Making History: 1500-1700 at St Fagans National History Museum Cardiff

By Richard Moss | 18 April 2011
a photo of the inside of a gold ring with a bright green grasshopper motif on it
The Goodman Ring was donated to St Fagans in 1930, having been handed down through generations of the Wynne family of Coed Coch, Abergele© Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales
Exhibition: Making History, 1500-1700, St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff, until March 1 2012

St Fagans National History Museum is launching an ambitious plan to integrate its displays of archaeology and history via a series of thematic galleries. They aim to relate the collection more closely to its world famous landscape of re-erected historical buildings.

As part of the process, the museum near Cardiff is currently staging a series of events exploring its collection and the tumultuous centuries between 1500 and 1700.

Making History: 1500-1700 combines displays of historical and archaeological collections with a series of specialist talks and living history re-enactments, providing visitors with an insight into 200 years of turning points in Welsh history.

a photo of a wooden panel carving with medieval knights and soldiers on foot and on horseback
Part of Rhys ap Thomas’ bed© Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales
This was the period of the Tudor and Stuart royal dynasties, of religious upheaval, the union of Wales with England and civil war. In common with the rest of Britain, Wales witnessed great changes.

The exhibition includes the ornately carved bed of Rhys ap Thomas of Dinefwr, one of Wales’s most powerful men who was instrumental in the ushering in of the house of Tudor by playing a key role in Henry VII’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

One of the carvings on the ornate bed represents Richard III being killed in the Bosworth Battle - possibly by Rhys ap Thomas.

a photo of a wooden carving of Christ on the cross
Christ from Kemey's Rood© Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales
The years of the Reformation and Henry VIII’s tumultuous break from Rome are represented by a beautiful sculpture of Christ on the cross, a rare survivor from the destruction of churches and religious buildings that swept across England and Wales.

An impressive hoard, possibly hidden from view of Oliver Cromwell’s Parliament army in a Pembrokeshire outbuilding, offers a glimpse into the turbulent years of the Civil War.

Wales was caught up in the fighting, with many regions declaring support for the King, who retreated to Wales for great periods of the conflict. During the Second English Civil War Royalist armies rallied in Pembrokeshire and South Wales, only to be defeated at the Battle of St Fagans in 1648.

Perhaps the most elegant item on display is the Goodman Ring, which belonged to Gabriel Goodman, Dean at the Church of Westminster who was born in Ruthin, Denbighshire, around 1529. 

His large gold band displays his seal, but inside the ring is hidden a vibrant green image of a grasshopper.

In the Tudor period a grasshopper was said to signify an idle, worthless person, but it is thought that this one commemorates Goodman's presence at a great banquet attended by Queen Elizabeth at Sir Thomas Gresham’s house on January 23 1570. The grasshopper was featured on the Gresham family crest.

  • Open 10am-5pm. Admission free.
  • Sain Ffagan: Amgueddfa Werin Cymru, St Fagans National History Museum is holding a series of events and re-enactements throughout the summer, see the website (details below) for more information
  • Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales operates seven national museums across Wales. These are National Museum Cardiff; St Fagans: National History Museum; National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon; Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Blaenafon; National Waterfront Museum, Swansea; National Wool Museum, Drefach and the National Slate Museum, Llanberis.
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