St Fagans National History Museum, near Cardiff, South Wales

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St Fagans manor house. Credit: Chris Gunns from geograph.org.uk

St Fagans National History Museum is an open air museum, although not in the same way that Göreme in Turkey is. St Fagans is a museum of Welsh buildings which reflect the way of life in Wales as it was from mediaeval times up to the more recent past. It is set in the 100 acre grounds of St Fagans manor house, which was originally built in the late 16th century. The buildings were moved stone by stone from their original habitats in Wales and then painstakingly reconstructed in the grounds of St Fagans. If you are near Cardiff, do go to this museum for an interesting day out!

The Esgaer moel woollen mil at St Fagans. Credit: Adrian Platt from goegraph.org.uk

The Esgaer moel woollen mil at St Fagans. Credit: Adrian Platt from goegraph.org.uk

I first went there many years ago, and was fascinated with the whole idea of moving buildings in such a way. One of the ones that was most memorable for me was the Woollen Mill, first built in 1760 and later, in the 19th century extended to house ‘modern’ machinery. It is still working today, with all the processing, from the dying of the fleece to the production of traditional shawls and Welsh blankets (carthenni) being carried out in the same building. The water to move the water wheel is pumped from the swimming pool below, which the Earl of Plymouth had built for his family and guests in 1904.

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The garden and ponds at St Fagans. Credit: Mick Lobb from geograph.org.uk

The Earl of Plymouth donated the manor house to the Welsh people in the mid 20th century and so there was space for this kind of open air museum at last.

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Cilewent farmhouse, an example of a Welsh long-house. Credit: FruitMonkey

There is an old farmhouse (Cilewent Farmhouse) which is an example of a long-house in which people resided at one end and animals were housed at the other. This was originally built in 1470 although the timber walls were replaced by stone ones in 1734.

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The church of St Teilo at St Fagans. Credit: Wolfgang Sauber

There are traditional old Welsh chapels, a smithy that was only closed as recently as 1963, but was built in the 18th century, a rural Post Office and a more recent addition, the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute.

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The Oakdale Workmen’s Institute at St Fagans. Credit: Colin Smith from geograph.org.uk

The Workingmen’s clubs and Workmen’s Institutes were a focal part of life in the south Wales Valleys as there were dances held there, eisteddfodau (competitions where people competed for prizes in singing, dancing, music and poetry), lectures and other types of fair. There would be a library in some (if not all) as the miners believed in self-education, which was encouraged by the Oxford Movement.

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The six terraced houses from Rhyd-y-Car, at St Fagans. Credit: Colin Smith from geograph.org.uk

There is also a row of six terraced houses from Rhyd-y-Car, Merthyr Tydfil, built by the local ironmaster Richard Crayshaw. Merthyr was one of the foremost iron-producing towns in Wales in the 19th century. The six houses contain furniture and other items which reflect the different periods of history when they were homes and are fascinating insights into the way the iron-workers and their families lived. I am actually staying in a house built around the same time in Bute Town, Rhymney)

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Kennixton farmhouse with its blood-red walls.Credit: Seth Whales

Another house which fascinates me still is Kennixton farmhouse which was from the Gower and is typical of its type. The walls are blood-red and it is thought that they were painted this colour to ward off evil spirits.

There are about 40 buildings in the museum and there will be at least one that will interest you. There is of course a café and if the weather is good, the walk around the parkland is very pleasant.

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About lynnee8

I have travelled extensively both for business (I am a teacher and teacher-trainer of English as a Foreign Language) and pleasure. I have just come back from Pakistan where I lived for 4 years. I love Greece and have lived there for more than 10 years although not all at one time.
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