The National Museum of History in St. Fagans began to be erected in 1946 on the grounds of castle of Earl of the Plymouth and opened to visitors two years later. Although the museum was intended to preserve Welsh rural architecture, it now covers the period from prehistoric times to the twentieth century. From the oldest buildings, transported and reconstructed in the open-air museum, you can name the church of St. Teilo from the 12th-16th centuries (described in a separate article here), the rural house of Hendre’r Ywydd Uchaf from 1508, the house of a Tudor merchant from the 16th century, Stryd Lydan’s barn from around 1550 and the rural house of Y Garreg Fawr from 1544. In addition, you can see the reconstruction of the royal court of the Gwynedd princes from the thirteenth century and restored on the basis of archaeological excavations Bryn Eryr village from the Iron Age.
The village house of Hendre’r Ywydd Uchaf is an example of a Welsh late-medieval half-timber frame building. It is a longitudinal, divided into five spans, a rectangular building. Two side spans served as rooms for cattle and horses, a central one as a work-room, and the next two side rooms were a common room (hall) and a bedroom. In the middle room was an open hearth, from which smoke escaped through the roof and not glazed windows. The external walls of the building are timber with fillings in the form of brushwood, straw and clay. The whole was whitewashed, as was common in the Middle Ages.
The merchant’s house from the Tudor period is a small building with a vaulted ground floor and a living room on the first floor, which was accessible by timber, external stairs. The upper room had an open fireplace, next to which was a latrine with a sewage drain outside the building. There was a shop on the vaulted ground floor, where goods were also stored, such as ropes, salted fish, cheese or barrels of wine.
Stryd Lydan’s barn was built of timber (cruck-framed) on a rectangular plan around 1550, and fifty years later it was enlarged by the addition of a new timber-framed part. The walls are made of horizontal and vertical chestnut beams with fillings supplemented with a braid. On many beams you can see carpenters marks, which indicates that the construction was first made on the ground at the carpenter’s yard, the timber was numbered and then finally assembled on site. The roof of the building was covered with wheat straw. One of the shorter side walls and the building’s base are made of stones.
Bryn Eryr was a small farming settlement from the Iron Age near Llansadwrn on the east end of the island of Anglesey. It consisted of the most commonly than used round huts, that were discovered during excavations. Three of them were reconstructed. The earliest and largest house was built in the Iron Age and surrounded by a timber palisade. The second circular building, probably built shortly before the Roman invasion, was placed next to the first, in such a way that both were connected by a short passage between the two rooms. The walls of these houses were built of clay with a wall thickness of up to 1.8 meters. As the last one, a third house was erected on a stone pedestal.
Llys Llywelyn is a recreated royal manor of Welsh rulers of Gwynedd from the 13th century. Its appearance was based on the surviving remains of Llys Rhosyr in the south-west of the island of Anglesey. It has been used at least since the beginning of the 13th century. In 1282 it was captured by Edward I and donated to his wife Eleanor of Castile. Its existence is testified until around mid-fourteenth century. To make its reconstruction more likely, detailed research and consultations were conducted with experts in Welsh history, architecture and literature, as well as researches on surviving castles and temples from that period. A stone rectangular hall and an adjacent, smaller building in a plan similar to a square were recreated.
The open-air museum in St Fagans is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00. There are no admission fees. On-site parking, dining facilities and gift shops are available.
Website museum.wales, Historical buildings at St Fagans.