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St Fagan's National History Museum

Cardiff, Glamorgan

More commonly referred to as St Fagans, is an open-air museum chronicling the lifestyle, culture and architecture of the Welsh people. It is located in the grounds of St Fagans Castle near Cardiff, and is part of the National Museum Wales which now gives FREE entry to all it's sites including this one.  It started in 1946 and opened to the public for the first time in 1948 as the Welsh Folk Museum.

The Buildings - It houses over 40 buildings from around Wales in a 100 acre site many of which have been dismantled and reconstructed on site to recreate 500 years of Wales's history, including the following:

  • Kennixton Farmhouse originally built in 1610 and is a typical farmhouse for the Gower. It has bright red walls and it is believed they were painted this colour to keep away evil spirits.
  • A circular thatched cockpit from the 17th century which originally stood in the yard of a public house.
  • cowshed
  • A circular drystone Pigsty from the 1800's
  • 1820's farmhouse and farm where you get to see both down and upstairs in the house and look around the pig and cattle sheds in the yard as well as some heritage farm machinery in the barns.
  • 2 working Watermills, one flour mill and one wool mill
  • a single storey thatched farmhouse originally built in 1508
  • A timber-framed farmhouse built in 1678, inside you get to see how it was like living in this environment
  • a number of other barns and farm building structures from throughout history
  • The Pottery with a kiln dating from around 1900
  • A Gorse Mill waterdrive and used to crush gorse for farmers to feed their horses, the main works on farms in the 1800's
  • The Bakehouse sells traditional welsh fare and the smell is inviting and the taste is scrumptious, but when busy there are also the queues!
  • An 18th century Tannery wich specialised in making leather boots and horse harnesses
  • A 18th century smithy and today you can see the blacksmith at his work
  • Toll road tollhouse
  • St Mary's Board school used between 1880 and 1916.
  • medieval parish church of Saint Teilo formerly at Llandeilo Tal-y-Bont in west Glamorgan (restored to its pre-Reformation state)
  • Pen-Rhiw Unitarian chapel, a small chapel with an upper balcony - was also used as a school at times through it's history.
  • Gwalia Stores was originally built in 1880 as a grocery store, but by 1916 it also housed a bakery, ironmongery, gentleman's outfitters, chemist and a section selling animal feed and early form of a country department store. Next door is a Photographers Studio where you can dress up and have your picture taken in the period.

Those items not transported either being originally on site or are new constructions include:

  • Elizabethan Manor House of St Fagans Castle where the original site donated to the People of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth.
  • Celtic village representing the Iron Age period, the circular buildings are based on excavated remains of actual buildings from Flintshire and Gwynedd.
  • 'House of the Future', eco friendly house giving an insight to what you can do in the home to improve the environment. It's on the way to the Castle and Gardens.

Although the museum was originally intended to preserve some of Welsh rural life, it now has several buildings that depict the industrial working life in Wales, and the buildings that represent this include:

  • A row of workmen's or Iron Workers cottages from Rhyd-y-car, with their interiors laid out in different time periods going through the ages. Mums and Dads may even recognise some of the gadgets in the later 20th century ones!
  • A quarryman's' cottage from around the 1750's
  • Woollen Mill originally build in 1760, sheep farmers would bring their wool here and get it converted into cloth. The machines inside still work today and a waterwheel runs to provide power for the machinery and you get to see the type of cloth that can be produced. On our last visit it was a nice day and outside on the grass they were drying off wool that had been dyed into different colours ready for use in the mill.
  • A post-war prefabricated bungalow.
  • Oakdale Workmen's Institute - a common feature of the South Wales Valleys in the 19th and 20th centuries. This hall was originally built in 1916. As with many of these buildings they provide a focal point for the local community and like this one have reading rooms, a library, cinema and meeting rooms.

The Gardens - If you don't go over and visit the Castle you will miss the formal gardens and they are spectacular. In total the gardens cover 40 acres and depict gardening from the formal gardens of the upper classes to the cottage gardens that provided food for the working families.

  • The Formal Gardens surround St Fagans Castle are approached via a semi-formal landscaped arboretum and pine tree walk. Many of the features are original to the site including the large fishponds which were used to produce fish for the table. The water garden has lots of green grass, ponds, bridges and garden sculptures. The formal terraces overlooking the mediaeval fishponds were completed in 1871 and have cast iron urns on stone balustrading and rose trellises. Next to the castle is the more formal  parterre divided into areas using low box hedges and a central fountain, but you will also find here a bowling green, thym garden and knot garden. The Rosery has been re-created to how it was originally laid out in 1899 and has a central circular canal, while the Italian Garden is behind stone walls close to the Castle and includes grass steps and terraces with orange trees and colour herbaceous borders with a water feature.
  • The Domestic Gardens are spread throughout the site around the re-erected houses and showing gardening from the 16th century to the present day. They reflect the social status of the buildings inhabitants and historically correct plants have been used as well as gardening techniques and furnishings.

Other exhibits

Within the main entrance building there are also galleries and exhibitions of costume, daily life and farming implements and being part of the National Museums of Wales exhibitions are regularly changed and new things to see.

On weekends and during the holiday periods, craftsman can be found in the workshops demonstrating traditional crafts with a working blacksmith's forge and a cooper, and St Fagans comes to life with events from traditional festivals through to music and dance events. Part of the site includes a small working farm which concentrates on preserving local Welsh native breeds of livestock. Much of the produce from the museum is available for sale.

It is an awe inspiring place and one which I have visited many times and never tire of visiting. Some time back when living in South Wales we were also members and were able to visit on many occasions with the children. It is a fantastic site for children being an enclosed site, they are able to run about and explore. The costumed people within the buildings are prepared to talk and ask questions of the small enquiring mind no matter how trivial. There are picnic areas around the site to stop and have a rest or a bite to eat. Most of the buildings are in the Open Air so make sure you are prepared for British Weather changes.

There are no vehicles routinely on the hardcore pathways although there is a horse and cart offering rides. From a photographic point of view, the buildings are well spaced out it is difficult to get a good view of some that are behind hedges, but the majority can be taken with very little clutter for other buildings around. There is no set route around with many paths leading to or pass something worth seeing, there are maps on information boards around as well as signposts so you can see where you are at and what is next.

Now being part of the National Museum of Wales it is totally FREE to visit although these is a small car parking fee.

Their website recommends you allow at least 2 hours for your visit. If you are attempting to see it all and take photographs as well then I would suggest you arrive when it opens and plan to stay all day.


Further information Grid

 

Location:

St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff, Wales

Ceremonial County: Glamorgan

Grid Reference:

ST117772

Map Link:

Multimap

Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

Dry weather and probably the spring/summer months when colourful gardens, hedges and trees are at their best.

E-mail:

 

Website:

www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/stfagans

Other useful websites:

BBC Wales Panoramic Views

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Living History Section

List of Living History Museums

Living history museums introduction

Classification:

Living History

Date Updated: 07/2008
 

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Planning Grid

Location:

St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff, Wales

Grid Reference:

ST117772

Getting there:

4 miles west of Cardiff City Centre, just off the A4232. From the M4 take junction 33 and follow the signs, off on the lefthand side.

Access:

It has its own access road off the A4232 which is a dual carriageway. Access into the main entrance building is via steps and a long ramp for disabled visitors.

Parking:

Large hardcore car park outside the main entrance, however in summer periods they also overflow into some of the grass fields around. There is a Car Parking fee of £2.50 per car all day - free parking for Blue Badge holders.

Facilities:

Self service restaurant in main building, tea room above Gwalia Stores, shop

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Buildings, animals, flora, wildlife

What to take:

a range of lenses to cope with anything from photographing a large building down to a butterfly in the Castle Gardens.

Nature highlights:

 

Address:

St Fagans: National History Museum

St Fagans

Cardiff

Postcode:

CF5 6XB

Telephone:

029 20573500

Opening times:

10am to 5pm daily all year round.

Charges:

FREE Entry

Photo Restrictions:

 

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Much of the site is accessible, however to get to St Fagans Castle and gardens it is uphill and some distance. Ramped access to galleries, open-air park and restaurants. See this page of full access details including an audio version.
Special Needs Facilities: Wheelchair loan. toilets in Cafe Bardi, main entrance, cottages and Castle yard.
Children Facilities: A small play area near the main entrance. No pushchairs or prams inside the historic houses. Baby changing facilities near main entrance.
Dogs Allowed: Dogs allowed on site kept on a lead. No dogs allowed in the buildings except guide dogs.

CIN Page Ref:

st_fagans

Date Updated: 07/2008

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