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Fantastic St Fagans.
St Fagans National History Museum (Cardiff)
Member Name: Lunah_C
St Fagans National History Museum (Cardiff)
Advantages: Free, Great way to learn history.
I first visited St. Fagans about 25 years ago as a child. The place had appealed to me and for some time I had wanted to return. The problem is a small matter of 250 miles. So recently, when hubby and I decided to spend a weekend in Wales celebrating our anniversary St Fagans was one of the places we visited.
St Fagans, Cardiff, CF5 6XB.
The Museum is 4 miles from Cardiff City Centre and so easy to reach.
By Car…Follow the signs from junction 33 of the M4 motorway onto the A4232. The Museum entrance is a short way along this road.
By Bus…Buses operate between Cardiff Central Bus Station (immediately outside Cardiff Central rail station) and St Fagans throughout the year. Buses Nos. 32 and 320 from Stand B3 to St Fagans at least hourly during the Museum's visiting hours, sometimes more frequently subject to seasonal variations.
£2.50 per car per day. No charge is made for disabled badge holders* or motorbikes.
There is also a cycle rack adjacent to the car park for anyone wishing to cycle to the museum.
*Most of the museum is accessible to those in wheelchairs, but some areas such as the castle are up steep hills.
10am - 5pm daily.
Free, Free, Free!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't remember much about my previous visit only how fascinating I found it and how for once I was actually interested in learning some history. But even with these few memories I was eager to visit once again.
Finding it easily and having no problems parking in the large car park, we headed to the entrance. It was not yet open as it had been much quicker to reach than we had expected, but there was plenty to look at and read outside.
Once open we ventured inside. At the time of visiting they were rebuilding the entrance but it didn't seem to be causing any problems. With no entrance fee we walked straight in. You are immediately faced with the gift shop, and a couple of well placed donation boxes. We were happy enough to contribute and did so before continuing to the temporary information desk. Here we purchased a guide book for £3. It basically contains information on every building in the museum which can be read outside each building, (In English or Welsh) but it is a nice keepsake and shows pictures that you could never achieve with a camera.
On leaving the rear of this building you enter the museum. There is no set route but as each building is numbered we decided to try and see them in order. Sometimes this meant doubling back on ourselves but at least we knew we had not missed anything out. We deviated slightly as it was raining a little and also there was a wedding reception in the afternoon meaning one of the buildings was to be closed, so we made sure we went there early.
Unfortunately my camera batteries packed up just after we arrived and although we went back to purchase some from the shop, they turned out to be a bad batch. They happily replaced them but as I said it was a bad batch so not wanting to go back again we continued just grateful that we had bought the guidebook to take home.
You can go inside most of the buildings, which is really nice. The exceptions being the smaller ones such as the bee house and the pigsty. In each of these buildings is a member of staff who seemed to be able to answer all questions thrown at them. They varied in age but all seemed to have a very good knowledge of the particular building they were in and were more than happy to chat.
I'm not going to discuss every one of the forty buildings you will be glad to read, but I have picked out my five favourites.
This area is like walking into a real farm as it has all the buildings you would expect. The farmhouse dates from the 19th century but is displayed as a farm in the 1930's with gas lighting and 20th century furniture. It was rebuilt at St fagans in 1989 so was not at the Museum on my first visit. The kitchen is used to demonstrate traditional cooking, using both the coal fired range and the gas oven, but sadly not the day we visited.
There is a small laundry room outside which houses a washing machine and ironing equipment from that period. Other buildings include a barn and lean to that house machinery and horse drawn equipment. A pigsty, a calf pen, a brew house and a farm labourers cottage almost complete the look. But the addition of animals does the trick. The animals themselves aren't from the 19th century but are the breeds that would have been kept at the time. However this didn't stop one of the Geese from chasing my hubby along the lane.
This village consists of three round houses recreated from the Iron Age. There is a stone walled house, a wattle walled house and another house with it's roof supported on posts. All three have a straw roof.
Inside one of the houses it is done out to show how it would have been all those years ago with all the everyday utensils of the Celts. We chatted for some time to the man in here who was even dressed for the part. It was quite fascinating all the things he told us, I just wish my memory was slightly better so I could pass it on. We did wonder how people managed to live in those days, all packed into one room, which was used for sleeping, eating and everyday living, but somehow it also seemed very cosy and amazingly much bigger than I would have expected.
This small rural school was used from 1880 to 1916 in an area not too far away. This was one of the buildings I had remembered from my first visit. I think it was because there were lots of people dressed up and in the playground the sorts of toys that children of that time played with. Sadly these had all gone. It might be that they do this on certain occasions only and we just happened to catch one last time. Another thing I was disappointed about was that before we had been able to wander around the classroom and sit at the various sized desks. This was now not possible as it had been roped off. It also meant you could not look in the display cabinets that housed some very interesting pieces.
~Rhyd-Y-Car Iron Workers' Houses~
This row of terraced houses have been moved from Merthyr Tydfil. They were built around 1800 for the workers in the iron ore mine. There are six hoses here and each has been displayed to illustrate a different period from their history, ranging from 1805 to 1985. I found these houses really fascinating and we spent some time looking around the homes and the small gardens opposite. The funniest thing was the bath in the kitchen which had a very clever piece of worktop over it so that it could be used as a table when not in use. The last house from 1985 was very interesting as suddenly I felt so old. I recognized many of the items from my own childhood and teen years and found it very eerie that things from 'my era' were deemed old enough to be in a museum.
~Aluminum prefab Bungalow~
My mum has often mentioned the prefab house she lived in as a child s I was intrigued to see these. Again the member of staff was happy to give us part of his vast knowledge of the buildings and the type of life those who lived there had. The bungalows date from 1948 and were designed and developed as a way of providing large numbers of houses quickly after the Second World War. The layout of the bungalows reminded me of some of the chalets we used to stay in as a child on holiday camps, and the 1950's look gave me a good insight as to how my mum lived when she was a child.
They were my five favourites but one other building I remember well too. Unlike the others which have been recreated or re erected from other areas of Wales this one was actually built on site and it only six years old.
~The Ty Gwyrdd~
This building is very different from the others in the museum. It was part of a competition to design a house showing how a house in Wales might look in 50 years time. It is as expected, energy efficient, and is built with local materials in a traditional way. Wool is used to insulate the walls. Central heating and hot water is provided by means of an electric ground -source heat pump, which works like a fridge in reverse. The house is practically self sufficient and it would be nice to think that maybe one day we will all live in homes like this.
The museum also includes a chapel and a splendid Workmen's Institute as well as several workshops where craftsmen demonstrate their traditional skills to the public. Their produce is usually on sale.
After walking around the buildings we decided to go and have a look around the castle. The castle is surrounded by large gardens and fishponds. It involves a lot of walking but is really worth it. The Castle itself is a Grade 1 listed building, built in 1580 and remodeled during the nineteenth century.
Not only can you walk around the large rooms used by Lords and Earls over the years but you can also go downstairs and see just what life was like for the servants and maids.
Somewhere in the Castle is a tea room but despite wandering around several times we never found it.
By now we were thoroughly exhausted, as well as wet through and hungry. Fortunately having followed the buildings in order we had done a full circle and were now back at the beginning, the main building.
Not having found the tea room we headed upstairs in the main building to the self service restaurant. After studying the menu we decided to ask exactly what each meal was as the menu contained a lot of Welsh. It turned out the meal we had decided on was simply steak and ale pie. It was just that the name of the ale was in welsh. I think it was about £6 for the meal. Not the cheapest, but not the dearest I have come across either. It was however very tasty and we did get a very generous portion.
There is a snack bar also which is just as you leave the main building, but was not open the day we went. There is also a tea room above the stores in the museum, which served traditional welsh cakes and a few other delights.
The Bakery in the museum sold bread and cakes too which have been baked on site.
A special area has been set aside for picnics, which is ideal if you have a young family, or are on a tight budget.
Back in the main building upstairs, there are also large galleries housing exhibitions of costume, daily life and farming implements. Special exhibitions are held at regular intervals.
By now we had no energy left and so missed these out but we hope to go back and see them one day.
Somehow it seemed very different to how I remembered but it was still a great place to go. We are determined to go back, next time with the children as we think it is an excellent way of teaching history. Hopefully it won't be a couple of decades before we return but as the museum is changing daily I am sure there will be lots of new things to see.
The Museum has lots of events throughout the year and celebrates many of the local festivals. Hopefully we will be able to go on one of these days as I think that will really help to make history come alive and will give my children a memory just like I had so that maybe one day in the future they will return with their children. And who knows they may even look at the house of the future and wonder how we ever lived like that!
Summary: St Fagans is a great place to learn about Welsh history.
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