Amgueddfa Blog: Learning

The shrine of St David in St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, was an extremely important pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. Two pilgrimages there were worth one to Rome, and thousands of people would have visited before the shrine was destroyed at the Reformation.

Inspired by the ‘Beneath our Feet’ project run by Narberth Museum and Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, which is looking at the theme of pilgrimage in Pembrokeshire, Saving Treasures; Telling Stories decided to find out more. What did those long-ago travellers leave behind them?

Pilgrim Objects

Two kinds of objects were commonly associated with pilgrims in the Middle Ages: ampullae, and badges.

Ampullae were little lead scallop-shaped flasks containing holy water that were pinned to clothing or hung around the neck in the belief that they offered spiritual protection. You might expect to find large numbers of them in Pembrokeshire, with its important holy shrine.

It seemed a fair bet that local metal detectorists had found plenty over the years.

But, a search on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database, where over a million detectorist finds are recorded, revealed some surprises.

In fact only SIX examples from Pembrokeshire have been recorded with PAS – a surprisingly small amount! Surely there should be many more?

To compare, we looked at the records for Kent, home of medieval England’s most important pilgrim destination – the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Even here, only 50 pilgrim ampullae have been recorded with PAS, not such a huge number considering the many thousands of people who travelled there.

Contrast this with Lincolnshire, where 232 ampullae have been recorded, the biggest number of any county in Wales and England. Lincoln Cathedral boasted two important shrines (both to saints called Hugh), but this does not explain such a big difference in numbers.

What’s going on?

Confused, we turned to pilgrim badges. These were usually made of lead or pewter and depicted saints, letters and religious scenes and symbols. They were bought at shrines as souvenirs and pinned to clothing.

Surely lots of these cheap objects would have been lost by the visitors to St David’s?

But a search on the PAS database turned up NO examples from Pembrokeshire at all!

Even in St Thomas Becket’s Kent, no more than 11 badges have been recorded with PAS. Greater London has by far the highest number, at 119.

Then we saw that five pilgrim badges had been reported from Swansea, which seemed unusual as there was no important medieval shrine in the town. One of them was a badge of none other than Thomas Becket himself. How had that got there?

It turned out that each one of these badges had been discovered, not in the city itself, but under the sands of Swansea Bay.

Intrigued, we chose a random sample of the London badges and discovered that they had all been found in the River Thames.

We checked the find spots of the ampullae, and sure enough, two had been found on Tenby beach and two others in the coastal village of Manorbier. There was a definite watery theme!

Giving thanks?

In an age when travel was difficult and dangerous, ships were the fastest method of transport, though not necessarily safe.

So it makes sense that pilgrims going on long journeys would travel at least part of the way by water, and would be relieved and thankful when they reached the shore safe and sound. The evidence of all these badges and ampullae dug from the sands and fished from the Thames suggests that returning pilgrims threw them into the water, perhaps as a way of giving thanks for a safe return.

Sleepovers at Llys Llywelyn

We are excited to launch our sleepover programme at Llys Llywelyn this summer.

Llys Llywelyn is a recreation of a Royal Court of the Princes of Gwynedd used during the 13th century. It is based on the surviving remains of Llys Rhosyr in the south-western corner of Anglesey.

Schools have the opportunity to stay at the hall for our Llys Llywelyn sleepovers, which are running from April until October. During the day the group will take part in a in a role play workshop to find out more about life in the Court of Llywelyn. In the evening the group will be able to explore St Fagans after hours, play medieval games and sleep under the painted eves of this magnificent building.

The package includes an hour long workshop, self-facilitated evening activities, evening meal, hot chocolate, breakfast and overnight accommodation.

Looking for funding to attend a Llys Llywelyn sleepover? Schools can apply to the Go and See grant for funding to visit cultural organisations.

Classroom Resources

As well as the exciting Llys Llywelyn we have also launched a package of classroom resources to help teach the Age of the Princes.

We have worked in partnership with National Library Wales, Cadw and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales to create the resources. The Age of the Princes resources are split into 6 themes to explore, with suggested classroom activities for up to 5 lessons per theme. The themes include:
Overview, Evidence, Every Day Life, Castles and Courts, Welsh Rulers, and Conquest of Wales. All the resources use collections from each of the partner organisations to bring to life the Age of the Princes.

Rediscover Roman treasure found in Caerleon in 1926!

Use the App to explore the Amphitheatre & Barracks at Caerleon. Follow clues and meet historical characters to help you discover the Museum’s treasures - where they were once found. If you find them all you will unlock a virtual National Roman Legion Museum. This App is a partnership project between Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales and Cadw. It links museum treasures to the places where they were once found at the historic sites maintained by Cadw in Caerleon.

 

How to play:

  • Use your device & the treasure map to find the six hidden clues in the Amphitheatre and barracks.
  • You must walk to each of the six picture clues in the grid.
  • When you are near the treasure a coin will appear on your device. Each coin reveals a treasure & activity.
  • Find them all to unlock a virtual National Roman Legion Museum!

 

FAQ

  • The app requires Android 4.3 or iOS 9.1 or later. Please note the app is not compatible with some budget smartphones. 
  • You will need a data connection during the experience.
  • If you are having a problem downloading the app make sure you have a good internet connection and that you have enough storage space on your phone.

 

Cost: Free 

Suitability: for Families

Duration: 30-50mins

Download for iPhone

Download for Android 

Riley, a pupil at Stanford in the Vale Primary, has taken part in the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation for the past three years. He has shown exceptional commitment to the project, and has endeared himself to the project coordinators through his descriptive and friendly feedback. I have to say that I have enjoyed receiving regular weekly updates from Riley over the last three years.

Here are some of Riley’s best comments:

2017:

  • The weather has turned really cold today. Been training people to do this experiment during the week. From Riley xxx
  •  Hello. This week it has not been icy and it has been nice all except today. Hope you have had a nice week. Bye Bye (Riley)
  •  Hello, this week it has been cold and hot and it has been a really good week because we have had a delivery of two new trolleys and we even invested in a wormery which is a big hit with our foundation friends. (Riley)

 2018:

  • Hi this is Stanford in the vale primary school, we done this amazing project last year .I am Riley one of the gardening club members. I was the one that recorded and submitted this data last year. I loved doing this project last year, I hope I will this year too. I will be also teaching some of my friends how to do this project this year too. Bye Bye Riley (Riley)
  •  Cannot believe this is the last weather reading for this year! We have observed some strange weather patterns this year! Snow - sunshine! (Riley)

 2019:

  • Happy to restart the project and I am teaching the younger children in the club how to record. Have a good weekend and we will be back next week. Regards Riley (Riley)
  • HI THERE, this week it has been a mixed week and there has been a lot of rain this week and there has been a bit of sun. Today in class we were talking about global warming which is a serious issue which needs to be sorted out. Speak to you next week!

To celebrate Riley’s contribution to the investigation, we asked if he’d be happy to answer some questions and give us an insight into his experience of participating in the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation.

An interview with Riley:

Q. How long have you been involved with the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation?

A. I have been involved in this investigation for three years now.

Q. What have you enjoyed most about the project?

A. I’ve mostly enjoyed recording the weather and the rain. I like seeing the difference between the temperatures of different days.

Q. What do you feel you have gained from the project, have you developed new skills?

A. Yes, I do think I have gained on this project. I have developed how to record the rain using a gauge and it has helped me using a thermometer more accurately.

Q. What are your thoughts on Science and Maths?

A. I am quite interested in both of these subjects, so this has helped me produce a lot more in these subjects.

Q. What were you feelings towards these subjects before the project, have they changed?

A. I was feeling quite confident before I started and now I am feeling much more confident about it.

Q. Were you aware that you were doing math and numeracy during the project?

A. I was sort of aware that I was using maths and numeracy during the project. I was mostly aware as I was measuring in millimetres and degrees.

Q. Were you confident taking scientific measurements before the project?

A. I was a little confident but I wasn’t that sure on it but now I am really happy about it.

Q. Do you feel these skills have developed through your time on the project?

A. Yes definitely, before I wasn’t that sure mostly on how to measure the rain and this project has developed my skills on that and developed my skills also in science.

Q. What advice would you give us to improve or develop the project?

A. I think it would be good fun if you could give the children some more fun activities or competitions because at the moment you don’t have many.

Q. You took a leading role, teaching other pupils about the project. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

A. I think it is really fun / exciting teaching other children about this experiment because it makes me feel like it is helping other children develop their science / maths and it makes me think that they could take over the job and become future scientists! 

We’ve taken Riley’s advice on board, and will be looking at new activities and competitions we can introduce over the coming years.

Riley is the first to be nominated as a Spring Bulb Champion. In future, we will invite teachers to nominate pupils who have shown outstanding commitment or who they feel have developed as a direct result of the project, to be recognised as Spring Bulb Champions.

Thank you Riley, and everyone who participated in this year’s project.

Professor Plant

My name is Brian and I live in Talbot Green. When I was in school I used to do gardening in Y Pant. In the winter I used to help my dad in the garden.

I worked in Remploy in Tonyrefail for ten years starting in 1974. We used to do all sorts of jobs. Then I did four years in Llantrisant, and twenty five years in Porth. On Fridays we finished early and went to the pub for lunch. I retired in 2013. I have the opening plaque from when Remploy opened in Porth in 1988. The building has been demolished.

Since I retired I have done a computer course and a photography course. I have also done pottery and pop art, and I have a big collection of paintings that I have done.

I came to the Take Charge coffee morning in August 2018 and found out about the chance to help at The Secret Garden at St Fagans National Museum of History. That’s when I decided to start gardening again. I’ve learned about teamwork, we work here in a team.

I enjoy doing it, I feel happy. I look forward to coming out and abought especially. I feel tired after, but good tired. My favourite job is raking. I’ve learnt that I enjoy volunteering.


The Secret Garden is maintain and developed by Innovate Trust whose main work is to support people with learning disabilities, mental health issues and people with physical impairments.