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  • Wendy Percival

Museum of the Year - my favourite!



I was delighted to hear this week that one of my favourite museums, St Fagan’s National Museum of History in Cardiff, had won Art Fund's Museum of the Year 2019.

Stephen Deuchar, the chair of the judges said: “This magical place was made by the people of Wales for people everywhere, and stands as one of the most welcoming and engaging museums anywhere in the UK.”


I can’t argue with that! I love visiting. It has a wonderful collection of buildings from many different eras. Being able to walk inside and see the interiors as they would have been, gives the visitor a real sense of the past.


It’s difficult to decide which building I like best - there are so many to choose from.


The 17th century Gower farmhouse, Kennixton, is high on the list, with its box bed beside the fire and the incredible rich colour of its exterior walls, along with the impressive Tudor Merchant's house and the medieval farmhouse.



Then again, I’m always a sucker for the modest cosy cob and thatch cottages. And the shops are always special. In the centre of the site is Gwalia Stores, set up to reflect the way it was in 1916. It includes a bakery, ironmongery, grocery, gentlemen's outfitters, chemist and a section selling animal feeds. Apparently, members of staff slept in the attics and were paid 8 shillings (40p) per week.


Gwalia Stores © Andrew Liivet

I was amazed by the colourful decoration inside the pretty whitewashed St Teilo’s Church, the way it might have looked around 1530 before the Reformation, after which time such illustrations were condemned as “popish”. Many were whitewashed over or, in some cases, gouged out of the walls.



The Rhyd-y-Car Terrace made an impact on me the first time I visited. A row of six tiny cottages, each was presented as it would have been in different time periods - 1805, 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955 and 1985.


The differences in the cottages’ charming interiors between the first three dates were amazingly subtle. Between the latter three, they were more distinct. While the ones from 1925 and 1955 had their own appeal, I hated the last one - stripped of its original character and its beautiful sliding-sash windows replaced with modern fan-lights. Ugh!


The Rhyd-y-Car Terrace cottages © M J Roscoe

After looking over all my old photographs and browsing the museum’s website, I’m now hankering for another trip!


Information and images of all the buildings at St Fagan's can be viewed on the museum's website Buildings page Some have videos, too.


Have you a favourite museum to recommend?




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