St Fagans National History Museum - part one
Museum of Welsh Life (Amgueddfa Werin Cymru), Cardiff.
(Photos/words © editor, urban75, December 27th 2007)
Deservedly one of the most popular tourist attractions in south Wales, St Fagans National History Museum is an open-air museum 'chronicling the lifestyle, culture and architecture of the Welsh people'.
Set in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, late 16th-century manor house, the museum is part of the National Museum of Wales, opening to the public in 1948 following the donation of the castle and lands by the Earl of Plymouth two years previously.
The driving force behind the project was the fabulously named Iorwerth Peate, who based the museum on a similar venture in Skansen, Sweden.
However, seeing as the structures featured in the Swedish museum were built of wood - and thus easy to take apart and reassemble - the stone-built buildings of St Fagans represented a substantially more complex challenge.
The museum now hosts more than forty buildings from all regions and periods of Welsh history, including a Celtic village, a nonconformist chapel, a school house, a tollbooth, a cockpit and a Victorian shop.
All of the structures - except the Elizabethan manor house of the castle and the Celtic village and 'House of the Future' (a Millennium project) - have been painstakingly reconstructed onsite.
We visited on a cold winter's afternoon and had a fantastic time. We thoroughly recommend a visit - it's free too!
The 1610 Kennixton Farmhouse, re-erected 1955.
The building's striking red colour is created by mixing ox blood and rowanberries.
Native breeds of livestock can be seen in the fields and farmyards, and there's daily demonstrations of farming tasks.
Turnpike tollhouse from Aberstwyth, built in 1772 (re-erected 1968).
The interior is furnished as it would have been during the Rebecca Riots.
Board displaying toll charges.
Blaenwaun Post Office, which boasts a wartime interior.
The 1880 Gwalia Stores (re-erected 1991) from Ogmore Vale offer a fascinating insight into how shops looked in Victorian times.
The attention to detail makes this a great place to tarry.
The immaculately rebuilt Oakdale Workmen's Institute.
Miner's banner displayed in the entertainment room on the first floor.
Another view of the Institute.
Originally sited in the yard of the Hawk and Buckle Inn, Denbigh, this 17th century circular thatched cockpit was used as a slaughterhouse and as a garage after the prohibition of cockfighting in 1849.
COMMENTS (from our discussion forums)
cybertect: "The very first week of my architecture course at Cardiff in 1985 was spent doing a measured drawings of various buildings round St. Fagans. I got to do the Rhyd-y-car cottages, which were most of the way through their rebuilding process at the time - the walls and roofs were up, but the interiors hadn't been done yet.
Studying the buildings at St. Fagans made an excellent introduction to how buildings are put together, their uses of local materials and how they have different strategies for thermal performance and orientation. Lessons that stuck all the way through the rest of the course.
The next two parts of the the term were designing a small house on a free site at St. Fagans using the principles we'd learnt from the vernacular buildings we'd looked at and then an energy self-sufficient youth hostel near Neath.
It left me with an enduring appreciation of how very smart so much traditional architecture is, and how wet South Wales can get in the early Autumn"
Ben Bore: "My first 'proper' (ish) job was a part-time museum assistant at Sain Ffagan. I worked 11am till 4pm 6 days on 2 days off. It was just before the place became free entry and was dead quiet in the winter. I read loads of books, had some sly smokes and just kept the fires going while covering the full timers lunch and afternoon breaks. Loved it."
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