Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


The Bishop’s Palace at Hereford was once a very grand hall, and as it was built in 1180, offers a rare glimpse at the constructional techniques of the period. Last week, my colleagues and I visited the Palace to see the one giant arched-brace that survives, hidden in the attic.

One of St. Fagans’ latest building projects is the reconstruction of a medieval Royal hall from Rhosyr, near Newborough in Anglesey. This hall was significant because it was one of 22 in Gwynedd owned by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn ‘the Great’) during the beginning of the 13th century. At the time Princes were peripatetic and would visit each hall in turn, in order to attend to the administrative needs of that region. As this hall now only stands as a ruin, very little evidence survived of its timber-framed roof, and a considerable amount of research has been undertaken in order to provide a representative design for the reconstruction. One potential ‘post-pad’, and areas of differential stone paving was enough evidence to suggest the existence of two rows of timber posts within the great hall at Rhosyr. These divided the space along its length, forming a central ‘knave’ and an ‘aisle’ on either side. Rows of tall timber posts like these need to be braced together to ensure their rigidity, and hence the reason for our visit to Hereford. The curved arch is almost as impressive today as it must have been when it was built. We plan on replicating this framing technique by joining our posts with similar, if smaller, arched-braces. Together they will form strong ‘arcades’ on which our roof rafters can rest.

The 1168 work was finished to a very high standard, as you can see from the ornately carved capitals and the studding along the upper edge of the brace. The timber is also of some note, as today such large diameters are only to be found in the dreams of woodworkers. For instance, each half of the brace is made from a single long curving trunk, which would be an exceptionally rare find these days. Also, the circular column near the base of the arch has been carved from, and is still attached to, the same trunk as the square post it backs on to - which called for a very wide tree.  A point of note, however, is that although the standard of workmanship is high, its design is somewhat frowned upon. In his book ‘English Historic Carpentry’ (1980) Cecil A. Hewett wrote ‘This is poor carpentry’… ‘The Hereford example is wrought to a high standard, but this quality is expressed only in the skilled cutting of the timber and the degree of ‘fit’ achieved. As illustrated, the jointing is weak and hardly deserves to be called such..’

Although described as ‘bad carpentry’ The Bishop’s Palace has stood for 835 years. Having returned from Hereford, my challenge is to replicate this design for use in our own hall, where 17 of these semi-circular arched braces are required to support Llys Rhosyr’s thatched roof, albeit at a reduced scale. The inclusion of a pair of hidden tennons at the top of the arch will successfully raise the standard of the jointing while crucially, maintaining the look of the original brace.

I’m back at my desk in St Fagans having just had one of those ‘I love my job’ kind of weeks. On Wednesday, I spent the day with an amazing group of Year 10 students from Ysgol Clywedog in Wrexham, gauging their opinions on devolution and its impact on Wales since 1997. Heavy-going stuff for 14 year olds? Think again!

With my colleagues Owain and Richard, I met the students at Wrexham County Borough Museum bright and early on Wednesday morning for an action-packed day of researching, questioning and debating. The aim of the day was to produce a film of the students discussing devolution and what it means to them as teenagers living in Wrexham today – a town which voted ‘no’ in 1997. We took a banner from the collection with us as a springboard for debate. This banner – made for the ‘yes’ campaign by the artist Mary Lloyd Jones – will be displayed in one of the redeveloped galleries here at St Fagans in the near future, along with contemporary voices from Ysgol Clywedog.

To kick-start the discussion, we asked the students to do a little background research. Some trawled the web using i-pads, while others accessed local newspapers stored on microfilm in the museum’s archive. Headlines and articles from the Wrexham Leader gave a snapshot of the debate at a local level – 44.3% of voters in Wrexham were in favour of devolution, while 55.7% were against. The Year 10 researchers were not surprised by the ‘no’ vote in Wrexham. This prompted a lengthy discussion about their identities as young people in north-east Wales, living so close to the border with England. Interestingly, eight out of the nine participants would have voted ‘yes’ in 1997 had they been eligible to vote.

We then moved on to analysing the banner. Without any prompts or contextual information, we asked the students to jot down their initial reactions and emotions on viewing it for the first time. Comments varied from questions about its design to its usage and meaning. In the afternoon, we filmed two group discussions, with the students directing questions to each other. This took on the feel of an informal Question Time, without the cheering and heckling! We were so impressed with the energy and enthusiasm of the students, it’s going to be a real challenge to edit the finished product.

A huge thank you to Thomas, Jess, Edan, Pedro, Morgan, Elise, Matthew, Lucy and Harry from Ysgol Clywedog for taking part in the project. We can’t wait to see the film on display. Our thanks also to Wrexham Museum for hosting and supporting the workshop. Diolch yn fawr iawn i bawb.

#YesForWalesBanner #MakingHistory

#BanerIeDrosGymru #CreuHanes


Croeso i flog Archif Sain Amgueddfa Werin Cymru. Wedi ugain mlynedd o weithio yn yr archif ac o bori trwy’r casgliadau mae’r amser wedi dod i mi blymio i ddyfnderoedd y cyfryngau torfol.

Brawychus (efallai yn fwy felly i’r gynulleidfa nac i mi)! Felly a’m calon yn curo, a’m pengliniau yn siglo dyma fynd ati i ysgrifennu (a chadw’r bys yn hofran dros y botwm “Publish” am wythnos neu ddwy nes magu hyder) gyda’r gobaith o rannu rhai o berlau amhrisiadwy yr Archif Sain gyda Chymru a’r byd.

Dechrau Casglu

Dechreuodd yr Amgueddfa gasglu hanes llafar yn y 50au hwyr ac erbyn hyn mae bron i 12,000 o recordiadau yn ein casgliad. Ers 1958 mae staff yr Amgueddfa wedi crwydro dros fryn a dôl, dros bont a thraffordd (ac wedi mynd yn sownd mewn ambell i gae) yn recordio trigolion Cymru yn trafod eu bywydau pob dydd, eu gwaith a’u diddordebau.


Ymysg y pynciau a drafodir ceir sôn am amaethyddiaeth, crefftau a geirfâu crefft, gwaith tŷ, bwydydd traddodiadol, meddyginiaethau gwerin, chwaraeon, storïau gwerin, canu gwerin, arferion tymhorol, arferion marw a chladdu a charu a phriodi, diwydiannau, tafodieithoedd y Gymraeg a diddordebau hamdden.

Os hoffech wybod sut i olchi praidd o ddefaid neu lanhau sêt tŷ bach bren nes ei bod yn disgleirio, os ydych yn ysu am baratoi penglog ceffyl er mwyn creu Mari Lwyd neu wella gwlithen ar y llygad trwy ddefnyddio malwoden a draenen wen, mae’r manylion oll ar gadw yn ein harchif.

Mae gennym atgofion coliers am geffylau ofergoelus yn y pyllau glo yn dwyn eu baco a’u diod o’u pocedi ac atgofion gwragedd am bobi teisen gwaed gwyddau a pharatoi ffagots a brôn. Mae gennym gasgliad eang o ganeuon gwerin a cherddoriaeth, o blant yn canu caneuon sgipio i recordiadau o gynulleidfaoedd yn canu pwnc.


Recordiwyd dros 5 mil o siaradwyr dros y blynyddoedd o Gaergybi i Gasnewydd ac o Dyddewi i Dreffynnon gan ddiogelu gwybodaeth heb ei hail ar gyfer y dyfodol.

I’r ystadegwyr yn eich plith ceir 798 siaradwr â’r cyfenw Jones yn yr Archif, 415 Williams, 375 Davies, 297 Evans, 246 Thomas a 224 Roberts. Yr enw cyntaf mwyaf poblogaidd ymysg y dynion yw John (272 siaradwr) ac ymysg y merched ceir 144 Mary a 138 Margaret. Ganwyd ein siaradwr hynaf yn 1841 a ganwyd 6 o’n siaradwyr ar ddiwrnod Nadolig.

Gobeithio bod y blog cyntaf hwn wedi ysgogi eich dychymyg ac wedi codi archwaeth am ragor.

Hwyl am y tro

A lot of progress has been made since my last blog post. The thatching has been completed and the final stages of landscaping are underway. An earthen bank has been built around the two roundhouses, replicating the formidable defences of the original site at Bryn Eryr Farm in Anglesey. A turf-roofed shelter has been built behind the houses, which is to be used as an outdoor workshop as well as an additional educational facility. Its walls are of clom (a mixture of clay, subsoil and aggregate) just like the roundhouses, but its turf roof represents another roofing material arguably as old as thatching itself. A cobbled surface has been created outside the front of the roundhouses, again, reminiscent of the original site.

Recently, my work has focussed on furnishing the interior of the houses. The larger of the two houses will remain fairly empty (other than a hearth and a wooden bench that circumnavigates its inner perimeter) so that it can be used as a classroom and demonstration area. The smaller house has been dressed to display Iron Age life. Within are some of the furnishings expected of any Iron Age house: a hearth for warmth, a bed for sleeping, a loom for weaving clothing and blankets – along with wooden chests to store them in, and a cauldron for cooking food. Nearly all of the items on display are based on period examples that have managed to survive 2000 years of time. For instance, the cauldron is a replica of a well-preserved copper and iron cooking pot from Llyn Cerrig Bach – only 25km away from the Bryn Eryr site. The iron fire-dogs are simplified replicas of the Capel Garmon fire-dog which was discovered not far away in Denbighshire. The wooden bowls are replicas of those found at the Breiddin hillfort in Montgomeryshire, and the quern stones (for grinding corn into flour) are replicas of ones found within the Bryn Eryr roundhouses themselves. We have a full wood-working tool-kit based on examples from hillforts such as Tre’r Ceiri and Castell Henllys. Even the blankets on the bed have been faithfully copied from surviving scraps of textile.

Now that the house has been faithfully dressed with period furnishings, we can use the space to demonstrate what life was like within a roundhouse. Furthermore, with the aid of craftspeople, re-enactors and volunteers, we can contribute to a deeper understanding of life in the Iron Age, and help turn this house into a home.

We would like to offer volunteers the opportunity to get involved in caring for the museum collections on open display in the historic houses. We have a huge number of objects, including items made from pottery, glass, textiles, paper, wood and leather, all of which need constant care and repair.

We plan to use traditional housekeeping techniques as well as modern conservation methods to help keep our collection looking good.  No previous experience is required, all training will be provided.

New facilities are also being created for our housekeeping volunteers, providing a comfortable area to work as well as relax.

If you are interested in joining us, please follow this link to the application form and we look forward to hearing from you.
This is a pilot project so even if the initial days we offer are not suitable, please still register your interest as more opportunities will arise in the future.