Thatched Houses

Thatched houses are quaint and beautiful. Simple in design, the indigenous materials of which they are composed invariably blend in a very satisfactory way into the environment. They are personalised and individualised by location and craftsmanship. Our landscape would be poorer aesthetically without them.

All over Ireland, farmhouses and smaller rural houses of a traditional form have so many common features that they might be regarded as belonging to a basic general type which is widespread in north-western Europe.

This is termed ernhaus, the small house which has evolved through the inherent importance of the hearth. The distinguishing features of the Irish traditional house include:

1) a simple rectangular plan, narrow, its size determined by length, each room the full width of the house, one room opening into the next without any central corridor;

2) stout walls built of stone or clay;

3) the roof carried by the main walls or on couples supported by them;

4) an open hearth at floor level, situated on the long axis of the house with its chimney projecting through the roof ridge, due to fire hazard;

5) windows and doors in the side, not the end walls;

6) steep pitch covered with thatch.


The House Plan and Construction

From prehistoric times the simple rectangular shape has been a feature of west-European house types. These houses would normally be built of timber, clay or earthen sods. Generally in this country wood and turf have been used for fuel and cooking. The kitchen fire was the only heat source in the house. It was logical therefore, that the hearth should become the social as well as the functional centre of the house. Usually the chimney flue consisted of a three-sided hood made of timber, or wattle and daub, supported on a timber beam and attached to the wall. The projecting chimney stack could be wattle and daub or board nailed to four corner uprights. The type of house plan which was common in the eastern half of Ireland has the entrance about the centre of the house leading to the hearth. Between the doorway and the hearth there is a jamb wall which incorporates a small window through which callers might be observed as they approach. In its simplest form this is always a two-room house. It may be enlarged by adding rooms on either side, thus increasing the length.

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