Amgueddfa Blog: Museums, Exhibitions and Events

The Voices from the Archives series is based on recordings in the Oral History Archive at St Fagans National History Museum. Connected to the agricultural activities, demonstrations and displays at the Museum - they provide an insight into the lives and histories of farming people, the agricultural practices in the past, how they developed into contemporary agriculture.

Lambing in Pembrokeshire, 1984

March is lambing time at Llwyn-yr-eos Farm, the Museum’s working farm. Lambing in the past and present was described by Richard James, Portfield Gate, Pembrokeshire, south west Wales, in a recording made in 1984. Aged 79, he recalled lambing in an interview about his life in farming, but also described how it was being done on a farm in the area in the year of the interview. The following short clips are from the recording.

Pembrokeshire born and bred, Richard James had farmed at Lambston Sutton in the south west of the county. It stood between the large county town of Haverfordwest a few miles to the east, and the coastline of St Bride’s Bay to the west. The lowland coastal areas, warmer climate and lower rainfall made agriculture more diverse than in many other parts of Wales, with the keeping cattle and sheep and the growing of early potatoes and cereal crops. The coastal areas could be exposed to the winds and rain from the Atlantic Ocean though, and weather conditions could strongly influence lambing, to which Richard James refers in the first clip:

 

Richard James, Portfield Gate, Pembrokeshire

 

When lambing was to take place was decided by when the ewes were put to the rams. Up until then the rams on the farm had to be kept separate from the sheep. It was always a concern that rams might break through a poor fence or hedge and cause lambing to start at the wrong time. Also, a ram of poorer quality or a different breed from another flock could also result in poorer quality lambs and reduced income. After mating, a ewe is pregnant for between 142 and 152 days, approximately five months or slightly shorter.

In this clip, Richard James describes at what time of year lambing took place on a local farm, and how it was being done by a farmer using a former aircraft hangar.

Richard James, Portfield Gate, Pembrokeshire

The final clip is about working the day and night shifts:

Richard James, Portfield Gate, Pembrokeshire

 

This year, Oakdale Workmen’s Institute – or the ’Stute as it was known locally – is celebrating its centenary. Built during the First World War, it was at the very heart of community life in Oakdale until the late 1980s when it was moved to the Museum. To mark this important milestone, we recently launched the #Oakdale100 project with the aim of re-interpreting the building and making it alive again with community voices.

As part of the project, we’ve been revisiting our archives – digging out photographs, oral history interviews and objects associated with the building. I’ve been looking specifically at the photographic collection – digitising hundreds of images, with colleagues from the Photography Department, which we previously only held in negative format. The photos document the wide range of events and activies which took place in the Institute – from the visit of Prince Albert in 1920 to amateur dramatics in the 1950s. They also capture the architecture of the building and the fixtures and fittings of each room. My personal favourite is the photo of the library, showing a young boy browsing the shelves.

As well as digitising the material we already have in the collection, we’ve also been busy making connections with the Oakdale community of today. Last year, we held a drop-in workshop in the village, encouraging local people to share their stories and scan their images for the Museum’s archive and People’s Collection Wales.

We also recently set-up a Facebook page for the project and what a response we’ve had! We’ve been inundated with anecdotes and memories, comments and photographs. It’s certainly a powerful tool for re-engaging with the community.

If you have any stories or photographs associated with Oakdale Institute, please get in touch. We would especially like to hear from you if you have photographs of parties or gigs, which we know were regular occurances at the ’Stute in the 1960s-80s.

We were excited to see that USA Today named Wriggle as one of 'the best museum exhibits in Europe this winter', so we thought we'd share what some of our visitors have to say about the show!

Hosted at National Museum Cardiff, Wriggle has been a hit with families from all over the UK. Entry is free, and there are plenty of opportunities to dress up, crawl and explore - as well as get up close to some wonderful wriggly worms.

We'd love to welcome you to the exhibition - for more information, visit our Wriggle page. We look forward to seeing you! 

Weekend for two at Tŷ Newydd up for grabs!

We've been helping Literature Wales to create new literary tourism packages for visitors in Wales. As part of the tours, visitors will be encouraged to come and see literary objects from our collections - our portraits of Dylan Thomas are always a popular choice!

As part of this project, Literature Wales are carrying out an online survey to learn about the types of short breaks people who live in Wales will consider when they are planning a trip. Complete the survey to have a chance to win an exclusive two night, self-catering weekend for two people at Tŷ Newydd.

Good luck!

The country craft of hedgelaying is being demonstrated at Fagans National History Museum during 2017. Hedgelaying creates a stronger, thicker barrier to keep animals within fields, and provides shelter and shade for them. This year it will be combined with opportunities to try out the craft and the museum provided its first hedge-laying training courses for the public.

Hedgelaying, Pen-y-cae, Brecknockshire, c1936
Hedgelaying, Pen-y-cae, Brecknockshire, c1936

Creating fields and hedges

From the sixteenth century onwards, vast areas of open land were enclosed and turned into fields for agricultural use. Hedges were planted to prevent sheep and cattle from straying, and to separate grassland from crops. Such hedges also provided shelter, a source of food such as berries, and habitat for wildlife and fauna. Hedges were also cheaper than building and maintaining dry-stone walls.

 

The craft of hedge laying

Hedges are maintained by laying. Once the trees had grown to a certain height, they were cut and laid horizontally to form a stock-proof barrier. The cut is not made through the branch in order to allow the tree to re-grow. What is created is effectively a living fence. The work is done during the less busy winter months when there is less foliage and the tree will re-grow.

 

Welsh hedging styles

Methods of laying hedges vary in different parts of Wales. Styles differ according to how the branches are positioned, the use of stakes, and whether binding is used. Hedging is often accompanied by building banks and digging ditches. The hedges being laid this year at St Fagans are in the stake and pleach style from Brecknockshire (Powys).

 

Stages in laying a hedge, stake and pleach style.

Photographs taken in Sennybridge and Cray, Brecknockshire, 1972-73.

 

Photo of hedge cleared of dead wood and unwanted growth
Firstly the hedge is cleared of dead wood and unwanted growth

Photo of branches, known as pleachers, cut at the base of each stem and bent forward. When cut properly, they should continue to grow.
The branches, known as pleachers, are cut at the base of each stem and bent forward. When cut properly, they should continue to grow.

Photo of hedge showing pleachers woven between stakes.
The pleachers woven between the stakes.

Photo of hazel hetherings along the top bind the stakes and pleachers
Hazel hetherings along the top bind the stakes and pleachers

Photo of the hedge is trimmed and shaped to a uniform height and width.
Finally the hedge is trimmed and shaped to a uniform height and width.


 

 

Gareth Beech

Senior Curator: Rural Economy

Historic Properties Section

History and Archaeology Department