For any visitor who wants to appreciate that Wales amounts to more than male voice choirs, coal mines, Max Boyce, and the Pontypool front row, a visit to St Fagans National Museum of History is a must. This is especially true in this, its 75th anniversary year.
Admission is free to this fantastic open-air museum located just outside of Cardiff. It stands in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans Castle and gardens, a late-16th century manor house donated to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth in 1948. Since 1948, over 40 original Welsh buildings from different historical periods have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland. Among them are houses, a farm, a school, a chapel, a corn mill, a tannery, a boathouse and net house, a post office, a bakery, a toll house, and a splendid Workmen’s Institute.
Making history together
Ellen Davies, the museum’s Communications Officer, says: “At St Fagans you’re invited to explore the story of Wales, to shape it and share it with others. In the galleries you can do this in different ways – through play, sharing online, or by making things yourself by hand. The galleries have been created with the help of numerous individuals, organizations, and communities across Wales.”
The gallery called ‘Wales is …’ offers a window into 230,000 years of human life in Wales. Its 300 objects and 16 changing stories give everyone an opportunity to get involved and make history together. The ‘Life is …’ gallery tells the stories of over 1,000 generations. Here you will see how the people of Wales have dressed, eaten, worked, played, and died across the ages. See the dress Sybil Quick wore to a birthday party in 1937; the Dodd family caravan, a home from home for over 50 years; Rhys ap Thomas’s bed, intricately carved 500 years ago; and much more.
Nestled in the wood is a new sustainable building dedicated to craft and making. Gweithdy celebrates the skills of generations of craftspeople. You can draw inspiration from the crafts on display in the gallery and try your hand at traditional skills. The dedicated workshop space is the perfect place to learn something new on one of the many courses St Fagans offers, from spoon carving to blacksmithing and enamelling.
A special place
As Ellen points out, “This museum has been Wales’s most popular heritage attraction for many years. It holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Wales. This is because St Fagans is a people’s museum, where we explore history together through people’s everyday lives.”
The museum has certainly benefited from its £11.5mn National Lottery Heritage grant. This has enabled a refurbishment of the main building, and created new spaces for learning and collection research; three new galleries; and innovative building projects such as Llys Llywelyn, a Medieval Prince’s Hall, and an Iron Age farmstead.
There’s something there for all the family to see and do, with amenities at hand including a restaurant, picnic areas, a cafe, a play area, and all-weather access for wheelchair users. The time spent at the Museum can vary as there is so much to see. Visitors usually spend two to four hours, but it’s a year-round attraction you can return to again and again.
St Fagans never stands still, even in this 75th year. It is currently rebuilding The Vulcan Hotel, an iconic pub from Cardiff, with the Taff’s Well Police Station right next door. An appropriate neighbour, when it comes to keeping the peace.
St Fagans 75th year celebrations
In addition to normal daily and annual events, the museum will host a range of special celebrations for its 75th anniversary. The LambCam has been streaming live once again, sharing its annual baby boom with the world. The annual Food Festival returns to the Museum on 9–10 September, welcoming over 80 Welsh producers and makers and a host of performers and demonstrators.
Amgueddfa Cymru will partner with the Hindu Cultural Association Wales India Centre once again to host a Diwali Mela at St Fagans on 4 November. In addition to pop-up food stalls, music, and dance performances there will be the opportunity to take part in Dandiya Dance workshops, Indian yoga, Mehndi body art, and Classical Indian storytelling.
The much-loved Halloween Nights return in October following a three-year hiatus. St Fagans will be transformed for the three-night event, where families can enjoy spooky crafts and storytelling, be inspired by curious objects from the collection to make spells and potions, bump into ghoulish folklore characters, and watch the legendary burning of the Wickerman. Further information and tickets will be available from September.
If that’s not enough, look out for more details on Christmas events posted in September. These will include Meet Father Christmas, Carols in the Chapel, and Christmas markets to round off this very special 75th anniversary.
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