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We have almost 50 historic buildings here at St Fagans, and most of us staff here have clear favourites. I find I have more than one categories of favourites - the one with my favourite story, the house I’d most like to live in today, and so on. For a spotlight tour I needed to consider all this, pick my favourites, and take visitors on a tour of my chosen buildings.

After thinking, and changing my mind a few times, I made a decision. I chose the Tollhouse with its connections to rich and fascinating political and social history, Nantwallter which has a great story attached, and Llainfadyn which is originally from Rhostryfan, not far from where I grew up in North Wales. I also noticed that they seemed to be linked, and not only by their period of interpretation.

Nantwallter is built from clom, a mix of clay, straw and fine aggregate packed in layers. As the house was being dismantled, a piece of newspaper was found. On the paper was an advert for a ship called the Halton Castle which was to sail on the 25th of April to Patagonia, y ‘wladdychfa Gymreig’, to establish a Welsh settlement in Argentina in 1865. This ship didn’t sail, however the more famous Mimosa sailed instead. It’s an amazing thing to come across. I can’t help wondering if this scrap of paper took them away for a moment to faraway lands, from their lives in West Wales, before they filled the gap in the wall.

Next stop was Llainfadyn, a quarry man’s house from Rhostryfan on the edge of Snowdonia. This was a chance to talk about the quarries and bring North Wales down to St Fagans. There are also plenty of great slate features and furniture inside. I’d recently been walking near where the house is from originally, so I showed some photos of the area, and wondered maybe if that was the view the quarry worker would have seen. The family who lived there later emigrated to America to work in the quarries of Vermont as the industry in Wales began to wane towards the end of the 19th Century. 

The Tollhouse from Aberystwyth represents a turbulent past, and is a chance to tell the story of inequality and tension in the 1840s. Farmers had to pay extortionate tolls several times on a single journey. This was too much on top of tax and rent, and the tithe to a church they didn’t belong to so tension mounted, and Rebecca and her rioters attacked tollhouses such as this. Workhouses were also attacked, and the gap grew between the landed gentry and the farmers. Being inside made you think of the keepers of the tollhouses, and where might they stand. The leaders of these riots were punished severely, some being transported to Australia.

What stirred my imagination, was seeing the familiar stories and histories, settings and daily lives of the people and circumstances attached to them, when looking closer, being catapulted into the big picture, and the other side of the world. The story of the farmers linking in with social injustices of the 19th century, and the political activism and reform tied with it. But also, the contrast between the familiar homes from familiar parts of Wales, that have far reaching connections with countries and continents all over the world. Did they keep a little piece of ‘home’, this familiar ‘home’ now represented at St Fagans, with them – on the shores of their new worlds at the journey’s end?

St Brigid’s primary in Denbighshire won a trip to The National Slate Museum in Llanberis and a day of nature based activities as their prize for participating in the Spring Bulbs in schools project 2014-15. St Brigid’s year 6 class worked very hard on the project this year, taking daily weather readings and sending these in weekly to the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales website. Each pupil cared for their plants and entered their individual flowering dates and heights to the website.

It was very hard to choose winners this year, as many schools had complete or near complete weather records. To make the decision fair the top schools were entered into a hat and a winner picked out at random for Wales, England and Scotland. Those that were not picked out became the ‘runners up’ who each received £40 gift vouchers to spend on gardening resources for their schools. The ‘highly commended’ schools received meadow resource packs, meadow seeds and sunflower seeds. The ‘special recognition’ schools received meadow resource packs and meadow seeds. All schools who entered data were awarded Super Scientist certificates and pencils in recognition of the fantastic work they have done for National Museum Wales through taking part in the investigation. 

St Brigid’s visited Llanberis on 22 May, where they were greeted by Dafydd Roberts the Museum’s Keeper and myself, the Spring Bulbs Project Co-ordinator. We began by discussing the project results for 2014-15 and comparing these to previous years. You can study the report summary 2005-2015 for yourself here.

Next, we were escorted to the Quarrymen’s Cottages at Fron Haul and given a fascinating overview by Wyn Lloyd-Hughes of how life for the inhabitants would have changed over the course of 100 years. This was a fantastic way of bringing the stories and lives of the families associated with the local slate industry alive and the group enjoyed exploring the houses and discussing differences in décor and possessions between 1861, 1901 and 1969.

Following Fron Haul, we rushed over to the yard for a short introductory film about the history of the North Wales slate industry; ‘To Steal a Mountain’. This was very atmospheric, with the class falling silent as the lights dimmed and gasping at dramatic (or loud) intervals in the film. This was followed by a slate splitting demonstration by Carwyn Price, who split and dressed slate in front of the group. We watched as he split slate tiles and dressed slate into the shape of a heart. He showed us other examples of art that could be created with these methods, such as fans and love spoons. Carwyn offered the audience a chance to try their hand at slate splitting and the class nominated their teacher Mr Madog! He did a great job and was cheered throughout by the class.

Next, Peredur Hughes took us for a tour of the Museum’s working water wheel and explained the process that turned it and how this power was harnessed to operated machines in the Gilfach Ddu workshops. This is the largest water wheel on the British mainland with a diameter of 15.4 meters, and was used between 1870 and 1925 when it was replaced by a Pelton wheel. Standing under the wheel as it sprays water, gently groans and continually turns is quite an experience, especially when you begin to comprehend the engineering skills needed to design and build it. As part of the Spring Bulbs project schools are provided with resources to aid discussions around climate change and different energy sources - seeing a massive water wheel in motion added a level of understanding to these investigations.

A quick break for lunch and we were off up to the quarry for our nature activities. To begin with we discussed the smells, textures, sounds and sights of the woodland. We then went on a mini-beast hunt which led to discussions on how to classify different species and the different habitats our mini-beasts favoured. After making our own ‘perfumes of the forest’, finding out how many legs a woodlice has and that boys are just as squeamish as girls – we moved on to our next activity and built a nest! The group were very enthusiastic, as you can tell from the pictures and the size of the branches/ trees they managed to move with their makeshift beaks (I think there may have been a little cheating here!). It was a fantastic photo opportunity and great fun.

Peredur met us at the Vivian Quarry and gave us an insight into it’s history, including a closer look at the cliffs of slate and an insight into how the Quarrymen worked and interpreted the face of the Quarry. He discussed the rock man’s terms used to differentiate sections of slate, the geology behind their make-up, and how being able to tell a ‘trwyn’ from a ‘cefn crwn‘ helped Quarrymen interpret the slate, manipulate it to the results they wanted, and lessen the risk to their lives through making it possible to predict the results of their work. This was fascinating, the Vivian Quarry provided a beautiful setting, and it was a lovely way to end our day.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting year 6 St Brigid’s and being able to thank them personally for their contribution to the Spring Bulbs in Schools project. It was a fantastic day, and I would like to thank the staff at the National Slate Museum for their hospitality and the time and effort they gave to make the trip such fun.

Applications are now open for schools in Wales to participate in the Spring Bulbs Project 2015-16. The winners will receive an action packed class trip full of nature activities to their closest Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales site.

Apply here!


Applications are now closed for schools in England and Scotland, but these schools can find information on next years project (2016-17) on the Edina Trust website.


Climate-change study in your own school yard
Science & Geography (KS2)


Make use of your outdoor classroom! Join the 175 schools taking part in this exciting investigation.


Spring Bulbs for Schools provides primary school pupils with the opportunity to adopt, study and record the development of spring bulbs as part of a spring watch network. Each pupil will receive a Tenby Daffodil, Crocus bulb and garden pot to record growth and flowering times.

Through collecting and comparing real data pupils discover how our changing climate is affecting our seasons and what this means for ourselves and the nature around us. Pupils take part in Professor Plant's Challenges to receive a super scientist certificate.

Any schools in Wales can take part as results are collected over the internet (or by post if necessary). This is an on-going investigation which means schools can take part year after year.

To apply for Spring Bulbs for Schools 2015-2016 please fill out the online application form by following the link below.

Application are now open but numbers are limited so apply soon to ensure your place on the project! Application is only open to schools in Wales. Recruitment for English and Scottish schools has closed but please contact The Edina Trust for information about taking part in the project 2016-2017.

Spring Bulbs for Schools - Application form

For enquiries please Email SCAN

Climate-change study in your own school yard
Science & Geography (KS2)


Make use of your outdoor classroom! Join the 175 schools taking part in this exciting investigation.


Spring Bulbs for Schools provides primary school pupils with the opportunity to adopt, study and record the development of spring bulbs as part of a spring watch network. Each pupil will receive a Tenby Daffodil, Crocus bulb and garden pot to record growth and flowering times.

Through collecting and comparing real data pupils discover how our changing climate is affecting our seasons and what this means for ourselves and the nature around us. Pupils take part in Professor Plant's Challenges to receive a super scientist certificate.

Any schools in Wales can take part as results are collected over the internet (or by post if necessary). This is an on-going investigation which means schools can take part year after year.

To apply for Spring Bulbs for Schools 2015-2016 please fill out the online application form by following the link below.

Application are now open but numbers are limited so apply soon to ensure your place on the project! Application is only open to schools in Wales. Recruitment for English and Scottish schools has closed but please contact The Edina Trust for information about taking part in the project 2016-2017.

Spring Bulbs for Schools - Application form

For enquiries please Email SCAN