St Fagan’s National History Museum

The boiling hot Thursday has given way to a blustery and wet Saturday. Our plan was to go hill walking in Powys over the weekend, but that had to be scuppered. The rain is much needed and wishing it away is a very selfish thought. My walk can wait. Instead we are told to visit Saint Fagan’s National Museum of History. An open air museum situated 6 miles from the hotel.

We say our goodbyes and check out before eleven. It has been raining since yesterday afternoon and has got worse today. I wonder how the day is going to pan out. As we reach the site and park the car, it starts raining heavily. The entrance to the museum is free. We just need to pay for the parking. Despite the rain there are a few cars parked and people are making their way into the museum. It is one of the best open air museums and a very popular place. We wait for the rain to peter out before getting out of the car. On Thursday even one layer of clothing was too hot to bear. Today I have four layers on and am just managing to keep warm.

The museum is set in the grounds of St Fagan’s castle, a 16th century Manor House, which was donated by its owner the Earl of Plymouth along with 18 acres of land to the National Museum of Wales in 1946. The castle dates back to 1580. The Earl and his family used to spend part of the summer months in the castle. The interior is conserved in a way to show how life was for them during that period. I read with interest the part where it says that one of his Butler’s duty was to iron the Earl’s daily newspaper. It stops the ink from rubbing off the paper. How life has changed in a hundred years.

Only the castle and one other historic building originally occupied this site. Over the years more than fifty buildings have been dismantled and brought here from all over Wales and carefully reconstructed to showcase how life in Wales used to be during different periods in time. The earliest building is based on an experimental reconstruction of an archeological finding of an Iron Age farmstead dating back 2000 years. Others date back to the sixteenth century and afterwards. There are farmhouses, shops, tailors, bakery, a Woollen mill, a school, churches, prefab aluminium houses from after the Second World War, postoffice etc etc. In some of the places there are guides to answer our questions. We walk into a delightful little tea shop where people are enjoying their cakes and afternoon tea with music from the early part of last century gently playing in the background. It was lunchtime and so we decide to give it a miss. Next door there are shops from bygone eras. A couple are working ones selling food items and one a candy store.

There is also a craft fair going on showcasing the local talents. A young lady tells me all about her hand made jewellery and semi precious stones. She talks about the healing power of the stones, which are all naturally sourced, how to re-energise them and how to take care of the jewellery. Another man is carving bowls and various objects from juniper, walnut, pear and other types of trees. He tells me where he found the different types of wood as I admire his handiwork.

It stopped raining soon after we got here and it truly has been like stepping back into the history pages. Some of the houses have their occupant’s history traced and charted. One such stone dwelling housed the Williams family and their brood with a lodger. Their grandson emigrated to New York during the early part of last century and when he was 92 years old came back here to visit his grandparent’s place. A number of episodes of Dr Who have been filmed in this museum. The Time Lord didn’t have to look far when he stepped back in time.

When I see an old charcoal iron in one of the houses, it takes me back to my own childhood. I remember my cousins using one of them to iron their clothes. Wooden latches to close doors remind me of my grandparents house. We are lucky in a sense that we have lived through a time where we’ve been able to experience all these changes in our lifetime. We’ve seen the old, lived through the changes and can reminisce about the olden days.

Another memorable day over and now it’s time to make our way home.

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