least a servant each for courting in bed. The following are named as instances, because they are generally known throughout the greater part of Carnarvonshire and Anglesey Mr. Richard Roberts, Castell, Llanddeiniolen, farmer; Mr. William Roberts, Lledwigan, Anglesey, farmer; Mr. William Hughes, High-street, Bangor, pork butcher; Mr. William Parry, Penylon, Bangor, butcher. You complain lastly of my having unfairly applied your evidence respecting pilfering and stealing, as affecting Lleyn, and not the parts of it which lies more contiguous to your residence. If you only intended those parts which lie more contiguous to your residence, I freely admit that I have misunderstood you. But let it be granted that you only charged the people of your own neighbourhood with pilfering and stealing I think that I have no reason whatever for drawing a contrary inference to what I have already done from your evidence. Respecting Nevin, the parish where you live, and against the people of which you have brought the charges under notice, I am informed by highly respectable persons, that the people of that place are by no means more notorious thieves and pilferers than the people of Wales generally, and that that which is true of Wales generally as respects honesty, is true also of Nevin individually. I do not doubt that there are dishonest people even at Nevin, but it would be highly improper to make this a general charge against the people of that place, the greater portion of whom are very industrious and honest persons. I am, Sir, yours obediently, R. O. WILLIAMS. Bangor, April 5th, 1848.
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 8 April 1848

[Headline missing, but this is a review the ‘Blue Books’ Report]
In regard to the other charge brought against these unhappy men—that of slandering and vilifying the morals of the Welsh—little needs be said. That business is not to the point. Whether they have overdrawn the picture, or not, no way affects the present matter of public education. The anti-state party appear to have eagerly fastened on this, part of the accusation, as if it afforded them a better ground for controversy than they could find in the educational affair and the recent meeting held in this town was professedly convened as having for its principal object a protest against the wholesale slander which Welsh morality had suffered from these reports. But this is sacrificing the question to that which is not the question. Whether the bundling system does or does not prevail to the extent which has keen asserted, leaves as it was the question whether children should be trained in that perverted geography which makes Cardigan the chief town in Pembrokeshire.
Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, 21 April 1848

Sir “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good”. The stir which the report of the Commissioners on Education in Wales has created, …
As a Welshman, I would, I could deny it, but the fact is too notorious and sustained by too many in- stances of moral debasement, which constantly crowd upon the attention of the magistracy and parochial authorities, to attempt it. The act of bundling is a state of barbarism, and to attempt to extenuate it by comparison of its fruitful consequences in illegitimate offspring with other parts of the kingdom, is to encourage the odious practice. The old adage tells us that two blacks will not make a white, so likewise to palliate such evil (as many of your correspondents do), by setting up the delinquencies of others, and saying we are not worse than they are, will not exonerate us from blame, nor cleanse us from so foul a blot on our nationality. To attempt to throw the blame on one another is unworthy of us it is the duty of all to set about the work of reformation, and certainly as the dissenting body forms so great a majority of the inhabitants of the Principality, so in proportion are they expected to do their duty in enforcing the iniquity and sin of a continued indulgence in such vice and immorality. Much good is wrought by example, but example can only be brought home to the parties guilty of this wicked and abominable propensity, by reasoning and expostulation, and as the class of persons who are found most in the practice of it, are those in service, it should be the duty of every master and mistress, upon hiring, to make a stipulation that bundling is absolutely prohibited, and to explain its crime and no opportunity of making known to the rising generation the state of degradation Wales is brought into by the continuance of this iniquitous and foul practice should be neglected. … With the exception of the one abominable vice of bundling, and its consequences already so fully noticed, Wales, is comparatively free from crime.
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 5 February 1848

Hymenial negotiations are frequently carried on by the Welsh peasantry in bed. The young swain goes sometimes several miles to visit the object of his choice at her residence – the lovers retire to a bed chamber, and between two blankets converse on those subjects which the occasion suggest. This usage is confined to the labouring classes of the community, and is scarcely ever productive of those improprieties which might naturally be expected.

Review of The Welsh People. Wales, Its Social and Moral Condition, Language, be., considered in relation to Education. By Sir Thomas Phillips.
… want of chastity in the women, occupy a foreground … and “bundling” a relic of more innocent times, being no doubt the proximate causes)
Monmouthshire Merlin, 12 May 1849
[In his chapter on Moral Character, Phillips didn’t mention bundling, but used statistical evidence of illegitimacy to show that the accusations in the Blue books that there was a higher rate of children born out of wedlock in Wales was incorrect. According to the figures he presented, Wales was about the same as the average for England.]

Bundling (and pre-marital pregnancy) would not be reduced for a generation or more.
letter in Y Geiniogwerth (1849),

Nid ydym i anghofio ychwaith fod un drwg neillduol yn anurddo nodweddiad anrhydeddus Merched Cymru. Tra y dirmygwn hyd ddyfhderoedd ein henaid y tylwyth sydd wedi ymdrechu gosod anniweirdeb Cymru allan fel pla arswydlawn, o’r hwn y mae Lloegr a gwledydd ereill yn rhydd; a thra yr ydym yn barod i brofi fod Cymru yn sefyll ar dir uwch nac oclid un wlacl ar gyfandir Ewrop, etto nis gallwn gelu ein mawr ofid calon am fod achlysur i’r gelyn gablu. Hoffem weled Cymru yn BUR. Hoffem weled pob plentyn o’i mewn yn gallu adrodd enwau ei dad a’i fam heb wridio. Hoffem glywed pob gwraig yn gallu cymharu dydd ei phriodas a dydd genedigaeth ei chyntafanedig, yn ddi-floesgni. Dymunem weled pob gweithdŷ heb un bastardd o’i fewn. Carem welecl priodasau anamserol yn cael eu gochel; a dymunem weled holl ieuengctyd ein gwlad yn credu a’u holl galon ac a’u holl enaid, mai “anrhydeddus yw priodas yn mhawb a’r gwely dihalogedig.” ” Hon yw yr addysg a ddysgodd ein mam” i ni, a hon a fwriadwn gymhell i sylw difrifolaf cenedl y Cymry.
(We are not to forget that there is one particular ill which mars the honourable character of Welsh Women. While we deplore from the depths of our souls the tribe who have attempted to portray the Welsh lack of chastity as a fearful plague, from which England and other nations are free; and while we are ready to prove that Wales stands on higher ground than any wilderness in the continent of Europe, yet we cannot hide our deep sorrow that the enemy should have cause to blaspheme. We would like to see Wales PURE. We would like to see every child in it being able to recite the names of his father and mother without moaning. We would like to hear every woman being able to compare the day of her marriage to the date of her first birth, without fuss. We want to see every workshop without a single bastard inside. We would like to see untimely marriages guarded; and we wish to see all the youth of our country believe with all their heart and with all their souls, that “marriage is an honor to all and the despoiled bed.” “This is the education our mother taught us”, and this is what we intend to bring to the most serious attention of the Welsh nation.)
Anon [Ieuan Gwynedd (Evan Jones, 1820-1852)], ‘Anerchiad’ (Address), Y Gymraes, cyf. 1, (1850), p. 6
Similar concerns about the lack of chastity among the Women of Wales were expressed in other articles, mostly by men in Y Gymraes. For comments on this see Jane Aaron, Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing in Wales: Nation, Gender and Identity, (2010), pp. 83-87

1852 Wales
{Long discussion on accusations against the Welsh concerning bundling, ‘unchastity’ and illegitimacy. He quoted:
*Mr Symonds, one of the Commissioners who gathered evidence on the state of Education in Wales (The Blue Books), 1847 ‘the alleged want of chastity in the women’;
*Mr Johsntone in his report on North Wales ‘There is on vice (i.e. unchastity) which is flagrant throughout North Wales … It has obtained for so long a time as the peculiar vice of the Principality that its existence has almost ceased to be considered an evil’;
*Mr Pratt (see above)
‘I am not in a position to state when this belief was first formed, but I have met it in a variety of English works, geographies, histories and books of travels … ‘
{He then provides evidence to show that not only was illegitimacy common in other parts of the British Isles, but that Wales had a lower incidence of bastardy than elsewhere, except in some Anglicised parts.}
Stephens, Thomas, (Hu Gadarn) An essay entitled ‘The Working Men of Wales, compared with those of England, Scotland and Ireland’, which was awarded a prize at the Porthmadog eisteddfod, 1852, NLW MS 933B, Section 3, The Moral Character of the Kymry … pp. 217-244

1852, Anglesey
A joint Anglican and non-conformist campaign was proposed to reduce bundling. A public meeting was held in December 1852 at which ‘The Anglesey Society for the Improvement of Morals’ was established but it was not very successful.
Letter in Y Drysorfa (1852) from Mr Trevor to Rev. William Roberts
Jones, H., Cofiant y Parch William Roberts, Amlwch, (1869)

[We learn from Woodward’s admirable history of that kingdom, the following facts concerning the domestic habits of its people in the twelfth century:]
“At night a bed of rushes was laid down along one side of the room, covered with a coarse kind of cloth, made in the country, called brychan; and all the household lay down on this bed in common, without changing their dresses. The fire was kept burning through the night, and the sleepers maintained their warmth by lying closely; and when, by the hardness of their couch, one side was wearied, they would get up and sit by the fire awhile, and then lie down again on the other side. It is to this custom of promiscuous sleeping, that some of the worst habits of the Welsh at the present day may be ascribed; and from the same custom which their forefathers, the ancient Britons, practiced, arose Caesar’s supposition that they were polyandrous polygamists.” p. 320
“The laws which treat of the violation of the marriage bond and those which relate to chastity generally, recognize a degree of laxity respecting female honor, and, yet more remarkably, an absence of feminine delicacy, such as could scarcely be paralleled amongst the most uncivilized people now. They are of such a nature, that though most characteristic, they must be passed by with this general mention. The distinction between the Celtic and Teutonic races is perhaps in no case more plainly marked than in this: The Anglo—Saxon laws on this subject (always excepting those of the ecclesiastical authorities) are modesty itself, notwithstanding their plain speaking, compared with those of the Welsh legislators.
Stiles, Henry Reed, Bundling; Its Origin, Progress and Decline in America, (1869, 1871) quoting Woodward, B.B., History of Wales (London, 1853), p. 186

This was an action brought by Mrs. Elizabeth Morgan against the defendant, Mr. Walter Morgan, for damages for the loss of the services of her daughter, occasioned by her alleged seduction. … The custom of the country might, in some parts of the principality, be pleaded on behalf of the practice known as “bundling,” but it did not the more justify the want of caution exhibited by the plaintiff, in leaving young people together when the family had retired.
Monmouthshire Merlin, 2 August 1856

1856, Llanfairfechan
Sarah still sat by the kitchen fire. … I wished her goodnight and went upstairs … I saw Sarah going over the yard and to the half-open door of a shed from which crept out a figure that … appeared to be none other than Owen. … the Phyllis of my farm had devised things more comfortably. She came back across the yard, her faithful shepherd behind her, then into the house and into the kitchen … I heard only a sound which indicated that Owen was taking off his boots and Sarah her shoes. And truly in stocking feet they came up the stairs, past my chamber and into Sarah’s little room opposite.
“No!” I cried out – “that is too much! that goes beyond the bounds of decency! that’s unheard of ! This girl is barely eighteen … Celts! I should have known that it’s in their blood. Perhaps we are living in a paradise here, where the serpent has not yet spoken!” …
{he spoke to the local schoolmaster about this, who said}
“You do the poor couple an injustice … what you observed … you can see in every Welsh farm where there is a daughter who is courted by the son of another farm. With us it is the natural consequence of a love affair seriously intended. … with certainty … they will soon marry. For this nocturnal visit is a proposal of marriage, and if it is accepted, then there will not be long to wait for the wedding. This caru-ar-y-gwely, called courting on the bed, is customary throughout Wales – the girl sits on her bed chatting to her beloved until the morning. But don’t believe that anything unseemly happens; the girl, who doesn’t think there is anything improper in a custom practiced by her mother and grandmother … would flee in terror from the lover who abused this opportunity … in a few days the news of this shamelessness would reach the ear of every girl in the neighbourhood, his friends would avoid him … indeed his whole future would be jeopardized.”
I said “as regards the custom, I should not like to recommend it areas where people have hotter blood and less sense of duty than the Welsh seem to possess. ”
Rodenberg, Julius, Ein Herbst in Wales, Land and Leute, Marchen under Lieder  (An Autumn in Wales: Country and People, Tales and Songs), (Hanover, 1858) pp. 29-30, Linnard, William (translator and editor), An Autumn in Wales, 1856: Country and People, Tales and Songs, (1982)
see Stevens, Catrin, Welsh Courting Customs, (Llandysul, 1993), p. 88
Linnard suggests that Rodenberg’s account of a wedding was fictional because it could not have taken place when he was there, so it is possible that the details of this event were also fictional.

The custom of ‘sitting up’ in England, with Cheshire and adjacent counties as particularly notorious.
Hinchcliffe, Edward, Bathomley, (London, 1856), p. 139

references to bundling (in French)
Esquiros, Alphonse, L’Angleterre et la vie anglaise: XXVI. Le sud du Pays de Galles et l’industrie du fer. Carmarthen, les eisteddfodau et les Iron-Works de Merthyr Tydfil. Revue de Deux Mondes 55 (1865) : 801-43

The plaintiff, who is a farm servant, sued the defendant, a farmer’s son, for £lOO damages sustained through the loss of an eye, the defendant having struck him with a stick under the following circumstances. The plaintiff up to the 25th of May last year had paid his addresses to Hannah Jones, a servant with the defendant’s father; and after the manner of the country, he visited his damsel after her master’s family had retired to rest. On the night in question he was accompanied to Vaynor-ucha where the defendant lived, by two lads, and having knocked at the door they were admitted by the two servant girls, and the three boys and the girls got into the same bed, on the loft, in another corner of which the defendant was in bed alone. Sometime about midnight the clothes fell off the bed in which the boys and girls were “bundling”, and Margaret Davies got up and replaced them, saying when she returned to bed that she thought John (meaning the defendant) was down from his bed. Hereupon the plaintiff remarked, “He had better not come here, or I’ll drive my fist through him.” The defendant says the words were, “The devil, if I could send my fist through him I would,” and one of the lads supplemented those words by the remark, “If I had a thumping stick I would give it to him.” To understand the case clearly, it will be necessary to state that the defendant’s bed was situated near the top of the stairs by which the boys entered the room, and by which also they were compelled to leave. According to the defendant’s statement, he was out of his bed about midnight, but was not near the girl’s bed. He did not know the boys were in the room until he heard them threaten him, and then he did not know who they were. Consequently he took hold of a stick which be found near his bed, to defend himself, if necessary, and in about half an hour afterwards, when the boys were about to return to their homes, and as they were coming towards the stairs, the defendant jumped out of bed, and struck the plaintiff two terrific blows with the stick, one on the head and the other on the right eye, which has been injured to such an extent, that Mr Douglas, the surgeon who attended the plaintiff states that it has become wholly and permanently useless. The defendant said he did not know he was striking the plaintiff, but seeing the boys coming towards his bed, after they had threatened him, he determined upon cracking their heads in order to save his own. He protested he did not get out of bed because, he felt lovely [sic] and unhappy, neither was he jealous because the plaintiff was courting Hannah. Mr Lascelles characterised the system of bundling as a disgrace to the country, and contended that the defendant was justified in striking, because he did not know who the parties were, but after the threats used towards him he had a right to assume that he was about being attacked.—His lordship, in summing up the evidence, said he wouldn’t offer an opinion upon the “bundling system,” as the council on either side had been pleased to term it; but there being no doubt that a violent assault had been committed upon the plaintiff by the defendant the only question for them to determine what amount of damages would be reasonable compensation to the plaintiff for the loss of his eye. In determining the amount, how- ever, they should not give such a sum as they would if it were a case of blindness, because the plaintiff would probably get on pretty well without the use of the injured eye. He had himself experienced a similar accident, having been deprived of the use of one of his eyes when young still he had got on pretty well since. But no doubt the loss of an eye to a person advanced in years was a greater inconvenience than a similar accident would be to a child.—The jury, after some half an hour deliberation, found a verdict for the plaintiff, damages £7 5s, being £2 for the plaintiff, and £5 5s for the surgeon.
Welshman, 17 March 1865; Aberystwyth Observer , 18 March 1865

Griff’s fair lassie, Ruth, was said at one time to be rather more than partial to the bonnie young country laddie, William ap Will Shon Williams, Will Shon’s son, but the feud between the parents had apparently put an end to what, no doubt, would have led to a warm courtship in bed, as was then the custom in the shire, and an innocent custom enough it was, although many of your readers will, no doubt, think it something dreadful, shocking,- alike to modesty and morality. Bless your heart, my dear sir or madam, as the case may be, “Bundling,” as it was called, was not so bad as it seemed to be, and by the county records it is plain the people were not alone as, but a little more, virtuous than we are in the present day. Every true lover feels in the presence of her he adores that she is to him earth’s dearest, brightest, treasure; every pain, disappointment, trial, vexation she experiences is felt by him, and bundling or no bundling, as the case may be, as I have said before, the young folks in those days set us an example in morals, to say the least of it.
HOW GRIFFITH THOMAS SPENT HIS CHRISTMAS. (Written for the COUNTY OBSERVER by Ap John Kent.) County Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser, 21 December 1867

The Dowlais Ironworks. (Abridged from the “Engineer.”) As for the traditional Welsh custom of “bundling,” we are told to believe that, where it prevails at all, it is only accepted lovers who enjoy the opportunity.
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 27 September 1867

ON Saturday last the Committee of the Carmarthenshire Agricultural Society met for the purpose of considering what should be done to improve the moral condition of the farm servants in this county. A special notice was sent to thirty-two members of the Committee, but only five of them attended. … Mr Powell, of Maesgwynne, who occupied the chair, suggested that the farmers should require a character with their servants. It was now the custom to hire servants without a written character. He gave the form of certificate, which he thought should be printed, leaving blanks in the ordinary way to be filled up as occasion required. He also suggested that the farmers should close their houses at 11 o’clock at night, and on no account allow the indiscriminate visiting among farm servants at all hours of night, which had tended more than anything else to the demoralisation of the servants. Sir James Hamilton thought some inducement might advantageously be offered in the form of a prize for good moral conduct; while Mr Gwyn asserted boldly that the blame lay entirely with the farmers, and that gentlemen might preach morality by the hour to servants of both sexes, but unless the farmers took the disgraceful practice in hand and put a stop to it, it would go on for ever. A long conversation ensued, and it was eventually resolved to issue an address in Welsh and English to the farmers of this county, urging them to assist in this movement by requiring a written character with their servants and by closing their doors at fixed hours every night against all visitors to their servants. This is a very simple way of removing the evil, and we have no doubt to some extent it will succeed. It is a disgrace to the farmers that they should countenance a practice in their own houses which is indecent and debasing in its influence, not only on the servants of both sexes but upon their own children. We wonder that from self-respect alone, without regard to any higher feeling, they have not long ago put a stop to it. One can scarcely believe it possible that a well-conducted and religious people should permit their servants to meet together at all hours of the night, under circumstances which we cannot describe without defiling the paper we write upon. It is no justification that the custom has come down from former times, or that the servants look upon it as a privilege comprehended in the hiring. The custom is in itself wrong socially and morally, and a foul blot upon the character of the Welsh people. If the records of the courts of justice throughout the country were published we should see the enormity of the evil; but the inquiries to which we refer are excluded from the papers, and all we find is the bare statement in official returns that illegitimacy stands very high in proportion to the population in the rural districts of this country. The figures do not reveal one-half the truth. They give none of the disgusting details which show how hard-working honest men and women lose that sense of shame and delicacy found in almost every class of society and how very little value is set upon female chastity. We unhesitatingly lay the blame of all this upon the farmers themselves. They open their houses at all hours for their servantmaids to receive the visits of the boys from some neighbouring farm. They understand the full meaning of “bundling,” a most significant word by which these visits are described. They know the sad consequences of this intercourse upon the morals of their servants. We repeat that the blame lies at the door of the farmers, and we are glad to find they are preparing to wipe out a reproach they have long felt. Let the clergy and dissenting ministers assist them. They have great power over [illegible] demoralising prevails they cannot keep silent or the very stones would cry out. We have been favoured with a copy of the address referred to in the preceding remarks, It has been prepared by Sir J. J. Hamilton and Mr Powell, who have both taken a very deep interest in the subject [illegible]
Respected Friends —You are all doubtless aware that at the late annual general meeting of the Agricultural Society of this County, the present condition of our farm servants excited considerable interest. The subject has subsequently occupied anxious attention, and we are of opinion that without your kind and influential aid all their endeavours to effect an improvement will be unavailing. We earnestly therefore invoke your cordial co-operation, in accomplishing the object which we have so much at heart, and we cherish the hope that it will not be withheld. We would suggest that you should all unite in a fixed determination not to engage into your service any candidate for employment, who cannot produce a bona fide written character from the situation in which he or she has last lived, and we would enjoin the greatest circumspection in granting such certificate. A form somewhat similar to the following might beneficially be adopted. A. B. has been in my employ as a servant in husbandry, for-years (or-months). I believe him, or her, to be honest, sober, cleanly, and industrious, and (in the case of a female) I have reason to believe that her moral conduct has been irreproachable. The attempt, however to ameliorate the condition of our farm servants would be altogether hopeless, did not you; freeholders, and tenant farmers, adopt such measures in your respective households, as may tend to restrain among the young people in your employ those habits of free and irregular intercourse, to which, at present, much unnecessary license is given in farm houses, and which only produce their natural results in the unhappy cases which are so frequently brought before the magistrates of the county, at their petty sessional meetings. We are induced to bring this subject under your consideration from our conviction that you recognize no obligation more imperative than the endeavour by every means in your power, to improve and elevate the moral and social condition of those over whom you can exercise a control. Believe us to be, Your sincere friends, JAMES JOHN HAMILTON. W. R. H. POWELL.
Welshman, 23 October 1868

Stiles, Henry Reed, Bundling; Its Origin, Progress and Decline in America, (Albany: Knickerbocker Publishing Company, 1869, 1871)
Includes extracts from Woodward, Pratt, Bingley, Barber, Carr

1869, Wales
The custom of Bundling in Wales was as follows. The man went at night to the bed of his lover, into which, retaining some of his outer garments, he was admitted by her without reserve.
These meetings were often conducted with much innocence, but sometimes the converse happened. This kind of courtship generally took place on Saturday or Sunday nights, and the man often walked long distances to the bundling. The custom is said to have originated in a scarcity of fuel, and the consequent unpleasantness of the couple sitting together in cold weather without a fire. The same mode of courtship was known in America under the name of tarrying, as we have before noticed (vide vol. i., p. 186).
Wood, Edward J., The Wedding Day in All Ages and Countries, Volume 2, (1869), pp. 98-99

1869 Cardiganshire
The laxity of morals among the female peasantry of Wales is unhappily notorious. The inveterate custom of night courting has destroyed all delicacy of character, and although marriage often follows, such irregular proceedings the rate of illegitimacy is high. In the face of the well-known Welsh custom of “bundling,” which is not confined to the agricultural population, I cannot charge to the employment of women in agriculture the immorality which undoubtedly prevails.
Report of Mr J Henry Tremenheere on Cardiganshire, Montgomeryshire, and Merionethshire (Visited in 1869, report dated 20.11.1869) British Parliamentary Papers, XIII, Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons, and Woman in Agriculture, Third Report (1870), p. 52

1870 Lampeter Velfrey, Pembrokeshire
The state of morality so far as intercourse between the sexes is concerned is exceedingly low; it is a rare thing for a young woman of the labouring class to be married before she is a mother or about to become one.
Evidence from Rev R Lewis, British Parliamentary Papers, XIII, Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons, and Woman in Agriculture, Third Report (1870), p. 115

1870 Monmouthshire
Most of the women married in these parishes are going to have a child and they see no harm in it. Bundling, though denied here, does prevail, and of course leads to worse.
British Parliamentary Papers, XIII, Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons, and Woman in Agriculture, Third Report (1870), p. 141

A newspaper report of a court case involving bundling.
Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard, 4 June 1870
Illustrated Police News, June 16 1870
County Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser   4 June 1870
Cardiff Times, 4 June 1870
Aberystwyth Observer , 4 June 1870

Our opinion of “bundling”—a Welsh custom more honoured in the breach than the observance – has recently been expressed. It still lingers in some parts the Principality, but ere long must become a thing of the past. The custom is unique, and pure, or rather impure, relic of barbarism, and should never have survived the decline and fall of Druidism, if indeed it existed when that was an institution of Wales. That bundling is no fiction a Government report has lately testified. But if there ever was any doubt on the matter a case disposed of at the Aberystwith County Court on Saturday dispels it. Mr. Charles Jeffreys, a gentleman residing at Gwynfryn, was charged with violently assaulting two young men, farm servants, whom he found in his maid-servants’ bedroom “bundling” and to whom he gave an “unmerciful” beating. The advocate for the defendant justly denounced the practice of “courting, or bundling, “as being the “stepping-stone to seduction, illegitimacy, and disgrace.” The gentleman on the opposite side agreed that the practice was an immoral and “uncivilized one, but considered the violence used was unjustifiable.” The Judge strongly condemned the practice of “bundling”, which he had hoped had been stamped out. The provocation was great, but he pointed out that there were but two instances in which a man was intitled to take the law into his own hands one in self-defence, and another when a person was caught in direct violation of domestic sanctity.” A claim of £100 was made against Mr Jeffreys, but the jury awarded £15 only in one case and £11 in the other. The report says that many sympathised with Mr. Jeffreys. We can readily believe this, and have no hesitation in adding that every person of decent notions will say that in punishing the aggressors he only “served them right.” It is to be regretted that the Law allows so open and deliberate a breach of morality.
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 4 June 1870; Cambrian [newspaper], 10 June 1870

THE WELSH PEOPLE AND WELSH PRESS. AS DESCRIBED BY THE SATURDAY REVIEW. It is not surprising that the ideas of our English neighbours respecting the thoughts and prejudices of our countrymen are so erroneous, when we bind in the columns of a leading English literary journal the following description of us—a description which will be laughed at for its absurdity in the Principality. …
Let us hope that English education will not end by giving the people only the fringe and tatters of English life and manners; frail and showy frippery in exchange for good, stout homespun; the cant of English Nonconformity for that of Welsh sects; the deceptive morals of our large towns for the avowed traditions of Welsh ‘bundling;’ and the unprincipled selfishness of English improvidence for the honourable parsimony of Welsh thrift.
Merthyr Telegraph, and General Advertiser For the Iron Districts of South Wales. 21 May 1870

IN last week’s impression we gave some extracts from the Third Report of the Women and Children’s Employment Commission, which is devoted to Wales. From those extracts it will have been seen that owing to many existing causes the morals of the Welsh peasantry are lamentably low. Upon the civilization of Wales there is a blur of long-standing, most disgraceful to the character of the people. There is nothing radically vicious in the nature of our peasantry; but, without attempting to relieve them of the responsibility which their peculiar sins and wickedness entail upon them, we regret to say that the odious manners and customs by which they are surrounded, and of which they are in a great measure the victims, are enough to blunt or entirely destroy their moral perceptions. Of the causes at work to produce much turpitude or corruption we shall mention two or three, and we are sure that in considering them many will be inclined to wonder that the state of the peasantry is not even worse than it is. As regards education, the Commissioners say that there are schools in every parish, but they are not well attended. In some counties the girls leave school at nine and eleven, and get farm-house work if they can. Boys are employed from eight years upwards in watching cattle, disturbing crows, or doing other trivial work of the farm. The small farmers, it appears, are less educated than the labourers, and they are too poor to dispense with the labour of their children. It will thus be seen that from an educational point of view Wales does not seem particularly attractive, and that within her confines there is ample room and verge enough for the new Act to be tested. Intelligence will keep closer than ignorance to Law, whether human or divine but where vicious habits prevail, habits so deep-rooted and widespread that they may unfortunately be called national, the probability is, that in the best educational armour of a peasant a joint will be found through which the poisoned arrows of custom will wound. Place any peasantry in the world in the same circumstances as the Welsh, and results similar to those which we deplore will assuredly follow. Those circumstances must be extirpated before a change for the better takes place in the condition of the people. The primary cause of Welsh immorality is the defective cottage accommodation. This is a fruitful source of immorality in all large towns, and the powers of civic bodies are continually taxed to keep down or diminish the evil. Throughout Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen the state of the labouring-class dwellings is exceedingly bad. When cottages, or hovels, are built without any regard to health, comfort, convenience, or decency, and when overcrowding ensues, gross immorality is the inevitable result. Physically, the inmates of such dwellings become seriously deteriorated morally, their debasement gradually proceeds until it is shockingly complete. All modesty is obliterated, and young people grow up with confused notions of chastity or virtue, and very little sense of decorum. Bred in hotbeds of licence, how can such young people arrive at “years of discretion”? They may ostensibly belong to religious communions, but the ground of all faith is cut away, and they sink into a gloomy and fearful abyss. Now, this deep-rooted social disease, which according to the Report is prevalent in Wales, is enough to destroy all the good qualities of the people. Under such circumstances religious admonition either in the home or the place of worship is nearly useless. It is only the finger of Providence that can touch the hearts of such people. Advice and good words seem to be wasted upon them, just as the best of seed will perish upon a sandy or stony soil. Ministers of the Gospel have much to contend with in their ministrations amongst the people, but their difficulties become almost insurmountable when they labour in the midst of a peasantry born and reared in the overcrowded dwellings of the poor. Of adamantine hardness and iron strength is that depravity which is the growth of years, which has spread its roots in the constitution, and which has shed a mildew upon the whole moral nature. Amongst a class bred up almost regardless of the decencies of life much morality could not possibly flourish. Morality and overcrowding are as incompatible as light and darkness, virtue and vice. They cannot co-exist. The immorality in question is in itself deplorable, and would cause a large amount of mischief even if no other causes existed. But there are unfortunately in vogue some lax customs which intensify the popular immorality, and give rise to the strong language used by the Commissioners in their Report. First, the system of farmers domiciling male servants in outhouses barns, and haylofts, entirely removed from all control. Secondly, the habit of hiring male and female servants at “mop fairs,” without inquiring as to character, and the excessive liberty allowed to them in farm service. Thirdly, the inveterate system of “night courting,” or “bundling,” which is said to have destroyed all delicacy of demeanour. As to the want of proper house accommodation, many landlords are alive to the pernicious consequences of the system which is rife, and are doing something to destroy it. When sufficient house accommodation, having regard to the decencies as well as the comforts of life, is within reach of the peasantry, the prime cause of their degeneracy will have been removed. The odious custom of the mop fairs should be abolished at once. They are nurseries of immorality of the blackest hue, and nothing good can come out of them. These fairs are said to be an irresistible attraction to the Welsh servants. Women it is stated, “often hire themselves out from mop day to mop day, and go back to the same place.” The fairs are regularly held in South Wales and they prove an unmitigated curse to the young people who attend them. Coarse revelry and brazen licentiousness are the characteristics of an institution which cannot fail to have the worst possible effect upon young men and women brought up in overcrowded abominable dwellings. Surely it is not necessary to wait for the spread of education to put down this rampant evil. If agriculturists would cease to patronize such infamous gatherings, the graceless custom would crumble to pieces. If the farmers would put their heads together, and if the authorities would take cognizance of a matter so glaringly vicious, a change would soon be effected. We know that the Welsh middle class are not slow in taking up a good cause with ability and vigour. It is not a necessity of their nature that real grievances should be allowed to flourish long before they are grappled with and strangled. In this respect they are certainly not behind any other section of the public. Everyone knows how long the foulest excrescence of the metropolis, Greenwich Fair, was tolerated before its charter was abrogated and its licentiousness quashed. And looking back now it seems a marvel that it was suffered to spread its moral contagion with impunity year after year. That the mop fairs are as disgraceful as fairs can possibly be, may be accepted as an irrefragable fact. Abolished they must be by and by. But why not abolish them before more irreparable mischief is accomplished, before more sorrow and shame are inflicted by them on hundreds of the young men and woman of Wales ? The practice has long been acknowledged to be an evil of no ordinary kind. A Government Report substantiates the worst that has been said against it, and the local authorities will be culpable indeed if steps are not taken at once to sweep it away. It appears that “bundling” still prevails in some parts of Wales. Let us hope that it is not general, and also that it is on the wane. How the custom originated is a question we do not care to have answered. Of its grossness and corruption there can be no two opinions, and why it should be continued in the present day is a problem which it would be difficult to solve. If parents have not the discretion or the power to cancel a habit so reprehensible and vile, it should be made a matter of police supervision, for it is no less than a flagrant outrage upon decency and morals. As a result of overcrowding, mop fairs, and “bundling,” the Vicar of Raglan says, “Most of the women married in these districts are going to have a child, and they see little harm in it.” The Radnorshire girls do not work now,” says the Vicar of St. Hermon’s “they are too fine for it and the morals decline as the pride increases.” There are plenty of natural children,” says a Welsh landlord, “but I think the number is diminishing and morals are improving. At the same time a woman who has two or three natural children, provided for at 2s. 6d. a week, is looked upon as a fortune, and very soon finds herself a husband the husband being very seldom the father of any of the children.” This is a wretched state of affairs. It recalls to mind the very large number of affiliation cases which are continually brought before the Police-courts of our own County of Glamorgan. But the lascivious manners and customs which have unaccountably crept into the community are sufficient to taint the morals of the most virtuous minded peasantry on the face of the earth. Let those customs be abolished, and let education and religion have unrestricted freedom, and the stain which now mars the fair fame of the Principality will soon disappear.
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 14 May 1870

Tyst A’r Dydd 28 November 1873

Yn erthygl olygyddol y Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald, am yr wythnos ddiweddaf, yrnliwir yn deg nad gweddus, nad dynol na Christionogol, gosod lodes ieuanc, na hen, o ran hyny, i gysgu ynosyn yr un ystafell a phedwar o ddynion-yn wir, nac un dyn. Y mae diffygion mewn lleoedd cysgu yn y ffermdai, nid yr oil, ond llawer o honynt, yn acbosi yr arferiad wirionffol a enwir “caru yn y gwely,” canlyniadpu yr hyn, yn ami, fel yn ddiw- eddar yn nghymydogaeth Bangor, sydd yn peri gofid i garedigion moesoldeb ein gwlad.
Tyst A’r Dydd 13 August 1875

… Tri path sydd yn ddianrhydedd i bobl ieuanc: Caru yn y gwely, hen gount arnynt pan yn priodi, a phlentyn yn y cryd yn mhen chwe mis ar ol priodi.
Tarian y Gweithiwr, 3 August 1877

The Welsh custom of bundling or courting abed needs no description. The Welsh words sopen [also sopyn bundle, truss, of hay or straw; small stack or mow of corn etc. in the field; term of abuse for a woman or female animal; soplen eg. bundle (GPC)] and sypio [to heap, pile bundle, pack, fold together, wrap, bind, squeeze together, collect, gather together; to gather together (of people) (GPC)] mean a bundle and to bundle … but there is a further meaning, equivalent to our word baggage, as applied to a strumpet. [Note: The Rev Dr Thomas, late president of Pontypool College whose acquaintance with Welsh customs is very extensive (and to [whom] I have been frequently indebted during the progress of these pages through the press), told me he never heard the word sopen or sypio, synonymous with bundling, used for the old custom, but only caru yn y gewlu. [sic] [end of note] The custom of bundling is still practiced in certain rural neighbourhoods of Wales. To discuss its moral character is not my province in these pages; but I may properly record the fact that its practice is not confined to the irreligious classes.
{Men and women who abused the custom by not marrying were killed – a more serious punishment than for murder.}
The vicar of Mydrim, Carmarthenshire in 1877, exercised himself with great zeal to secure its abolition {and not just bundling but other forms of courting amongst church and chapel congregations}
Sikes, Wirt, (1836-1883, United Sates Consul for Wales), British goblins : Welsh folk-lore, fairy mythology, legends and traditions; with illustrations by T.H. Thomas; (2nd edition, London, 1880; Boston, 1881), pp. 300-301

Concerning the custom of bundling (courting a-bed), on the other hand, his testimony is that it is still practised in certain rural neighbourhoods of Wales. He adds “It is only by breathing the very atmosphere of an existence whose primitive influences we may thus ourselves feel, that we can get a just conception of underlying forces which govern a custom like this. Of course it is sternly condemned by every advanced moralist, even in the neighbourhoods where it prevails.” An instance of bundling is given which came to the author’s knowledge so lately as 1877. In this connection he pertinently recalls certain laws of the ancient Britons regarding courtship, which were so severe that “any other issue to courtship than marriage was practically impossible.”
Review of Wirt Sike’s book ‘British Goblins, Welsh Folk Lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends, and Traditions. [presumably distributed before 1880]
Wrexham Guardian 27 December 1879; Weekly Mail, 18 October 1879

1879 Wales
Farm Labourers are apt to ramble about in the night time from one farm house to another, and the custom of the country allows female servants to admit the men to the farm-houses. There have been many fierce contentions as to the degree of immorality that prevails in Wales compared with other parts of the country. That the surroundings of farm-servants’ lives are conducive to immorality cannot be questioned, and that the results are not more serious must in part be attributed to the familiarity of people with conditions which if less common would be more likely to rouse the passions. It has been proved that bastardy is not more common in Wales than in England, but it is notoriously true that in the rural districts a large number of women are pregnant before they are married.
Gibson, John, Agriculture in Wales, (London: 1879), p. 49 

as a matter of fact, the charge of excessive illegitimacy is not sustained. In Scotland, in Westmoreland, and Lancashire, and in many English counties, it is exceeded. Further, I think it may be fairly claimed for the rural Welsh that they are far above that state of vice and disease, which, as the master and mistress of many an English workhouse can testify, is the common condition of large portions of the English, rural population. It is difficult to obtain statistics, but I may cite the testimony of a master of a workhouse on the border of North Wales, comprising both English and Welsh people. He writes in reply to my enquiry :— “Taking the last ten years, more English than Welsh girls have been confined in the house. There have been fewer Welsh than English inmates, and less out-of-door relief has been distributed in the Welsh than in English parishes.” Still there is room for improvement, and magistrates in affiliation cases have frequent reason to condemn the close familiarity between engaged lovers, which is allowed and recognised by the peasantry of the remote districts in Wales. Bingley, writing in 1798, describes the practice of “bundling” as at that time it was known in America, and as then practised by the peasantry of Carnarvon, Anglesea, and Merioneth. “The lover steals under the shadow of night to the bed of his fair one, into which, retaining his clothing, he is admitted without  any shyness or reserve.” “This strange custom,” he adds, ” seems to have originated in the scarcity of fuel and the consequent unpleasantness of sitting up without a fire.” The custom, happily, is far less prevalent in North Wales than when Bingley wrote, but it is still very largely practised in the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen, and in the north-west of Pembroke, although, even there, owing to the spread of knowledge and the influence of religion, it is less common than it was. It will be easily understood that among people by whom the practice is recognised, the frequent consequences are not so seriously estimated as they would be among a different community. Still it is fair to the Welsh to say that the practice is by no means confined to them, being common in Lancashire, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, and in America.
D.C. Davies, (F.G.S., Oswestry) ‘The Present Condition of the Welsh Nation’, Red Dragon, vol. 4, (1883), pp. 349-350

In an article in the current part of Cassell’s Saturday Journal on the subject of “Popping the Question,” it is stated that “in the Fiji Islands, in China, in Japan, and among many of the Indian tribes the children or the two families are betrothed in infancy, thus saving them all the anxieties and troubles of choosing their partners for themselves. The same custom exists in northern latitudes, especially among the Lapps and the Esquimaux, and of which the old-fashioned Welsh practice known as bundling must be regarded as an example.” To a great many Welsh people, as it was to myself, this will be a piece of startling news.
Weekly Mail, 9 February 1884

ANFOESOLDEB YN NGHYMRU. You’re not a moral nation, and you know it,” ebe bardd Seisnig diweddar. “Nid ydych genedl foesol, a chwi a’i gwyddoch.” … Diffyg ystyriaeth o’r lie uchel a ddyry y Grefydd Gristionogol i’r ystad briodasol yw un rheswm mawr paham yr ystyrir “caru yn y gwely” yn beth mor ddiniwed. Dyma’r paham y dywedir cyn lleied am y pwys o gadw y seithfed gorch- ymyn ar yr aelwyd gartref dyma’r paham yr eir heibio i waith y par ieuainc yn llithro cyn priodi,” fel rhywbeth bach di-ystyr; dyma’r paham y dewisa cynifer gytuno a’u gilydd yn swyddfa y cofrestrydd yn hytrach na myned i geisio bendith y Nef ar eu hundeb yn y cysegr.
Llan, 30 January 1885

1890 (about)
D.J. Williams (1885-1970) was born in the parish of Llansawel, Carmarthenshire. He published his memories of his early years in 1953
Uncle Jâms’s motto in the days of his youth was Canu’r dydd a charu’r nos” (“Sing by day and love by night”) … “For those who wooed, wooed by night”  that is how it was with us, taking the girld from the fair of the auction, or the cymanfa or the weekday meeting or making an appointment to go and ‘knock’ (gnoco) on her, on the window of her sleeping appartment, that was the custom, and if the wind was in the right quarter and all circumstances favourable you went into the kitchen quietly when everyone else was in bed, and there you talked together on the hearth till the early hours of the morning. The official name for this was ‘getting house’ (cael tŷ). A part of the charm of this courting was its pretence of being a secret between two lovers. … The two would hardly ever be seen together in public till they were on the verge of getting married – although everything was as plain to the world at large as if the banns had been called two years since. The tradition of courting in bed, if it ever had been a practice in the district, was gone before my time. Much nonesence has been written on this matter by people completely innocent of the art.  … the stringent pressure on people’s lives in the old days kept everyone at work assiduously from early in the morning till late at night, so that there was not much oportunity for social intercourse among young people except by stealing from the deep hours of the night. And as regards love in bed (cary’n gwely), wherever it might have been found, is it not enough to hold in mind the hard work on the farm during the day and the hard wood during the night on chair or bench or cushionless settle to realise how instinct and common sense might have suggested to two young people who were often pretty tired that they might rise a step in evolution by ascending to the room above and there resting on an easy bed as the only place in the house where for a few hours they might find a degree of comfort, however it might be as regards quiet?
Williams, D.J., Hen Dŷ Ffarm (1953), pp. 109-110
Translated by Waldo Williams, The Old Farmhouse, (1961), pp. 134-135

I am obliged to the correspondent who was good enough to forward me a copy of the report of the House of Mercy for the Diocese of St. David’s. This report is good evidence that our Church is not unmindful of the immorality that is, I must say, rampant in the diocese. …
When we come nearer home to Cardiganshire where “bundling” is still the general rule, the subscriptions are not liberal, and I can find none from the districts within the Petty Sessional Divisions of Upper liar and Tregaron where the inhabitants are barely out of the barbaric stage, as regards social purity.
Carmarthen Journal and South Wales Weekly Advertiser, 25 September 1891

[letter to the editor] MOESOLDEB CARU
… Gwareder ein gwlad o hyn allan oddi wrth y fath trferiad isel a gwaradwyddus Tra yr ydym yn llawenhau fod y fath yna o garu ar drengu ac yn cael eu ftieiddio gan bob mab a merch syn wyrol, or hyny yr ydym yn llwyr gredu y dylid difodi y caru nosawl a’r caru yn y gwely. Os yw priodas yn addas, ac os oes rhaid ymgyfeillachu cyn priodi (fel y credwn fod), onid yw yn addas i wneyd hyny “yng ngwyneb haul a llygaid goleuni,” mewn lleoedd amlwg ac nid yn y gwely ym mherfeddion y nos?
Carmarthen Journal and South Wales Weekly Advertiser, 9 September 1892

“CARU’R NOS” At Olygydd Y BRYTHON CYMREIG. SYR,—Syndod anferthol ydyw dyfod i ddeall fod Teryll y Bannan yn barod i daflu mantell y cydymdeimlad ar arferiad lygredig o garu yn y nos, a’i fod yn hollol barod i estyn parch i’r cyfryw. Dywed Herbert Spencer mae angenrhaid sydd wedi bod ac yn parhau i fod yn gerbyd i foesoldeb a thrwy hyny gellir sylweddoli mai angenrhaid roddodd gynorthwy i’n tadau i chwilio allan eu prydferthaf gydmaresau yn mherfedd tywyllwch y nos. Mae y Teryll yn gwybod yn ogystal a phawb, ac yn well o lawer na’r rhan fwyaf o ddynolryw, mai eyfleusdra sydd yn eisiau ar bob dyn i chwalu y Ddeddf Foesol i’r gwynt yn Lloegr, ac mai ofn y canlyniad yw yr unig beth sydd yn cadw y natur anifeila-‘dd o dan rwymau moesoldeb yn Nghymru. Gyrwch ymaith yr ofn, ac yna, chwi gewch weled y Dilke a’r Parnell yn tori allan yn ffyrnig iawn yn y Cymro mown gwirionedd mae y natur anifeilaidd yn boethach o lawer yn y Cymri nag yn y Saeson, yn herwydd fod y darfeddyliad yn y Cymro mor helaeth a nerthol fel mae pob benyw deg yn myned iddo ef, fel Beatrice i Dante, yn angyles ardderchocaf nef a daear. Mae y Teryll am i ni gadio ein meddyliau yn glir, ac yn anghofio nad yw ein meddyliau ni wedi bod erioed yn glir ar y ffordd o chwilio am wraig ie, ie, ond mae Caru’r Nos yn arfer genedlaethol, meddai y Teryll, gan wincio ei lygad chwith, a meddwl ein bod wedi anghofio fod arferion drwg yn llygru moesau da. Hawyr bach fe dylid cadw mewn cof,” meddai y Teryll eto, “nad yw Caru’r Nos yn iselu ein gwlad un rhithiantyn mwy na Charu’r Dydd.” Wel, wel, mae hyn yn ddigon i yru mochyn i chwerthin, yn enwedig pan wnelom gofio mai lliw y nos ydyw amddiffynfa y rhan fwyaf o ddrwg-weithredwyr Clywch fel mae y Teryll yn ceisio cuddio ei [droseddau wrth ddweyd y dylem ymdrechu puro Caru’r Nos o rai o’i llyg- rediadau, megis caru yn y gwely a charu hyd y wawr.” Dyn a’i helpo onid caru yn y gwely mae y Saeson yn ddeall bob amser wrth garu’r nos y Cymri ? Pwy ddrwg sydd mewn caru’r nos ond y drwg o garu yn y gwely ? Onid yw pob Ball sydd yn cael ei rhoddi gan y Saeson, ag sydd yn tori i fynu gyda’r wawr, yn llawn o gariadow ? Och y fi Teryll anwyl, mae Ilyffai,n ar dy dafod ymaith ag ef ar unwaith YR HEN BATRIARCH
Brython Cymreig, 23 June 1893

[letter to the editor] Un achos mawr o gynydd anniweirdeb yn ein mysg ydyw yr hen arferiad gwrthen a ffyna yn ein gwlad, sef “caru yn y gwely.”
[One major cause of the increase in unchastity among us is the old and disgusting custom that thrives in our country, namely “making love in bed.”]
Gwalia, 27 April 1897

Y “Pren Crwcca.” Y mae Silces yn dywedyd fod carwriaeth yn “thorough going business” yn mhlith y Gymry am eu bod mor nodedig am eu tuedd serchiadol purion. Byddai yn arferiad yn yr oes o’r blaen i garu yn y gwely, ac aml, meddir, y cerddai llencyn ieuanc amryw filldiroedd gyda’r unig amcan o weled gwrthddrych ei serch, pa un bynag ai yn y lle y gwasanaetha ai ynte yn ei chartref. Elai aml lencyn glan, ar ol ymdrwsio gyda gofal, brydnawn ddydd Sadwrn i wel’d ei fun, a dychwelai foreu Llun, a thyna p’am y canodd Goronwy Owain* :—
“Siomaist fi yr wythnos yma,
Nos Sadwrn ni chefais dwrn da;
Dydd Sul y deuais eilwaith.”
Gwel “Calendr y Carwr.”
Dywedir fod arferiad Americanaidd a elwir “bundling” yn tebygoli i’r arferiad hwn o garu yn y gwely. Beth bynag am garu yn y gwely (medd Evans yn ei “North Wales”) fel arferiad, fe ddengys yn amlwg beth oedd y cymeriad Brytanaidd cyntefig. Nid arfer a gododd yn gymharol ddiweddar ydoedd, ond gweddillion o’r llygredigaethau a orchuddiai ein gwlad ac a anurddai ein cenedl yn y dyddiau a’r oesoedd pell, ac nid oedd dim ond grym defod, anwybodaeth trwch, a dideimladrwydd anifeilaidd yn cadw yr arfer ffiaidd i fyny. Nid yn ngwlad Mon yn unig (fel y tybiai rhai) y ffynai yr arfer wrthun hon o rag-gyfeillach cyn myned i’r ystad briodasol, ond yn llawer o barthau eraill o’r Dywysogaeth, er feallai nad oedd yr holl siroedd yn ogyfuwch a’u gilydd.* “Methodistiaeth Cymru,” cyf. I., tud. 56. (I’w barhau).
Welsh Coast Pioneer, 30 November 1900

The charges brought against Wales on the score of immorality are doubtless based to a certain extent on the survival in some of the agricultural districts of the old custom of night courtship, which is not peculiar to Wales but occurs likewise among various European peoples … it may be briefly described thus: the lover sallies forth at night and approached the house where his fair one lives; then he attracts her attention by gently tapping at her window. In some districts this is called cnocio or streicio … At the window, … a conversation ensues, which sometimes ends in the admission of the lover into the house; and in that case he and the young woman sit up together the greater part of the night. The charge of assuming a different position, for which the vocabulary of the English language provides the term bundling, is isually denied and resented as a calumny.  {References to German, Scottish, Norse and other European records of bundling.} {references to illigitamate births in Wales during the 19th century.}
Rhŷs, John, and Brynmor-Jones, David, The Welsh People, (1900), pp. 582-583, partly based on evidence gathered for the Report of the Royal Commission on Land in Wales and Monmouthshire, (1894), which condemned the practice of children and adults, both male and female, sleeping in the same space in some Welsh farmhouses.

Early 20th century, Llantood, Pembrokeshire
Comments on how relationships between couples developed and on caru trwy’r nos, based on personal memories.
Williams, James, (born 1900) Give me yesterday, (Llandysul: 1971), pp. 58-61

The Welsh courtship is not conducted in the same manner as in England. There is not, or rather was not until recently, any walking out of couples together; that was denounced from the chapel pulpits as indecorous. But with the consent or connivance of the parents of a young woman the suitor would come at night to the window of the damsel he affected, and scratch at it with a stick or throw at it a little gravel. Then she would descend, open the door, and the pair would spend the greater part of the night together on the sofa in the parlour, with, as a young man who had gone through the experience informed me, a bottle of whisky, a Bible, and a currant cake on the table before the. Some deny the whisky, some the Bible, but all allow that refreshment is necessary when the session is carried on to the small hours of the morning.
Baring-Gould, S., A Book of North Wales, (1903), p. 215

AN OLD WELSH CUSTOM. At Abercynon this week a case came before the magisterial bench which brought to light the existence of an old custom which, apparently, is still followed, to some extent at least, in Cardiganshire. The custom is one that obtains among young people—in fact, it is the manner in which they do their courtship, and is observed almost exclusively in farmhouses. On turning to the ‘Century Dictionary,” under the word “bundling,” we have it that this meant “in New England (in early times) and in Wales to sleep in the same bed without undressing.” The lexicographer informs us further that the term is applied “to the custom of men and women, especially sweethearts, thus sleeping.” We do not know to what extent the custom as thus defined obtained in New England in former times, but it is well for those who are given to cavil to remember that New England was founded by the Puritans, and is the birthplace of the great American Republic, and that the morals of the people have always been above reproach. On this point we may cite as an illustration Longfellow’s charming poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” with its Evangeline, the typical Puritan maiden. With regard to Wales we can speak with more knowledge. The custom did obtain in rural districts in Wales to a considerable extent up to, say, the middle of the last century, but it must be understood that the manner of observing it differed somewhat from that which obtained in New England, if the dictionary is correct. It is doubtful, indeed, whether the New England term can properly be applied to the Welsh custom. Be that as it may, during the past fifty years it has been on the decline in the Principality, and, in all probability, it will disappear altogether in another generation or two. In passing, it may be said that the custom is not unknown in Germany and Bonnie Scotland, and also in the Transvaal and Orangs Colonies, as readers of “Life on a South African Farm” are aware. We have no desire to defend it, but would point out that it is not the fruitful source of evils which it sometimes described. An interesting fact connected with it is that it was one of those institutions against which Welsh religious leaders set their faces in the memorable Revival of 1859. In fact, it was then the severest blow was given to it. The Methodist Revival a century before had done something to render it less popular, but in the middle of the last century an organised effort was made to put it down. Presumably, however, it still lingers on in some corners of Welsh Wales. A revival similar to that of ’59 is with us again, and it is not too much to expect ministers of religion and others to combine in making a clean sweep of what remains of i this custom. At the same time, such reformers must see to it that young people are afforded facilities to do their courtship within reasonable hours and under less difficult conditions than has hitherto been the case in some parts of Wales.
Weekly Mail, 25 March 1905

Trevelyan, Marie, Folk-lore and Folk Stories of Wales (1909)
Makes no mention of bundling in her section of marriages and weddings

In Wales, different modes of courting prevail ; but I am happy to state the old disgraceful custom of bundling, which was once so common in some rural districts, has entirely died out, or at least we do not hear anything about it nowadays. I believe Wirt Sikes [British Goblins (1880)] is right in his remarks when he says that such a custom has had its origin in primitive times, when, out of the necessities of existence, a whole household lay down together for greater warmth, with their usual clothing on.
Giraldus Cambrensis, 700 years ago writes of this custom in these words
“Propinquo concubantium calore multum adjuti.”
Of course, ministers of religion… condemned such practice very sternly, but about two generations ago there were many respectable farmers who more or less defended the custom, and it continued to a certain extent until very recently, even without hardly any immoral consequences, owing to the high moral standard and the religious tendencies of the Welsh people.
One reason for the prevalence of such custom was that in times past in Wales, both farm servants and farmers’ sons and daughters were so busy, from early dawn till a late hour in the evening that they had hardly time or an opportunity to attend to their love affairs, except in the night time. Within the memory of hundreds who are still alive, it was the practice of many of the young men in Cardiganshire and other parts of West Wales, to go on a journey for miles in the depth of night to see the fair maidens, and on their way home, perhaps, about 3 o’clock in the morning they would see a ghost or an apparition ! but that did not keep them from going out at night to see the girls they loved, or to try to make love. Sometimes, several young men would proceed together on a courting expedition, as it were, if we may use such a term, and after a good deal of idle talk about the young ladies, some of them would direct their steps towards a certain farmhouse in one direction, and others in another direction in order to see their respective sweethearts, and this late at night as I have already mentioned.
It was very often the case that a farmer’s son and the servant would go together to a neighbouring farm house, a few miles off, the farmer’s son to see the daughter of the house, and the servant to see the servant maid, and when this happened it was most convenient and suited them both. After approaching the house very quietly, they would knock at the window of the young woman’s room, very cautiously, however, so as not to arouse the farmer and his wife.
I heard the following story when a boy:-A young farmer, who lived somewhere between Tregaron and Lampeter, in Cardiganshire, rode one night to a certain farm-house, some miles off, to have a talk with the young woman of his affection, and after arriving at his destination, he left his horse in a stable and then entered the house to see his sweetheart. Meanwhile, a farm servant played him a trick by taking the horse out of the stable, and putting a bull there instead. About 3 o’clock in the morning the young lover decided to go home, and went to the stable for his horse. It was very dark, and as he entered the stable he left the door wide open, through which an animal rushed wildly out, which he took for his horse. He ran after the animal for hours, but at daybreak, to his great disappointment, found that he had been running after a bull!
Davies, Jonathan Ceredig, Folk-Lore of West and Mid-Wales, (1911), pp. 1-2

SHAME ON THEM!—A group of young men had expressed their willingness to work on farms during the coming holidays, and had all plumped for Cardigan. Can you guess the reason? No; if you try twenty times. So that they could follow the old custom, Caru yn y gwely!”
Aberdare Leader, 26 June 1915

The custom known in England as “Bundling” or night courtship seems to have been practiced in the eighteenth century for we find it frequently attached by leaders of the religious movements but some writers deny charges of immorality … It is difficult to get unbiased evidence … Generally in the earlier half of the last century [19th] it seems to have been attributed to the servant class in rural communities. In literature evidence … is confined to poems of the gab [sic] type with occasional stories … by Boccaccio or Chaucer for the amusement of polite society. Clerical denunciation generally affords only sweeping statements …
Jones, T Gwynn, Welsh Folklore and Folk-Custom, (1930), pp. 187-188

Described bundling as ‘caru’r nos’, and suggested that the custom was still practiced in some places in 1931
Jones, R. W. (Erfyl Fychan), Bywyd Cymdeithasol Cymru yn y Ddeunawfed Ganrif, (1931), p. 76

This gives a tolerant view of bundling because the participants had very little other time to spend with each other.
Jones, R.W., (Erfyl Fychan), Bywyd Cymdeithasol Cymru yn y Ddeunawfed Ganrif (1931), p. 76

An academic study of bundling
Wickman, K.R.V., ‘Die Einleitung der Ehe: Eine vergleichend ethnosoziologische Entersuchung uber die Vorstufe der Ehe in den Sitten des schweddischen Volkstums’, Acta Academiae Aboensis, vol 11, (Abo, 1937), pp. 1-384.

1944 novel
The novel suggests that the girl laid a bolster between  herself and her suitor.
‘a one-time Merioneth custom in which a couple were stitched together in a tight sack for a night’.
Davies, Rhys, Black Venus, (London, 1944)

1950s Llanfihangel yng Ngwynfa (north Montgomeryshire)
{In an established relationship, the young men might spend the same one (y noson) or two nights with his fiance until dawn. This continued until at least the 1940s. The man would go to the young woman’s house and knock on the window (mynd y gnocio). As part of this study, it was difficult to determine to what extent this was paracticed in around 1950: it was denied as occuring in a informant’s location while admitting that it went on elsewhere. Informants reported that they had heard that girls ties the hems of their nightgowns into knots or in one case, a girl ‘stitched herself up’
Rees, Alwyn D., Life in a Welsh countryside : a social study of Llanfihangel yng Ngwynfa, (Cardiff : University of Wales Press 1950), pp. 82-90; (2nd ed. Oxford : Oxford University Press 1950); (2nd ed. Cardiff : University of Wales Press 1951); (reprint 1971), pp. 85-87

A low board was fitted into slots dividing the bed into two, but in no way hindering contact of hands or lips. A bolster served a similar purpose. Some prudent mothers tied their daughters’ ankles together or encased the lower parts of their bodies in a tight garment or made them wear a profusion of petticoats … In real emergencies a scream would bring immediate aid … Sometimes the pair were fussed over and tucked in by their parents. The degree of freedom from supervision allowed them may have depended, in some instances, on the eagerness of the parents to see their daughter married. Traditionally, a candle in the girl’s window was the signal that the suitor would be hospitably received … One thing seems clear; that the standard of behaviour deteriorated as the age became more sophisticated.
Turner, E. S., A History of Courting, (1958)

Neither of Trefor M Owen’s books mention Bundling or Caru ay y Gwely, although he describes customs associated with love and marriage.
Owen, Trefor M., Welsh Folk Customs (1959, 1968, 1974)
Owen, Trefor M., Welsh Folk Customs, A Pocket Guide (1991, 1993, 1995, 1998)

Evans, Myra, Atgofion Ceinewydd, (Aberystwyth, 1961)
Has some comments on bundling

One thought on “bundling

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