|Meet Pen-ffynnon||Meet the Collection||Meet the Curators|
A different world ...
the farmstead from the air in the late 1950s
Pen-ffynnon Farmstead - home of the West Wales Museum of Childhood
Pen-ffynnon ( 'Head of the Well' ) was formerly a tenanted farm, originally with up to 60 acres in Victorian times but now with 12 acres of mainly pasture in three fields, Cae Ffrynt ( Front Field ), Cae Bach ( Little Field ) and Cae Ffynnon ( Well Field ). It was owned by local gentry, the Lewes family who lived in their large mansion Llysnewydd ( New Court ) about a mile away, and who had been extensive property owners in the area for almost 400 years. On the opposite side of the little valley, over the Fenni stream, is Coed Mawr ( Big Wood ), their ancient former hunting forest .
Pen-ffynnon was a mixed farm with cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and hay fields. Vegetables were grown and there was an orchard, so the farmer's family would have been self-sufficent for food..
The farmhouse ( which is our private living quarters ) was built about 1795, a classic Welsh "four square" design in stone with a slate roof. From the front door - which was only used for weddings, funerals and special visitors - the room on the right was the pen-ucha ( the best parlour ). The room on the left was the cegin ( kitchen ) with a cooking range built into the inglenook fireplace. Behind this was the ail ( table room ) where everyone - family and workers - would eat their main meals and discuss the day's work. The last room was the llaethdy ( dairy ) where butter, cheese and salted meats were prepared.
In mid-Victorian times, the table-room became the office of the Llysnewydd estate land agent where the estate's rents were collected and bills paid. The original kitchen became a sitting room, and a large kitchen was built onto the back of the house. This was in use until recent times when it was gutted and made into a garage. The old table-room / office is now the kitchen. The two large bedrooms at the front were for the farmer and his family and the two smaller rooms under the rear eaves accommodated the female servants. The male workers slept in the hay-lofts.
Across the yard is the Ty Hir ( Longhouse ) which was probably built about 300 years ago as a home for the farmer's family and cattle, all under one thatched roof. About one-third was the kitchen with a log fire for cooking and a plastered wicker chimney-hood to take most of the smoke away. This room served as the living room too but the family would almost always be at work outdoors during daylight hours and asleep in the hayloft at night. The other two-thirds of the building formed the cowshed with a slate-paved walkway along one side, so the workers could easily feed the animals.
The longhouse is now the main exhibition hall, 'Oriel Amser' (Gallery of Time ) and features a timeline that takes you through the 20th Century with toys, world events and household items too. There are also themed displays of dolls, dolls houses, soft toys and many others.
At right angles to the longhouse is another range of buildings, again probably 300 years old, with wonderful pegged roof-beams. From the left, the first section was originally the ystabl (stable) with a hay-loft over. The stable now has displays of costume and Welsh traditions and an old-fashioned toyshop window 'Siop Deganau' with solely Welsh-made toys featured.
The centre section was the gweithdy (main workshop barn) with joints of meat hanging up, and animal feed to be mixed. A tractor could be coupled to a shaft through the front wall to provide power for machinery inside. Now there are displays of mainly metal toys: little vehicles of metal or plastic, toy soldiers and tinplate toys. An old school room has been created, featuring 150-year-old desks from the original school at nearby Cenarth, together with many other evocative items.
The last section in this range was once the cartws (carthouse) with a stunning timber lintel over the doorway. Originally having a hay-loft over, accessed by a door from the adjoining workshop, it currently houses the railway displays, featuring locomotives, rolling stock and lineside items of all shapes and sizes. There are also pinball machines and bagatelle games, and a comprehensive collection of Action Man toys.
Finally we come to the Television and Film gallery, housed in what was once the garage but built originally as the kitchen in mid-Victorian times. Visitors will see the old quarry tiles on the floor and remains of the old lime render showing traces of colour. It now contains an extensive display of childrens favourites from film and television over the last 60 years.
Pen-ffynnon during hay-making, circa 1950.
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Meet the Collection
Paul and Hilary have collected toys and childhood memorabilia for most of their lives. As a teenager, Paul found old Dinky and Corgi vehicles and toy soldiers, still on the shelves of newsagents and cycle shops, and soon had the beginnings of a collection. Like many little girls, Hilary had an interest in dolls in national costumes from the age of 7 ( and still has ! )
After their marriage, the collections continued to grow. Hilary inherited a Victorian doll and some more family toys, and bought her first old dolls house. Television and movie toys followed, together with soft toys and miniature items.
The scope of the collection grew over the years until it covered most aspects of childhood. By this time, Paul and Hilary were seriously thinking about a museum to be able to display items properly and to provide an absorbing attraction for people to visit and share.
Vic - an old friend - offered to join the project as a partner. He had collected toys for many years too, with a particular interest in circus vehicles, circus animals and toy vehicles from strange corners of the world, and with a special interest in immediate post-war North-east London toy companies.
The search for a suitable location began in 2001 and West Wales soon emerged as the most amenable place. A neglected farm, Pen-ffynnon, was bought in August 2002 and the next two and a half years were taken up in restoring the farmhouse and barns, and constructing a new building for the tea-room and shop.
The tea-room opened at Easter 2005 and the first phase of the museum was ready six weeks later. Other exhibition halls have followed - and the museum is proving very popular with all age-groups and interests.
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Meet the Curators
Born Liverpool 1948, brought up in Coventry.
Previous career: Decorator, musician, aviation industry, toyshop proprietor, civil servant, then owner and proprietor of Coventry's vintage toy and model shop 'Time Machine' for 21 years, Corgi Stockist of the Year 2001.
Leisure and Hobbies: Founded Coventry Diecast Model Club in 1975 and held several committee posts over the years. Also founded the 'Iron Brigade', an American Civil War battle re-enactment society.
with furry friend,
Born Dublin 1953, brought up in Coventry.
Previous career: Toyshop assistant, vintage toy and model shop assistant.
Leisure and Hobbies: Member of Heart of England Doll and Toy Club ( also former secretary and chairwoman ). Member of the Doll Club of Great Britain. Has made numerous broadcasts on local and national radio and on television.
Vic, circa 1945
Born Chesterfield, Derbyshire 1941, brought up in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Previous career: Chartered Civil Engineer, Chartered Surveyor, structural engineer, 10 years in Hong Kong .
Leisure and Hobbies: Former Secretary of the Coventry Diecast Model Club. Former Organiser of the London Toy and Model Club. Former Publicity Officer of the Maidenhead Static Model Club.
Co-author ( with Danny C Y Chan ) of 'The Complete World of Tomy Diecast', 'The Complete World of Exclusive First Editions' and 'The Complete World of Little Buses' ( copies of the last two available from the museum shop. ) Has also written extensively for national toy and model magazines on various aspects of toy collecting, mostly on obscure toy makers from around the world.
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Step back in time at Pen-ffynnon
home of the West Wales Museum of Childhood