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Images of Wales

Where's that?? - locate the Museum of Welsh Life on a map of South Wales.

Museum of Welsh Life
St Fagans, Glamorgan

Except where indicated, photography by John Ball - 26 November 2002
(with a Fuji FinePix S602 Zoom digital camera)

Over the past half century, the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans, near Cardiff, has become one of Europe's most outstanding open-air museums, and the most visited heritage attraction in Wales. The museum shows how Welsh people lived, worked and spent their leisure time over the last five hundred years. The open-air section of the museum now has more than forty original buildings moved from various parts of Wales and re-erected on the museum site. There are also large indoor galleries housing exhibitions of costume, daily life, and farming implements. Entry to the museum is free. Further details can be found on the Museum Website.

This Images of Wales feature is a photographic record of my visit to the Museum of Welsh Life in November 2002 in the company of fellow genealogist Venita Roylance from Utah, USA. The photographs illustrate some of the open-air exhibits and are arranged in approximate chronological order.

Page 1 (below)                   Page 2                   Page 3

St Teilo's Church
Above: Window in the east wall of St Teilo's.

St Teilo's Church, Llandeilo Tal-y-bont

St Teilo's Church originally stood on marshy land on the east side of the River Loughor at Llandeilo Tal-y-bont near Pontarddulais, Glamorgan. It is believed to have been built in the 13th century on the site of an earlier Celtic church.

The museum's specialist Historical Buildings Unit is currently [2002] rebuilding the church as it would have appeared circa 1520. Construction of the walls and arches is well advanced and the museum's carpenters are preparing the roof timbers for the next phase. The church was originally roofed with large tiles made from split sandstone. However, at some point, these were replaced with slates, and the old stone tiles were discarded. In order to recreate the church's original appearance the museum is now [2002] looking for stone tiles to cover the roof.

Update – June 2010
The reconstruction of St Teilo's Church was completed in 2007 and the church was officially opened on 14 October 2007 by the Most Reverend Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The National History Museum website hosts an extensive online Gallery of photographs of the completed building.

Below: Reconstructed east wall of St Teilo's Church.
St Teilo's Church

Read more about St Teilo's on the Glamorgan Family History Society website.

Kennixton Farmhouse

Kennixton Farmhouse
Above: Kennixton Farmhouse, Gower. Originally built in 1610; re-erected at the museum in 1955.

This early 17th century farmhouse was located at Llangynydd on the Gower Peninsula, Glamorgan. The red colour of the walls was thought to protect the house against evil spirits. The house was extended circa 1680 and again around 1750.

Denbigh Cockpit

Cockpit, Denbighshire
Above: Circular thatched cockpit. Built in the 17th century; re-erected at the museum in 1970.

  Cockpit, Welshpool  
Photography by John Ball, 1998  

The thatched cockpit above originally stood in the yard of the Hawk and Buckle Inn at Denbigh. After the prohibition of cockfighting in 1849, the cockpit was used as a slaughterhouse, and more recently, as a garage.

For centuries, cockfighting was enjoyed by all social classes in Wales. Unruly crowds flocked to their local pits to witness gory encounters in which specially bred cocks fought each other to the death.

Right: The only cockpit in Wales still in its original location is this late 18th century brick-built pit at Welshpool, Montgomeryshire, which could hold 150 spectators. It was restored in 1978.

Llawr-y-glyn Smithy

Llawr-y-glyn Smithy
Above: Blacksmith's workshop. Built in the 18th century; re-erected at the museum in 1972.

This smithy was originally located in the village of Llawr-y-glyn, Montgomeryshire. It consisted of a shoeing area, the smithy itself, and a stable, which originally housed horses awaiting shoeing. The Llawr-y-glyn smithy ceased working in 1963.

Until the mid 20th century, every rural community depended heavily on its smithy. Horses were shod, household items made and mended, and metal tyres applied to wooden wagon wheels. Many blacksmiths manufactured ploughs and other farm implements as well as domestic utensils, tools and nails.

Nant Wallter Cottage

Nant Wallter Cottage
Above: Nant Wallter Cottage. Built circa 1770; re-erected at the museum in 1993.

This cottage was originally located at Taliaris, Llandeilo Fawr, Carmarthenshire. It is the only building in the museum which has walls constructed of clay or mud. The clay was dug on the site of the building and mixed with straw and stone dust. It was then laid in layers which were allowed to dry for several days before the next layer could be added. The straw thatch on the roof is laid on gorse and wattle on a timber base.

The original occupants of the cottage worked on the Taliaris estate.

Aberystwyth Tollhouse

Rhosili Bay
Above: Tollhouse. Built 1771; re-erected at the museum in 1968.

The tollhouse originally guarded the south gate to Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire. It was built of local stone and roofed with Pembrokeshire slates. David Jones of Dihewyd was the first gatekeeper. The building had just a single room, one end of which was used for the collection of tolls.

Because of the poor quality of most rural roads in Wales, in the late 18th century local gentry began to build private or turnpike roads for which tolls were charged (see examples below). Tollhouses were unpopular with country people, who now had to pay in order to travel and to move their livestock along the turnpike roads. In the 1840s, their dissatisfaction culminated in violent attacks on tollgates and tollhouses known as the Rebecca Riots. This action eventually led to the abolition of turnpike trusts in 1864. Thereafter, county councils took over the responsibility for building and maintaining the roads.

Below: Examples of tolls charged at the Aberystwyth South Gate.

Pen-rhiw Chapel

Above: Across the field from the tollhouse is the tiny Pen-rhiw Chapel.

Find out more about Pen-rhiw Chapel and continue exploring the museum exhibits on Page 2

Page 1 (above)                   Page 2                   Page 3

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Details of each website feature (for newcomers) Direct links to each website feature (for regulars) Advance news of new developments on my website Summary of all the latest updates Gateway to Welsh Family History Archive Help for those having problems accessing my website A link to the main 'gateway' page to my entire website