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Sue Brooke recounts her recent visit to see the Mold Cape on its travels through Wales.


The Mold Gold Cape was featured as one of the top ten treasures in the 100 objects in A History of the World in partnership with the BBC. The project was awarded The Art Fund Prize in 2011. So from July to September the Mold Gold Cape is ‘on the road’, so to speak. Normally an exhibit in the British Museum the Cape has been part of a Spotlight Tour, funded by the Art Fund. This means it is on display at the National Museum in Cardiff from 2nd. July until 4th. August 2013, before moving to Wrexham County Borough Museum, where it will be displayed from 7th. August.

I am so lucky in that I live near to both the National Museum of Wales in Cathays Park, located in the civic centre of Cardiff, and the National History Museum at St. Fagans, on the outskirts of Cardiff. So for Mr B and me it was an easy trip into town.

Current theory is that this cape dates from around the early Bronze Age, that is around 1900-1600 BC. It is believed to be of Welsh gold, but as yet there is no evidence to say where, exactly, the gold was originally mined. I myself wear a Welsh gold wedding ring from the now closed Clogau mine in Snowdonia. Due to the rarity of gold in Wales only a ‘small touch’ of Welsh gold is now included in these precious but more modern jewellery items.

Information from the Clogau webpages states that Welsh gold has been used since 1911, at the investiture of Prince Edward as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. The regalia was made from ‘pure Welsh gold, identified by the very distinctive Welsh dragon stamp’. The British Royal Family have also used Welsh gold for their wedding rings – from the wedding of the Queen Mother right through to the most recent marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton. So, clearly this gold is special.

No gold mining takes places in Wales now which, it is suggested, means that Welsh gold supplies will eventually run out. This makes Welsh gold extremely rare. The Mold Cape used around 700g (1.5 pounds) of it!

For some time now the museum has been running the Origins: In Search of Early Wales exhibition, which has been regularly featured in our events diary. I’ve been to this many times – each time for different reasons. It’s beautifully presented with many and various items that I’d only previously seen illustrated as drawings. For example the finds from the Dinas Powys archaeological dig, undertaken by Leslie Alcock in 1954 to 1958. These finds are all particularly relevant to me and my own personal interest, locally. It’s very atmospheric in the gallery, with dimmed lighting and that lovely sense of quiet that you used to get in a library. The cape is located within this exhibition and links it in really well with the Welsh items displayed through the very early history of Wales, right up to the more recent historical periods.

I was a little bit like a kid on arrival. Very excitedly looking around in a ‘where is it, where is it??’ kind of way and I most definitely was not disappointed. The cape and the remnants of a possible second, earlier cape were prominently displayed in a low level glass case, beautifully lit. It really did impress me. The detail on this stunningly beautiful piece is amazing. It’s possible to walk around the display case to view it from all angles, as well as to view the inside or back view of the gold easily. The exhibit is set within another display which gives on the spot information on the discovery on the burial within the stone lined grave at Bryn yr Ellyllon, on the outskirts of Mold in Flintshire. There is a free booklet available that gives lovely illustrations and lots of information for the visitor. Interestingly there are also comment cards that you are requested to complete, as a kind of feedback on the exhibition overall. Of course, I left my own very enthusiastic comments.

I was able to take lots of non-flash photographs throughout the exhibition. This is allowed unless notices specifically prevent this. Unfortunately, due to the photographic policy of the museum these can only be used for personal use or study and may not be presented elsewhere online. That’s fair enough, I suppose. The website does have images and further information.

Whilst attending exhibitions and events I try to check out accessibility for wheelchair users. This is important to allow access to everyone and can restrict the enjoyment of wheelchair users if not done properly. It can also impact upon visits including small children or pushchairs. I have to hold my hand up here and say that I was so awestruck by the cape itself that I didn’t remember to check this out. However, Mr B (or Mr Health and Safety as he is lovingly known) took full notice of this. He very reliably informed me that:

Accessibility: Wheelchair access is good throughout. There are lifts to all floors. Four wheelchairs are available on loan – just ask at the front desk or ring ahead to reserve.

Within the exhibition itself it was good to see that care had been taken to allow plenty of room for wheelchair movement between the exhibits. And, of importance, the cape itself was exhibited at a low level, which allowed perfect viewing for wheelchair users.

Plenty of museum attendants were on duty to assist if necessary.

Parking is free to disabled badge holders, in the car park located just behind the museum itself. You need to take your blue badge to the museum shop when buying your parking token – you need this to leave due to the barriers.

On-road disabled parking bays are available at the front of Museum on Gorsedd Gardens Road, but these can become quite sought after, due to the location of the museum in the centre of Cardiff. We went on Sunday and there was plenty of parking available nearby – although of course there is a charge for this, £2.70 for two hours, so not too bad.

More technical information is available from the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. Try searching ‘Mold Gold Cape’ with the period ‘Bronze Age’ in the drop down box. There is a lot more to be discovered on here than I can tell you in a short article.

Oh, and did I mention this was FREE? It cost £2.70 for the car park. That was all we paid.


July 2013

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