The Thatched Houses of Co. Meath

Vernacular architecture is the term used to describe our heritage of buildings which have not been designed by professional architects or trained designers. Design and construction details conform to a pattern determined by many factors, including date, environment and locality, means and social status of the builder, as well as the indigenous materials available.

Examples of vernacular architecture may be broadly divided into three categories Domestic, Agricultural and Industrial Buildings. Domestic buildings are by far the most numerous and include shops and public houses as well as all the houses in rural areas, villages and towns. Agricultural buildings include sheds, outhouses and other structures except the dwelling house. Industrial buildings include forges, craftsmen's shops, and so on.

Our study is a very simple one, confined to examples of domestic buildings which are still with us in 1990 and here we are dealing solely with the thatched houses of County Meath. Many of the images here are of beautiful houses well maintained. But others are included showing buildings in various stages of dereliction. The reason these are included is that they show some details or features worth observing.

Although there are a few houses of the gable-wall type, some of these with fireplaces in the gables, the vast majority have hipped roofs with central fireplaces and jamb walls. There are fine examples of masonry walls and equally fine specimens of mud walls. In some of the houses the thatch remains exposed on the underside but nearly all of them have had ceilings fitted. Straw thatch using the thrust method has been the custom. There have been a few instances of thatching by reed in recent years.

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