Amgueddfa Blog: St Teilo’s Church

Just a quick post to say thanks very much to all who attended the #deddfuno debate, both in person and online! We had a great day, a refreshing debate and a chance to share new theories and research with a wider audience. If you'd like to catch up, you can find quotes from the day here.

Historian Nia Powell gave us plenty to mull over, as well as some very provocative propositions, and our multi-party panel was happy to get stuck in to the difficult topics which which they'd been presented. What could have been yet another debate along the same old lines was given a lease of new life.

You have until the end of the month to come and see the document itself, at the Making History 1500-1700 Exhibition. I'll let you know in due course what will be replacing the document. The only clue I'll give you now is that it might be something to do with this.

Tomorrow, you are invited to come and join us for unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the most important document in Welsh legal history: The Acts of Union.

Parts of the document have left London for the first time since 1536, and are on display in our 'Making History 1500-1700' exhibition. They have been recalled from their recess, and will be going back to the Parliamentary archives soon. In light of this, we are calling an emergency debate of our own!

Figures from Welsh life will be leading the afternoon, including:

  • Suzy Davies

- Conservative AM for South Wales West, Shadow Minister for Welsh Language and Culture

  • Mark Drakeford

- Labour AM for Cardiff West

  • Dafydd Ellis Thomas

- Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor-Meirionydd, Chair of the Assembly Commission

  • Vaughan Hughes- Commentator and Broadcaster
  • Nia Powell
  • - Lecturer in Welsh History, University of Bangor
  • Baroness Jenny Randerson
  • - Welsh Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords
  • Eirug Salisbury
  • - Bard and Commentator
  • Rev John Walters
  • - Vicar of St Teilo's Church, Pontarddulais


We'll be exploring the role of the Acts of Union in the 21st Century, as well as the controversies they still raise. You're welcome to join us, as the day winds its way around many of Museum Wales' most iconic spaces - including St Teilo's Church at St Fagans: National History Museum.

Period music, light refreshments, after-hours access, simultaneous translation and a chance to explore the Act of Union up close are included, free of charge.

Meet at National Museum Cardiff foyer at 1.50pm tomorrow, as the afternoon session will take place in the Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre at 2pm.

This will be followed by a trip to St Fagans to see the document 'in the flesh', and to look at contemporary objects from our 'Making History' exhibition. A discussion will be held in St Teilo's Church, looking at the broader European context of life in Wales under Henry VIII.

Please call Heledd Fychan on (029) 20 57 3268 to reserve a place, as they are limited.

You will need to provide your own transport to St Fagans for the 'behind the scenes' session. Buses Nos 32 and 322 depart from Stand D2 in the City Centre, to St Fagans at regular intervals.

Good morning. I can't stop long as there are many tasks to carry out this morning: light the incense, set up the processional cross, chalice and paten and get into 1520s costume. That itself is no mean feat, and I got up early to braid my hair medieval-style today, too. One of the Tudor Group showed me how when they were here over Easter, and she made it look really simple! I haven't quite got the hang of it, but it looks medieval enough. I hope to be up to speed for our Tudor Fashion event next month, so practice makes perfect.

Meanwhile, I am preparing a film of last year's re-enactment for the gallery's 1500-1700 exhibition. Some of my favourite Tudor objects from our collection are on display, including both surviving Rood figures from pre-reformation Wales. The Cemmaes (Kemeys) Rood was found hidden in a wall in the 1850s. Not much is known about how it came to be there. What is certain is that it's a very, very rare artefact relating to Wales' religious past.

Rood Figure
Rood figure detail

Conservator and all-round Renaissance lady Penny Hill has worked on the sculpture, and will be joining us on Saturday to tell us more about this mysterious object. An expert on pigments and the colour of the past, Penny will be looking at the sculpture's links to places and people beyond the small parish where it was found.

Natural pigments used in the decoration of sculptures

I hope you'll join us on Saturday, 2pm, in Oriel 1 at St Fagans. More information is available, Monday to Friday, on 029 20 57 3424

Reader, I blew it.

It took a bit of practice but the Learning Department now has in its possession a brand new bladder football. At the end of the Misrule! weekend, it was tested rigorously by some of our 5 and 6 year-old visitors, and found to be satisfactory. Over the three days, we had some failed attempts; some almost-worked attempts; and finally, a fine, egg-shaped ball which made a satifying, basketball-like 'donk' noise when bounced on the floor.

Tudor Sport Demo, May Misrule!
Here's me passionately explaining how normal my job is. Not really, it's me holding a pig's bladder!

Now, this installment of Bladderblog comes a bit later in the process than I anticipated, because it is hard to live-blog something while dressed as a Tudor. As you'll see above, under my skirt is the only place I can hide anything, and I'm sure you couldn't get a computer under there. So, despite the new/old technology hiccup, I hope you'll enjoy this latest foray into sporting history...

The bladders themselves arrived frozen, in an ice-cream tub. A natural by-product of slaughter for meat, the bladders would be discarded otherwise, as they are not very appetising. Once out of the tub and into brine, they remsembled big poached eggs. To touch, they were slimy, slippery and quite tough - not dissimilar to sausage casing, but perhaps a bit thicker and harder to swallow! The farmer said that 'of all the strange requests' he's ever received, this was the strangest. He also said we were 'all mad', but was happy to see his pigs get put to a variety of uses after their slaughter. The meat, I am informed, has gone to make posh salami.

Blowing the 'practice bladder' up at home using a very long curly straw worked well. I cured the ball with salt, sanitized my hands and then slapped myself on the back: I had successfully avoided having to lip-lock with any part of a pig (a good job as the bladders came with a few stray hairs).

A pig's bladder football hanging on a washing line
Here it is, drying in the sun!

Then it burst, mid-demo, on Friday. I plundered my (very well-hidden) Aldi bag for another and spent lunchtime making the ball with the tools I had at my disposal: salt, string and a feather. Now, trial and error is usually a fine way to learn. On the other hand, bladdersplashback is something to be avoided at any cost. Using the bottom part of a feather as a straw, I attempted the Tudor way of blowing up a bladder. It was really quite unpleasant. Really, really unpleasant, actually. But it was over quickly.

Pig's bladder football
The finished football, complete with wiry hair!

I was keen to explore the 'nose to tail' ethos of Tudor farming and manufacturing, and so talked to all sorts of people who are still using these traditional techniques and principles in their work. Amongst them was Peg the skinner, who had an array of skins and historic animal-derived products on display last weekend, from hedgehog brushes to Tudor prophylactics. I will be posting about what I found out in the coming weeks. Some very beautiful, and probably more traditional uses for animal products can be found in our Making History 1500-1700 exhibition, too. I was particularly enthralled with this pair of leather gloves from around 1600: each part is silk-lined (another animal by-product!), and embroidered with detailed, erm, animals. I chose the squirrel detail today because, well, because I like squirrels.

Gloves, Making History 1500-1700
Detail from leather glove, from Llanfair Hall, near Caernarfon. They are made from leather, lined with silk, and embroidered with silk and metal thread.

I hope you'll join me for the next installment of Bladderblog - and let me know if you fancy a kickabout in the meantime!

Update: Two more articles popped up last weekend seemed to complement our bladding-about, so I'll leave them at the bottom here, so you can have a look!

The Lure of Eccentric Sports on BBC online.

BoingBoing's Mummifying Chickens for Fun and Educational Profit (not as grim as it sounds).

Just a quick note to let you know that something special is afoot at St Fagans.
Keep an eye out on Wales Today, BBC1 Wales, at 6.30 tonight for more information!
The Acts of Union
The Acts of Union