"Since it opened in 1948,
the National History Museum
has become one of Europe's most outstanding open air museums, and the
most visited heritage attraction in Wales. The Museum shows how the people of Wales lived, worked
and spent their leisure time over the last five hundred years. Over the past fifty years it has
inspired generations of visitors with an appreciation of Welsh history and tradition.
"The Museum stands in beautiful countryside, in the grounds of the magnificent St. Fagans
Castle, a late sixteenth century manor house generously donated to the people of Wales in 1946 by
the Earl of Plymouth. The open air section of the Museum now has over forty original buildings
moved from various parts of Wales and re-erected to show how people lived throughout the past
(From: Museum of Welsh Life, Visitor Guide,National Museum of
Wales, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF1 3NP, pp. 3. ISBN: 0 7200 0468 3)
It was late in the season and the leaves were off the trees when I visited here in November of
2002. The clouds were low and enough rain had fallen to wet the paths and shine the colors. As I
moved from one 'transplanted' building to the next, a thought kept returning to my mind - these are
my ancestors' places; someone related to me lived in a home just like this, used this sort of
equipment, attended this kind of school...
Above: A replica of an iron-age village
has been built following information gleaned from excavated remains of actual buildings. Though
they represent a stark contrast to present-day homes, I was impressed with the functional
design and engineering of these houses in relationship to the local climate. Our ancestors were probably
warm and comfortable, protected from the elements.
Normally, a warm fire would be burning here and smoke would be escaping through the straw
roof, giving the appearance of the place being afire. Unfortunately, the Welsh firemen
were on strike this November, and no fires were permitted. The only inside light came from
the flash on my camera! The furnishings are based on archeologists' best guesses.
|Above: This farmhouse,
originally built in 1610, was painted red in an attempt to ward off evil spirits - the same
reason a rowan tree was planted in the garden. The house grew over time. The first building was
a small parlour with a loft overhead. As the farm prospered, additions were built on till about
1750 when it was completed. It was moved to the museum from Llangynydd, Gower, Swansea, in 1955.
Above: Living hedgerows are a common
sight in Wales. They were built to delineate property divisions and to pen in (or out)
livestock. Museum personnel are creating a new hedge using time proven techniques. It seems
to be a process of bending young saplings of flexible trees and weaving them between posts
that have been pounded into the ground. They are held in place by pruned branches on top which
are fastened to the poles. Eventually, the young saplings accept the warp and produce lush
growth which is impenetrable to livestock.
Above: During the 18th century, people
would often claim property in Wales in an unusual way. If a house could be built during
one night and smoke could be seen coming from the cook fire in the morning, the family could
stay in the home. Students from the nearby University of Wales, Cardiff, experimented with the
concept not too long ago. Two of their constructions are still standing in the woods of the
Above: Some of the buildings seemed
a little more 'familiar' to me since I have found references to such places in my own family history.
During the nineteenth century my ancestors moved from their farms to industrialized areas
for economic reasons. They became city-dwellers, living in row houses such as the one above which
was moved here from
near Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan.
Above: Behind each house was a small
garden area. This one illustrates the possibility of planting vegetables around the 'ty bach'
(aka privvy, outhouse, etc.). There is a pigeon coop and possibly a henhouse at the back.
Above: These homes were small by present
day standards. They consisted of two rooms on the main floor - the "front" room which served as
kitchen and living room, and a bedroom behind it. A very steep stairway is located in the
corner next to the fireplace (barely seen behind the settle) which led to more sleeping space
upstairs. These homes have served several generations of families, and many are still in use today.
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This is just a sampling of what is available at the National History Museum
at St. Fagans near Cardiff, Glamorgan. It is a must when considering where to go on your next
visit to Wales. For more information, visit their
|*Unless otherwise noted, all photos
on this website were
taken by Venita who also holds the copyright.
Should you wish to download any of them for any purpose (other than your own
enjoyment), please credit Venita as the
photographer and add my homepage URL: http://www.venitap.com/home.html Thank you!
Comments are appreciated!
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