Amgueddfa Cymru

Hafan

In 2017 St Fagans National History Museum will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute. The building was at the heart of Oakdale village community for 80 years until it closed in 1987 and then moved to St Fagans.

Exactly 100 years ago, on 3 July 1916, the work of building the Institute in Oakdale began when a ceremony was held to lay the first foundation stones. This type of ceremony is common when large public buildings are built to mark the beginning of the main construction phase. During the ceremony, a trowel is used to place the mortar where the foundation stone is laid and a trowel is then engraved to commemorate the ceremony.

Two foundation stones were laid at the ceremony for the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute in 1916, one on either side of the main entrance door. The stone on the left was laid by Harry Blount on behalf of the workmen of Oakdale Colliery and the stone on the right by Alfred S. Tallis representing the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, owners of the colliery.

Harry Blount was one of the original members of the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute Committee, formed in 1913. Their meeting place in the early years was in the ‘Huts’, the old barracks which once accommodated the workers of the Oakdale Colliery shafts. In the minutes of the Committee it notes that on 6 January 1914, Harry Blount proposed that they should ‘proceed with the new Institute at once’. At the same meeting Arthur Webb was appointed as the architect and within a month his sketch plan had been accepted by the Committee.

Alfred S Tallis, Managing Director of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, was involved with the Institute from the beginning with the promise of a financial loan for the building work. He was also the main promoter of the idea of a model village at Oakdale for the company’s workforce with modern housing built in a rural area, away from the colliery. The work of building the new village began in 1909 and the first street, Syr Dafydd Avenue, was completed in 1913 and designed by the Institute’s architect, Arthur Webb, Tallis’s brother-in-law.

The minutes of the Committee briefly mentions the arrangements for the ceremony held on Monday 3 July 1916; there was to be a cold lunch at the Oakdale Hotel with the full Committee attending and the Oakdale Colliery Band were to play around the village half an hour before to advertise the event. The ceremony itself was at 5 o’clock and Sir Charles Edwards, M.P. was asked to attend and to speak.

The two foundation stones can still be seen either side of the Institute’s main door at St Fagans and the commemorative trowels from the ceremony are displayed on the wall of the Institute Committee Room. Both trowels were donated to the Museum in the months before the Institute re-opened at St Fagans in 1995, by Harry Blount’s grandson and by Alfred Tallis’s grand-daughters.

In 2017, the year of the centenary of Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, the Museum is planning to bring the building alive once again, to reflect its original purpose as a place for the community. We’ll be updating you on the project as we go so look out for #Oakdale100 news in the coming weeks and months.

Our new Iron Age farmstead, Bryn Eryr, holds a recent story as well as the fantastic histories connected to it. Over the last few years over 2,000 volunteers have been working quietly at St Fagans Museum building it from the ground up. Our volunteers, with our staff, have debarked the wood for the walls and roof, built the clay walls, grown the spelt for the thatch and have even thatched the roof. It has truly been built from the ground up by the volunteers!

You may think we have finished, but that’s only half the story; since the building has been completed many volunteers have been helping us decorate the inside: our Youth Forum have recently helped us build an Iron Age bread oven, staff from across different departments have helped us build a loom, and over 1,000 visitors have helped us make string out of stinging nettles. Our current project involves volunteers from The Wallich who are helping us to create a garden that will grow vegetables and herbs that we can use in school workshops and events.

Our old Celtic Village was a favourite for many of our visitors and we hope that Bryn Eryr will become a favourite too! So the next time you come and visit the Museum just remember that the history of Bryn Eryr also holds a recent story that involves over 2,000 people donating their time to help tell the history of the Iron Age!

Bryn Eryr wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers and so in the spirit of Volunteers’ Week we wanted to say Diolch - Thank You to all 2,000 of you!

(Bryn Eryr is currently open during weekends and school holidays and for school groups)

Yr wythnos hon, mae amgueddfeydd ledled y wlad yn dathlu ac yn hyrwyddo cyfraniad arbennig eu gwirfoddolwyr. Yma yn Sain Ffagan, mae ‘cymuned’ o wirfoddolwyr yn chwarae rhan bwysig yng ngweithgarwch yr Amgueddfa. Gallwch weld eu gwaith ar draws y safle – o’r gerddi i’r adeiladau hanesyddol. Canrif yn ôl – yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf – roedd gwirfoddolwyr yn gadael eu hôl ar Sain Ffagan o dan amgylchiadau pur wahanol.

Yn ystod y Rhyfel, sefydlwyd bron i 18,000 o elusennau newydd ym Mhrydain ac fe welwyd ymgyrchu gwirfoddol ar raddfa heb ei debyg o'r blaen. Ynghyd ag Urdd San Ioan, roedd y Groes Goch Brydeinig yn ganolog i'r ymgyrch hon. Yn 1909, daeth y ddwy elusen ynghyd i sefydlu cynllun y Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), gyda'r bwriad o roi hyfforddiant meddygol i wirfoddolwyr a'u paratoi i wasanaethu gartref a thramor mewn cyfnodau o ryfel. Yn ôl ystadegau'r Groes Goch, erbyn diwedd y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf roedd 90,000 o bobl wedi cymryd rhan yn y cynllun - yn eu plith Elizabeth Radcliffe o bentref Sain Ffagan.

Yn ferch i ofalwr capel y pentref, roedd Elizabeth a’i theulu yn denantiaid i’r Arglwydd Plymouth o Gastell Sain Ffagan. Ganwyd chwech o blant i William a Catherine Radcliffe – pedwar mab (William, Thomas, Robert a Taliesin) a dwy ferch (Elizabeth a Mary). Cyn y Rhyfel, bu Elizabeth yn gofalu am blant James Howell – un o berchnogion y siop enwog yng Nghaerdydd. Ond erbyn 1916, roedd hi nôl yn Sain Ffagan ac yn gwirfoddoli fel nyrs VAD yn yr ysbyty ategol a agorwyd ar dir y Castell ym Mawrth y flwyddyn honno. Ar y pryd, roedd hi’n ddi-briod ac yn 28 mlwydd oed.

Roedd y rhan fwyaf o nyrsys Ysbyty Sain Ffagan yn wirfoddolwyr lleol – menywod o’r pentref, yn anad dim, a oedd wedi derbyn hyfforddiant sylfaenol gan y Groes Goch. Dim ond 70 o wlâu a dwy ward oedd yn yr ysbyty, felly milwyr ag anafiadau ysgafn oedd yn cael eu trin yno. Roedd gofyn i’r gwirfoddolwyr wisgo iwnifform swyddogol y mudiad, sef ffrog las a ffedog wen gyda chroes goch wedi ei phwytho ar y frest. Mae llyfrau cyfrifon Ystâd Plymouth yn cynnwys sawl cyfaniad ariannol at gostau prynu gwisgoedd i staff yr ysbyty. Mae’n debyg fod siop J. Howell & Co. ymhlith y cyflenwyr.

Yn ffodus iawn, mae gwisg Elizabeth Radcliffe o’r cyfnod hwn wedi goroesi, ynghyd â llun ohoni yn ei lifrai. Rhoddwyd ei ffedog a'i llewys i gasgliad yr Amgueddfa yn 1978, ac yn ddiweddar cawsom ragor o wybodaeth amdani a’i brodyr gan aelodau’r teulu. O’r pedwar brawd aeth i’r ffrynt, dim ond un ohonynt – Taliesin – ddaeth adref i Sain Ffagan yn fyw. Mae enwau William, Thomas a Robert Radcliffe i’w canfod ar gofeb rhyfel y pentref, ynghyd ag Archer Windsor-Clive - mab ieuengaf yr Arglwydd Plymouth - a laddwyd ym Mrwydr Mons. Mae’n amhosibl i ni amgyffred â mawredd y golled i Elizabeth a’i rhieni – un teulu ymysg y miliynau a rwygwyd gan erchyllterau’r Rhyfel Mawr.

Os hoffech ddarganfod mwy am waith y Groes Goch yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf, mae adnoddau gwych ar wefan y mudiad, gan gynnwys rhestr o'r holl ysbytai ymadfer a agorwyd ym Mhrydain. Mae llu o wrthrychau a delweddau perthnasol yn y casgliad yma yn Sain Ffagan hefyd. Ewch draw i'r catalog digidol i ddarganfod mwy.

 

Every year in June hundreds of organisations celebrate volunteering and the people who donate their time for free through Volunteers’ Week. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is no different and this year we are celebrating what makes us that little bit extra special – our volunteers.

Our volunteers help us every day and the odds is as a visitor you have met a volunteer! Our volunteers keep us grounded, they inspire us and tell us exactly how it is. They help us see things differently and make us work that little bit harder.

Our volunteers helps us with a range of things from farming, to conservation, to making rag rugs, to taking visitors on tours, etc. They are the people who are always amazing and help us share our passion for our collections and the stories we collect and protect.

So a big diolch – thank you to each one of our amazing volunteers!!

 

Fancy getting involved? Take a look at our Get Involved webpages for more information or follow us on twitter @AmgueddfaVols.

I actually visited the Mametz Wood exhibition twice. The first time was the official opening, but as I didn’t see anyone that I knew, I spent most of the time hovering at the back during the speeches and the opera recital (which sounded beautiful, but as I know nothing about opera it went over my head a bit), while feeling spectacularly under-dressed next to all the soldiers in their shiny, smart uniforms.

I enjoyed the exhibition itself very much. The work we had done in youth forum had provided helpful context which meant I could appreciate what I was seeing a whole lot more; the Christopher Williams painting was of course a highlight, as was the World War One stretcher and a pistol owned by Siegfried Sassoon, who had fought at the battle.

It was also great to see the work of the very talented Margaret Williams, who I hadn’t heard of before I joined the youth forum, showcased alongside her male counterparts. However, due to the fact that it was an opening, it was very crowded, and being too British to ask people to move slightly aside I missed some of the exhibits. 

I decided to go back a few days later, and this turned out to be a very good idea. This time, there were old music hall and war songs playing quietly in the background. Combined with the ghostly sketches of soldiers, surrounded by their old possessions, it really made you feel as though you had stepped back in time, which surely is a sign a museum has done its job.

It also seems to enhance the sense of the futility of it all. I was surrounded by images and descriptions communicating the brutality, violence and bloodshed, the enormous sacrifice, and in the end, this was all that was left. A pipe, some faded documents, the stretcher rather than the people it had carried, a few old songs, and a collective national sense of loss. It was hard not to feel emotional. All this suffering may have created beautiful art, but the suffering itself hadn’t been worth it at all. 

There was also a video screen showing an actor reading a section of In Parenthesis, originally by David Jones, now adapted for a new opera. Whether it was because of the skill of the actor (whose name escapes me) or all the things I’d just seen and felt, I found I didn’t need to put the headphones on to understand what he was trying to say. 

So, to conclude. War’s Hell: The Battle of Mametz Wood in Art is well worth a visit. And next time I get invited to an exhibition opening, go with a friend and make more of an effort than just jeans and a jumper.