Man, Myth and Museum

Iorwerth C. Peate and the Making of the Welsh Folk Museum

Author(s) Eurwyn Wiliam

Language: English

Genre(s): Biography

  • July 2023 · 368 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Paperback - 9781837720392
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781837720408
  • · eBook - epub - 9781837720415

About The Book

The Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagans was the first large open-air folk museum in Britain. It was (according to himself) created by one man: Iorwerth C. Peate, poet, author, and scholar. This is the first book-length critical study of Peate as scholar and curator, written by one of his successors at St Fagans. Whereas previous commentaries have very largely relied on Peate’s own recollections and views, this book makes extensive use of Peate’s own papers and National Museum archives to inform a far more balanced view of his work, emphasising for the first time the National Museum policy context and its corporate wish to estsablish a national folk museum, and the critical role played by Peate’s boss and bête noir Sir Cyril Fox. This volume also introduces Peate’s relevant Welsh-language writings to anglophone readers.


‘Iorwerth Peate was a legend in his own time, portraying himself as a people’s hero fighting lonely battles to establish folk-life studies in Wales. In 1948 he succeeded, in the teeth of his enemies, in fathering the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagans. This riveting biography pulls no punches about Peate’s controversial character, but goes behind the myth to tell a more credible (though still dramatic) story of the varied individuals and movements that coalesced to form St Fagans. It is a thought-provoking study raising many questions that trouble all of us concerned with history, heritage and museums throughout the world.’

Prys Morgan, Emeritus Professor of History, Swansea University

‘This magisterial biography of one of the most important Welshmen of the twentieth century interrogates Iorwerth Peate the myth (of his own creation) regarding his contribution to the study of folk life and the founding of the Welsh Folk Museum. The author addresses this controversial topic with great insight and understanding, providing the reader with a lively narrative based upon meticulous research.’

Catrin Stevens, author of Iorwerth C. Peate (Writers of Wales)


The land of lost content: the developing academic and the rural dream
The National Museum of Wales
Trouble and strife
The vanishing country craftsman
The search for the Welsh house
‘A fair field full of folk’: Iorwerth Peate and folk life
To dream the impossible dream...a folk museum for Wales?
Planning for the move
Developing the folk park
Frustration and fulfilment
Select Bibliography

About the Author(s)

Author(s): Eurwyn Wiliam

Eurwyn Wiliam is a retired scholar, and Emeritus Keeper at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales.

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