St Fagan's National History
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.
- A circular drystone Pigsty from the
- 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
- 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
- A Gorse Mill waterdrive and used to
crush gorse for farmers to feed their horses, the main works on farms in
- 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
- medieval parish church of Saint Teilo
formerly at Llandeilo Tal-y-Bont in west Glamorgan (restored to its
- Pen-Rhiw Unitarian chapel, a small
chapel with an upper balcony - was also used as a school at times through
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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
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.
St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff,
4 miles west of Cardiff City Centre, just off
the A4232. From the M4 take junction 33 and follow the signs, off on the
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.
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.
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.
St Fagans: National History Museum
10am to 5pm daily all year round.
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.
A small play area near the main entrance. No
pushchairs or prams inside the historic houses. Baby changing facilities
near main entrance.
Dogs allowed on site kept on a lead. No dogs
allowed in the buildings except guide dogs.
CIN Page Ref:
Date Updated: 07/2008
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