Full Report for Listed Buildings

Summary Description of a Listed Buildings

Reference Number
Building Number
Date of Designation
Date of Amendment
Name of Property
St Fagans Castle  


Unitary Authority
St. Fagans  
Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagans  
Street Side
In the centre of St Fagans village opposite the Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin.  


Broad Class

It seems likely that the main structure of the house was built by John Gibbon in c1580-86. The shell was certainly there in 1596 when it belonged to the Herberts, but it does not appear to have been fitted out with panelling etc. until after it was purchased by the Lewises in 1616, and there are a number of dated items in the house associated with this period. It remained their property until 1730 when the 3rd Earl of Plymouth married Elizabeth Lewis. From 1850s onwards, from the time that the Honourable Robert Henry and Lady Harriet Windsor Clive came to live in the Castle, various structural additions were made on the west side between the medieval castle wall and the C16 portion, mostly in 1868-9. These comprised the two-storey stone wing with gables and circular turret which contained the servants' hall and, to the south, the laundry and steward's room; all these units are shown on a plan by W P James, Cardiff architect, dateable to about that time. The present exhibition and dining room were added in the 1890s. From the 1880s onward the house was largely used as a summer residence by the Plymouths, whose main home was at Hewell Grange in Worcestershire. In 1946 St. Fagans Castle was given to the National Museum of Wales in response to their appeal for a home for a new Welsh Folk Museum. The gardens were opened in 1947 and the house on 1st July 1948. It was redecorated at that time, reroofed in 1982 and refurbished in 1988 and again in 2002. St. Fagans Castle is now shown as a Welsh aristocratic house, as part of the Museum of Welsh Life, an out-station of the National Museum of Wales.  

The walls are faced externally with whitewashed roughcast cladding over rubble stone and have an ashlar plinth, stringcourses and characteristic stone-mullioned windows. The roof is Welsh slate with groups of red brick stacks set diagonally. These were an addition of the 1860s but are very much in character. The house is a three-storey gabled building with the characteristic E-plan and symmetrical elevation typical of the Elizabethan period. East (entrance) elevation of seven bays; the two end bays project forward, each with a 3-light attic window and a mullion-and-transom 4-light window on both first and ground floors. The central range has three gables to the attic storey, each with a 3-light attic window; against the centre bay there is a two-storey gabled projecting porch with a 3-light mullioned window both on the first floor and above the four-centred arch with dripstone at the entrance to the ground floor porch. The two bays to each side of the central porch projection both have 4-light mullion-and-transom windows on ground and first floors. The south elevation has three gables to the attic storey each with a 3-light attic window; there are two mullion-and-transom 3-light windows on both ground and first floors and an old stone doorway to the right hand on the ground floor. The north elevation is also gabled with 3-light attic windows to the centre and right hand gables only, below this a 3-light mullion-and-transom window in each bay on either floor. To the right of this is the single storey Dining Room of 1890 with a large 4-light mullion-and-two-transom window in a gable, and this is flanked by square headed doors. The west elevation of the Elizabethan house is partly covered by the C19 additions. Five gabled front with a 3-light window in each gable. The first floor has four irregularly spaced 3-light mullion-and-transom windows to the Long Gallery with another for the main staircase and a 2-light one for the secondary staircase. The ground floor is almost entirely covered by extensions. The outer face of this was largely hidden by scaffolding at the time of resurvey (July 2002) but there are two gables with a 3-light mullion-and-transom window on either floor to the Servants' Hall and a semi-circular turret which projects out over the garden stairway. To the right of this the Laundry is hidden behind the perimeter wall.  

Within the plan of the house still retains much of the probable Elizabethan original but with changes developed through to those of the 1860s. The entry goes into a cross passage with the Hall and family rooms on the right and the service rooms on the left. As in most houses of this type the main reception rooms and Great Chamber are on the first floor reached by the main staircase in the north-west corner. There are old stone doorways at the entrances to pantry, kitchen and back stairs; the kitchen retains old fireplaces and a stone flagged floor; in the hall there is a finely carved over-mantel with the arms of the Windsor family, this dates it to post 1736. The withdrawing room retains an oak floor and the coat-of-arms of Lewis of St Fagans Castle on the overmantel. Fine C19 staircase leading to first floor. The Long Gallery originally ran along the rear of the house on the first floor giving access to the rooms. One bedroom has a carved frieze of early C17 date, an over-mantel dated 1635 and oak panelling painted at a later date. Another bedroom has painted fielded panelling of early C18 date and a finely carved frieze of about 1620; in the parlour there is a carved frieze inscribed EBL/1624 and an iron fireback inscribed EL/1620 and bearing the Lewis arms. The rooms are furnished appropriately by the Museum to represent life in a Welsh aristocratic house. Some of the furniture is indigeneous, while many pieces have come from other houses throughout Wales.  

Reason for designation
Included and highly graded as one of the most important and unaltered Elizabethan country houses in Wales.  

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