Welcome back to the second part of my blog post about fabulous Saint Fagans – the UK’s first ever open-air museum, situated near Cardiff in Wales.
The first blog post featured my personal favourites out of the wonderful collection of shops, industrial buildings and places of worship you can explore at Saint Fagans. I would stress there are many, many more beautiful buildings apart from the ones I have featured to explore.
Given the Welsh economy’s heavy reliance on agriculture, it is no surprise there are several farmhouses and mills at Saint Fagans. If I had to pick my favourite out of all of them it would be Kennixton Farmhouse, originally from Llangennith on the Gower. Its the first building you meet as you enter the site, and you cant miss it as its painted a vivid red colour. This colour was supposed to ward off evil spirits. I also like the walled enclosure built onto the farmhouse where the geese would have been penned. They would have acted like guard dogs and warned the inhabitants of any approaching visitors.
A close second would be Cilwent Farmhouse, which is originally from the Elan Valley near where I live. The farmhouse was a cruck and timber-framed house built about 1470 as an open hall. The original timber walls were rebuilt in stone in 1734 and all that remains of the original house are two cruck trusses. This is a ‘long-house’, with cattle being accommodated at one end and humans at the other. This type of farmhouse was once common in Wales.
This farmhouse is also supposed to be haunted by the spirit of a young child who fell down the stairs to their death. Child’s laughter is often heard and visitors report being touched around waist-height.
A special mention goes to Garreg Fawr, a solid and imposing Tudor farmhouse built in 1544. I particularly love this building as its rare to see a full 16th century house – its more easy to see a 16th century Tudor palace in this country! Its also looks so solidly built, made out of mountain boulders and slates for the roof. I imagine this house would have blended seamlessly in with the Gwynedd landscape from where it came. The tall chimneys were probably viewed as status symbols in the 16th century when most people had to make do with a fire in the middle of the floor and a smoke-filled house.
One of the most popular buildings at Saint Fagans is the Rhyd-y-car terrace, bought to the museum from Merthyr Tydfil in the early 1980s. This small terrace was built by ironmaster Richard Crawshay in around 1795 to provide housing for his workers. The six houses in the row are displayed at different periods in their history, ranging from 1805 to 1985. The terraces also have little gardens, some complete with Anderson shelters. I think these houses are popular as, for many people, the houses dressed in the 21st Century furniture must contain a lot of things they recognise from their own childhood.
St Fagans Castle and Gardens
Off to the side of the main site, and very often missed by visitors, is the Elizabethan St Fagans Castle (more of a manor house than a castle btw). The present house was begun circa 1580, and was purchased in 1616 by Edward Lewis of Y Fan, Caerphilly. The Lewis heiress Elizabeth married Other (no, that is not a typo!), 3rd Earl of Plymouth in 1730, and the estate was inherited by their infant son Other Jr. in 1736.
The rooms are furnished to reflect the lives of the Windsor-Clive family in residence at the beginning of the 20th century. The family gifted the castle and grounds to the National Museum of Wales in 1947, and subsequently the grounds became the site of the open air museum.
I must admit I have visited Saint Fagans several times, but only made it over to see the castle and formal gardens once. It is a beautiful place to visit in the summer when the flowers are all in bloom. If you visit Saint Fagans, make sure you don’t miss it.
I must stress my blog posts have only featured my personal highlights from Saint Fagans, and there are many, many more wonderful buildings to discover there. There are currently over 40 buildings on site, and they are adding more all the time. I cannot recommend this open-air museum enough – it really is, as the Welsh would say, lush!