The Welsh Cottage: Building Traditions of the Rural Poor, 1750-1900 (eBook)

The Welsh Cottage: Building Traditions of the Rural Poor, 1750-1900 (eBook)

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This title is now out of print, but is available as an eBook.

This book is also available in Welsh:
Y Bwthyn Cymreig: Arferion Adeiladu Tlodion y Gymru Wledig, 1750-1900 (eLyfr)

The traditional cottage is one of the most distinctive features of the landscape of Wales. With the loss of thousands of examples over the past century it has become almost an endangered species, but a great deal has been learned from studying cherished surviving buildings and making a careful record of others before they were lost forever. The earth or timber walls, pebble floors, and roofs of rush, turf or stone in these humble buildings tell a fascinating story of distinctive local traditions, skills handed down from generation to generation, and the struggle to survive.

This book is about the homes of the rural poor during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and in particular the materials, techniques and processes used to build them. It is based on evidence derived from the buildings themselves, documents and contemporary descriptions. It shows that many cottages were 'home-made homes' but nevertheless were sophisticated in their construction, made the fullest use of the limited materials available locally and drew on extensive collective knowledge. Their survival depended more on the vagaries of fashion and the pressures on a depopulating countryside than on the quality of their construction or materials.

The book will appeal to all with an interest in the history and environment of Wales, readers interested in parallel cottage-building traditions in marginal lands across western Europe, and anyone who wishes to explore how lessons from the past might support sustainable living in the future.

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas writes in his foreword to the book: It should be required reading in all schools of architecture, planning and environmental studies and ... [for those] ... whose forbears, the unsung heroes of labouring-class history, built a nation in these Welsh cottages.



  • Foreword by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas 7
  • Preface 8

Chapter 1 - INTRODUCTION 11

  •   Home-made Homes 11
  •   Sources 13


  •   The Geography of Wales 27
  •   Settlement History 29
  •   Enclosures and Squatters 32


  •   Vernacular Building 43
  •   Farmhouses 47
  •   Cottagers and Cottages 51
  •   The Ty Unnos 53
  •   Plans and Condition 64

Chapter 4- WALLS 83

  •   Stone 83
  •   Mortar 98
  •   Earth 103
  •   Timber 115
  •   Bricks 130
  •   Doors and Windows 133
  •   Exterior Decoration 139

Chapter 5 - ROOFS 145

  •   Thatch: Introduction 145
  •   Scollop or Glamorgan thatch 150
  •   Thrust thatch 162
  •   Roped thatch 1 79
  •   'Mixed' thatching 183
  •   Other thatching materials and techniques 184
  •   Slate 189
  •   Chimneys 199

Chapter 6 - INTERIORS 205

  •   Floors 205
  •   Fireplaces 208
  •   Partitions and Lofts 218
  •   Interior Decoration 223


  •   Builders and Investments 227
  •   Lifestyles 232

Chapter 8 - CONCLUSIONS 241

  •   Bibliography 261
  •   Notes and References 271
  •   Acknowledgements 276
  •   Index 277


ISBN  978-1-871184-37-2