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St Fagans Museum; Welsh Folk Museum; Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagans

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Map ReferenceST17NW
Grid ReferenceST1168077190
Unitary (Local) AuthorityCardiff
Old CountyGlamorgan
CommunitySt Fagans
Type Of SiteMUSEUM
PeriodPost Medieval
1. St Fagan's Museum is set in 100 acres of parkland in the grounds (nprn 265794) of St Fagans Castle (nprns 19909 and 300313). A late 16th century manor house, the Welsh Folk Museum was opened in 1948 and was a pioneer open air museum. There are a number of galleries in the main museum buildings and exhibits in the castle itself. The open-air section now has over 40 original buildings moved from various parts of Wales and carefully re-erected. A number are of particular industrial interest: Melin Bompren Corn Mill, Oakdale Workmen's Institute, Sawmill, Rhaeadr Tannery, Llawr-y-glyn smithy, Rhyd-y-car houses, Gorse Mill, Tollhouse, Esgair-Moel Woollen Mill.

(A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of South East Wales, AIA, 2003)
B.A.Malaws, RCAHMW, 11 August 2005.

2. Although the site itself opened on 1 July 1948, the origins of the museum at St Fagans extend back to the collection of `Bygones? which were collected by people associated with the Cardiff Municipal Museum such as T. H. Thomas (Arlunydd Penygarn), T. C. Evans and T. W. Prosser, which was displayed in a temporary exhibition in Cardiff City Hall (NRPN 168) in 1913 and then in the Welsh Bygones Gallery in the National Museum in Cathays (NPRN 167) from 1926. Prior to the Second World War, there was a desire to establish an open-air museum of Welsh folk-life based on a model which was increasingly wide-spread in early-twentieth-century Scandinavia, pioneered at Skansen, near Stockholm, Sweden from 1891. This was postponed owing to the potential cost. However, in February 1946 the Earl of Plymouth offered the National Museum St Fagan's Castle (NPRN 19909) and its gardens and curtilage (around eighteen acres) for an open-air museum. A further appeal was made to the public for £100,000 in order to support the new museum in conjunction with a contribution from the Treasury.

The museum gardens opened briefly on 1 July 1947, with the museum opening exactly one year later. When it opened, it was the first open-air national museum in Britain and the first museum of its type in Britain, although similar folk museums did exist on the Isle of Man and in the Highlands. Originally, the museum was known as Amgueddfa Werin Cymru / Welsh Folk Museum, but while the Welsh name has remained constant, the English has changed several times, reflecting changing conceptualisations of the role and vision of the museum and its museological approach. In 1995, the museum became the Museum of Welsh Life and ten years later, in 2005, became St Fagans: National History Museum and finally St Fagans National Museum of History. The changes in approach are reflected in the types of buildings which have been collected at the museum, which reconstructs various buildings from throughout Wales within its 100-acre site. The majority of these have been deconstructed at their original site and carefully reconstructed at St Fagans, although some attractions, notably the Iron Age Village and Llys Llewelyn, are reconstructions from archaeological evidence, while others, notably the `House of the Future?, St Fagan's Castle, the dovecote, and Llwyn-yr-eos Farmstead are original or in situ. A list of the buildings can be seen below. There are currently over forty reconstructed buildings at St Fagans as well as exhibition spaces, forest land, a working farm, archival and office buildings, exhibition and conference space, and a restaurant and cafe. The sites are situated throughout the grounds, largely in spaces which would be reflective of their original use ? the mill, for instance, is situated near water, urban sites are clustered together, while rural sites are spread around the periphery, often isolated or obscured by wooded areas. The original main building (NPRN 413156), one of the main entrances to the site (the other being through St Fagan's Castle), was constructed between 1954 and 1968 and was heavily renovated, alongside new administrative buildings in 1971?76. In 2018, a new main building was opened having undergone an extensive renovation in order to house the archaeological collections of National Museums Wales as well as new and larger indoor exhibition spaces.

(Sources: Douglas A. Bassett, `The Making of a National Museum (Part III)?, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1984), 217?316; Rhiannon Mason, Museums, Nations, Identities: Wales and its National Museums (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007, pp. 148?78; National Museum of Wales website)
A.N. Coward, RCAHMW, 8.11.2018

A list of sites reconstructed at the museum:
Stryd Lydan Barn from Penley, Flintshire, 1951
Abernodwydd Farmhouse from Llangadfan, Montgomeryshire, 1951
Esgair Moel Woolen Mill from Llanwrtyd, Breconshire, 1952
Kennixton Farmhouse from Llangennith, Glamorgan, 1955
Pen-rhiw Chapel from Dre-fach Felindre, Carmarthenshire, 1956
Cilewent Farmhouse from Dyffryn Claerwen, Radnorshire, 1959
Llainfadyn Cottage from Rhostryfan, Caernarfonshire, 1962
Hendre'r-ywydd Uchaf Farmhouse from Llangynhafal, Denbighshire, 1962
Tannery from Rhayader, Radnorshire, 1968
Tollhouse from Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, 1968
Cockpit from Denbigh, Denbighshire, 1970
Smithy from Trefeglwys, Montgomeryshire, 1972
Circular Pigsty from Rhydfelen, Glamorgan, 1976
Melin Bompren Corn Mill from New Quay, Cardiganshire, 1977
Hayshed from Maentwrog, Merioneth, 1977
Hendre Wen Barn from Llanrwst, Caernarfonshire, 1982
Garreg Fawr Farmhouse from Waunfawr, Caernarfonshire, 1982
Gorse Mill from Dolwen, Denbighshire, 1983
Rhyd-y-Car Terrace Houses from Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, 1983
Maestir School from Lampeter, Cardiganshire, 1984
Saddler's Workshop from St Clears, Carmarthenshire, 1986
Communal Bread Ovens from Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, 1987
Derwen Bakehouse from Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, 1987
Pottery Kiln from Ewenny Glamorgan, 1988
Summer House from Bute Park, Cardiff, Glamorgan, 1988
Gwalia Stores from Ogmore Vale, Glamorgan, 1988
`Celtic? Village / Farmstead, 1991, 2015
Tailor's Workshop from Cross Inn, Cardiganshire, 1992
Nant Wallter Cottage from Taliaris, Carmarthenshire, 1993
Post Office from Blaen-waun, Caemarthenshire, 1993
Oakdale Workmen's Institute from Oakdale, Monmouthshire, 1995
Newbridge War Memorial from Newbridge, Monmouthshire, 1996
Sawmill from Llanddewi-Brefi, Cardiganshire, 1997
`Prefab? House from Cardiff, Glamorgan, 2001
St Teilo's Church, Llandeilo Tal-y-bont, Glamorgan, 2007
Urinal from Llanwrtyd Wells, Radnorshire, 2010
Tudor Trader's House from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, 2010
Llys Llywelyn Medieval Court, 2018
Vulcan Hotel from Cardiff, Glamorgan (in progress, 2018)