Opposite the entrance to St Fagan's castle is the church.
There was no entry but I walked roung the churchyard wherestones date from the 1700s to the present day. The stones varied from crosses, flat graves, tombs and other edifices.
Other buildings can be seen when walking around the castle grounds. There is an interesting Threshing barn with interesting lattice type walls which allowed the dust to leave the building. Unfortunately there was no entry, but a window was open so I was able to take a peek inside.
The Woollen mill included a loom and other machinery.
There was a boat house with two boats dating to the late 1800s. The cider press was interesting and the exhibits included two wagons.
Having seen the Museum of Welsh Life, we thought we'd seen everything. However, we decided to have an afternoon out and found ourselves back in St Fagan's. THis time we were at the back entrance, leading to the castle or Elizabethan manor house . Inside the rooms available for visitors to see were rather dark and surprisingly small, except for the spacious kitchen with its gleaming copper pans, and ovens with a spit.
Outside are a number of gardens- the mulberry garden, the Italian garden with citrus trees an irises by the ponds, green houses and walks down by the river where ducks have made their homes.
Last but not least we visited Llwyn yr eos Farm which is a typical farm at St Fagans and still works like that today. Apart from the castle, Llwyn yr eos farm is the only building in the museum in its original location.
It was built in 1820, the present house and barn was part of the Plymouth Estate. With the change from arable farming to dairy production around 1880, the barn was adapted and lated an oil-driven engine and machines for preparing animal feed were added. The same goes for haylofts, brick pigsties, stable and the farmhand’s cottage.
We didn’t impressed but we took a lot of pictures of the buildings and the big or small pigs :) Kids will be happy here I think…
St Mary’s Board School (pic 1) opened at Maestir, Lampeter in 1880. Rachel Ann Thomas (her picture is at the entrance) was the headmistress of this rural school from 1894 to 1905. She taught the “3 Rs”(reading, writing and arithmetic) to children (aged 5 to 14) of servants, labourers and estate workers.
Getting the children to attend class was constant struggle for her because as in other rural areas they often helped out on the farm and on harvest days the schoold would inevitable be closed.
They learnt through copying information and were punished for being untidy, late or for slouching over the desks. Writing with their left hand was forbidden because the left side was seen as the devil’s side…
We took some pictures of the interior (pic 2) but I was disappointed there wasn’t somebody to give us some extra information. Maybe they were having their lunch break...
The Tollhouse (from Penparcau) on pic 1 dates from 19th century when Turnpike Trusts that built roads across Wales had to find a way to repay the loan they got from rick landowners. So they build tollhouses like this. There is a sign (pic 2) with prices for vehicles and animals. Local farmers had to pay also for the rent to wealthy landowners, a tenth of their income to the church but also taxes. So tollhouses became soon a target for their anger during protests that were led by Daughters of Rebecca (men who blackened their faces and wore women’s clothes to disguise themselves). The attacked 250 gates and tollhouses between 1839-1844. Army arrived and the protests stop while the tollhouses remained in operation for another 20 years.
Then we saw the smallest post office in Wales which originally located at Blaen-waun (pic 3) and was a hub of information for the local people during WWII. The mail arrived daily from Whitland and sorted in the back room. Beatrice Griffiths(the postmistress) was traveling eight miles on a bicycle to deliver the mail and newspapers and then returned to serve the customers in the post office. During the war, the Home Guard would meet under the dim light outside the post office. Propaganda posters appeared on the walls and evacuees arrived from England, eager for letters from home. Griffith’s husband helped her by fixing radios for local people (that’s why there are batteries and wires in the back room). They also owned the pub opposite the post office.
Before clothe stores arrive people were ordering each garment that was made to measure especially for them. We didn’t see the interior of Tailor’s Shop (from Cross Inn) (pic 4) but we learnt from the sign that it was originally built in 1896 as an animal food store and turned into tailor’s shop in 1920. It closed in 1967 but the daughter of the owner gave it to the Museum. It is arranged as it would have been displayed in the 1950s.
The last store we saw was Saddler’s Workshop (from St Clears) (pic 5), a workshop that was built next to the cattle market to attract more trade from farmers. The front room was used primarily as a showroom while the owner (Alfred James) worked in the back room. Alfred worked here from 1926 until his retirement in 1982! It was closed during our visit but we’ve read that the museum’s saddler works here, demonstrating the skills involed in the craft.
I was surprised of the impressive red color of this farmhouse (pic 1) from Llangennith, Gower.
It was probably a sign of social status but according to the sign the red may protected against evil spirits. We spend more time here because you see the interior which is furnished as it was in 1800 when a family of 5 with a maid and farm labourer lived here.
Obvliously it's a house that belonged to someone rich, in case you wonder if there were many of them around have in mind that the early 1800s were boom years for Welsh farming because of Napoleonic wars. During this period, food imports from Europe stopped, pushing up the price of corn produced by british farmers. So some of them could have a house like this!
Deheufryn Farm Gorse Mill (from Dolwen) (pic 1) is a small food processor for animals like the machine we use to turn fruits into a pulp or juice. Gorse was used for many reasons, it grew all year round, it was thought to be very nourishing and it grew in very poor soil so farmers could keep their best fields to grow more valuable crops. There was a water-wheel that drove a spiked rod that turned and crushed the gorse. Small farms had troughs or hammers to grind the gorse into a pulp.
A few meters a way we visited Melin Bompren Mill(from Cross Inn) (pics 2-3). It is still a working mill since 1852. Oatmeal was the staple diet in Wales as the climate was too wet to grow wheat. It’s a 3storey structure, grain is stored on the top floor, on the middle floor the grain is ground into flour and the lowest floor is where the flour is bagged, The water wheel powers the machines (one for sorting out all the bits of straw from the wheat, two for grinding and another for sifting the flour). You can buy the flour that is produced here at the Museum shop!
We also took a picture of a Pigsty (from Pntypridd) (pic 4). Killing a pig was a social occasion with many people often take it in turns to slaughter their pigs. Pigs were the ultimate in recycling, converting waste int a useful product, they produced large litters and fattened quickly, eating anything from grass to scraps and leftovers. The pig’s bristles could be used for brushes, its skin for making leather, blood for black pudding and even its bladder for a football!
Then we saw Llainfadyn Cottage (from Rhostryfan) (pic 5) that was built in 1762 and housed Ann and Hugh Williams, six children a maid and a lodger! So, do you still complain about your tiny hotel room? :)
Most of Welsh industrial towns and villages had workmen’s institutes or stutes as they were fondly known. These impressive structures provided education and leisure facilities for workmen and their families. We went inside this one (that was originally in Oakdale ) (pic 1) but we could check only the library because they were having a presentation for a school in the other rooms. According to the sign the institute played an important role in the welfare of the workers during the 1926 General Strike and the 1930s Depression.
Next to the Institute we saw Newbridge War Memorial (from Newbridge ) (pic 2) that commemorates 79 local servicemen who died in WWI. After WWII 37 names were added. During WWI 900,000 british servicemen died, 40,000 were Welsh. The memorial was rebuilt in the museum in 1996 while it was replaced with a memorial garden in Newbridge town centre.
As we didn’t spend much time for the above we entered at the Iron Age Celtic Village (pic 3), where you can see how people might have lived during the Iron Age (2500 years ago). Of course the structures are new but they are based on archaeological evidences that suggest that most people lived in small settlements and farmsteads similar to this. Inside the houses you can see items like loom, cauldron, grinding stone but also weapons like spears, shields or sword.
Returning back to modern age we saw Ty’n Rhos Sawmill (from Llanddewi Brefi ) (pic 4) that was a family business for nearly 100 years since 1868. In a rural area dependent upon farming the sawmill made farm carts, tools, feeding troughs and vehicles but alos provided timber for farm buildings. This building was erected in 1892 with a waterwheel’s shaft that drove the bandsaw, lathe, drill and a plaing machine. Later in the 1930s a Ford Model T car engine was installed. It must an extra noisy and dangerous small place.
In close distance we saw a Tannery (from Rhayader ) (pic 5) but I have to admit that we felt a bit tired and didn’t check the interior because we needed a break. We read the sign though. Tanning was still an important industry in the market towns of mid Wales in 1890. Tannery turned animal hides into leather for shoes, boots and horse harnesses. It was a foul, smelly and greasy work, crushing oak bark and mixing it with water produced tannic acid. Soaking the hides in the acid turned them into leather.
Before I read this sign I was wondering what exactly we were looking at as we could see only some trees in front of us! Usually the signs on the museum informs the visitors about a building but here was about the general area that lies in front. It was here where the most important battle in Wales of the Civil Wars between Crown and Parliament (1642-51).
In April 1642 after King Charles I had been defeated, Parliamentary trops in SW Wales rebelled in support of the king and the rebellion quickly spread to the Vale of Glamorgan with Colonel Rowland Laugharne having an army of 8,000 rebels. In response a 3,000 strong brigade of the New Model Army marched south to prevent the rebels from taking Cardiff Castle. They reached St Fagans on may 4 and camped near the village.
On 8 of May both armies fought at the Nant Dowlais valley with long hand to hand fighting. At the end no parliamentary officers were killed but 3000 rebels were taken prisoner and their leaders to their final resting place :)
We saw a chapel (pic 1). It’s Pen-rhiw Chapel (from Dre-fach Felindre). It is used by the Unitarians, a group with a very open-minded approach to religion(though they believe in one God, they have no standard set of beliefs). Many Christians disagreed with them and called the part of west Wales where they lived “The Black Spot”. Since 1777 people have come to Pen-rhiw Chapel to worship, teach and learn more about their beliefs. In the 19th century Unitarians were very active in the movements for factory reform, public health, prison reform, temperance, women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.
Walking inside the chapel (pic 2) we noticed the simple interior, it seems Unitarians worshipped in a very simple way with no distraction by decoration and color. The chapel moved to the museum in 1956 when their number had fallen but they meet here occasionally. The only people I saw inside were 3 french kids playing with their game console :)
St Teilo’s Church (from Llandeilo Tal-y-bont) (pics 3-4-5) was much more interesting for us. The church originally stood 50 miles west of the museum by the river Llwchwr serving the community of Pontarddulais for over 700 years! Threatened by vandalism moved to St Fagans but as it was taken down they found 500 year old wall paintings under layers of limewash! So, the church was rebuilt like it was in 1520 when most worshippers couldn’t read and would have used the images to inspire meditation and prayer. But the wall painting we saw are copies made using medieval techniques. St Teilo was a Welsh saint from 6th and although I never heard of him before appears throughout south Wales.
We visited Cilewent Farmhouse (from Rhayader) (pics 1-2), a structure that housed people and animals. Around 250 years ago the family living here would have lived at the one end and the cattle at the other while both were using the same front door. Long-houses like this were common in mid and south Wales. They had a female and perhaps a male servant that would have slept in the hayloft, above the animals. There wasn’t much privacy in general, in the evenings everyone would gather in the same room, usually near the large fireplace.
We also saw from the main road a Hayshed (from Maentwrog) (pic 3), Although it seems like a typical shed according to the sign it was a luxury when it was constructed in 1870. It was built by the wealthy Oakeley family for one of the tenant farmers on their land. Gathering grass in the autumn and storing it would provide a farmer with food for his animals throughout the winter. It was important to keep the hay dry. The lean-to against the building could be used as a shelter for cattle in bad weather.
Another interesting farmhouse was the Garreg Fawr Farmhouse (from Waunfawr) (pic 4). It belong to a wealth family and was built in 1566, a stone house wih a chimney would have been a status symbol. I stood for a while near the fire where the friendly guard asked us a lot of questions about Greece and the economic crisis! It was interesting to be the guide for a while for someone else :)
Following WWII a lot of people that had lost their homes from bombing moved to Prefabs (from Gabalfa, Cardiff) (pic 5). 7600 prefabs were built in Wales, they became popular with young couples setting up home for the first time (we saw a photo at the entrance of a happy couple entering the house). These bungalows were made by aluminium in aircraft factories (one prefab every 12’!) and they arrived ready-assembled, including the electrical wiring and pipes for water and gas.
One of the first building we saw was Stryd Lydan barn (pic 1) which is a farm on the English border in Penley, near Wrexham. This barn used to be one of its outbuildings. It was moved to the Museum shortly after it opened in 1948. The barn is made up of three separate sections with the old and largest part coming from 1550, an extension was added 100 years later and both sections were used to store crops (wheat, barley, oats). Between the 2 parts is the threshing floor where the crops were beaten with flails to separate the grain from the straw and then the grain had to be winnowed to remove the chaff. The winnowers would put the grain into sieves and let it fall to the ground. As the chaff is lighter than the grain, the wind would carry it away, while the grain fell straight to the ground.
We didn’t really spend much time there, we preferred to check Esgair Moel Woollen Mill (from Llanwrtyd) (pic 2), a woolen mill that was a common sight in rural Wales and by the 1800s making woollen goods had become an important industry in Wales (keeping sheep was the only type of farming suitable to the wet Welsh hills). Although the sign outside gave us a lot of information (that I copy here) the man inside was very friendly and kindly answered all our question about the cloth production.
From 1880 to 1932, Esgair Moel was run by Isaac Williams that produced blankets, shawls, flannel for making clothes and yarns for knitting socks. Locals brough their fleeces to be turned into cloth or blankets for their families while a proportion of these products would be kept by Williams to be sold for profit. The raw, greasy woold had to be dyed, combed and spun before weaving. The same process is still carried out today. It takes the Museum Weaver 20 hours of preparation and 2 hours of weaving to make a shawl.
After a hot cup of coffee we bought a map of the park (for only £0,30). By the way there’s no entrance fee for the park so you have no excuse to miss this amazing place and spend a great day here.
So, we entered the park and saw a big lawn with numerous sheeps (pic 1). For some strange I though the area will be very boring! We took the back paths towards the St Fagans castle passing from some picturesque paths, colorful trees and small lakes.
I forgot to mention that the museum lies at the grounds of Saint Fagan’s Castle, a huge house from 16th century that worth a visit itself and its gardens. The house was donate by the Earl of Plymouth.
I think we were lucky to visit the museum on cold day because in most of the building the fireplace was in use giving the whole area a better view (don’t you love seeing smike rising from chimneys?).
We were told here is where there were held the chicken fights... not sure... but at least we tried lol
At least we had a good laugh .... and the people that enter and found us in the middle doing silly things.