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The Traditional 
Cardiganshire Cottage

On the right, is an early photograph of a typical primitive Cardiganshire cottage near Aberystwyth

A number of notable historic stone houses remain in the New Quay / Llanarth area, some dating back to the fifteenth century. More humble homes have not survived so well, in fact very few survive at all. 

It is often difficult to be precise about the age of many of the remaining old cottages as their methods of construction - some used into the early nineteenth century, often date back to medieval times. The earliest reliable map of the area is the Tithe map of 1840. This at least tells us which dwellings were present at that time.

The earliest Cottages or 'Bwthyn' were largely constructed of clom - a mixture of clay, horse hair, and cow dung and roofed with thatch. Often they had just one room and were quite basic, having earth floors, a fire on the floor and a hole in the thatch to let the smoke escape. A 17th century traveller described one such house as: "...a dunghill modell'd into the shape of a cottage, whose outward surface was all to-be-negro'd in such swairthy plaister that it appear'd not unlike a great blot of cow turd".

Some thatched cottages were larger - as seen in the photo below on the right of a cottage in Abaeraeron. These photos were taken about a hundred years ago - sadly none of these cottages has survived.

 


These two old postcards show thatched cottages in Aberaeron

Bwthyn construction was reinforced by having a stone wall built with lime mortar sometimes only up to chest height, with clom above to the roof. While the thatch remained intact, such houses were long lasting, but as soon as the thatch failed, the rain would start to wash away the clom leaving just the remains of the low stone wall.


In the 1880's, a cheap and fast method of re-roofing failed thatch was by covering it with corrugated iron. Although galvanized corrugated iron had  been used in the first part of the nineteenth century, it was relatively expensive and generally unavailable until towards the end of the nineteenth century. It was then used commonly around the turn of the century.

This ruined cottage is called 'Soar' and is at Dihewyd. What remains of the walls is given some protection by the rusting galvanised iron sheets.

It was another building innovation, that led to the disuse of many early thatched cottages. This was the ready availability of slate for roofing in the middle of the nineteenth century. There are a number of examples on local farms of old thatched homes being replaced in the latter part of the nineteenth century by stone-built, slate roofed homes. These were built close by with the old, now tin-roofed structure becoming no more than a store room or animal house.



'Doldeg' at Gilfachreda -



'Troedrhiwfallen' at Cribyn



The cottage at 'Heol Non' in Llanon

The roofs were generally made with wooden pegged 'A' frames with purlins resting on them. Before the middle of the nineteenth century these were hand finished tree trunks often still having bark on one or more sides. Resting on the purlins were thinner branches which supported the thatch. Doldeg has an underthatch of Gorse, with straw above.


An 'A' frame in the roof at 'Doldeg'. The branches resting on the purlins show evidence of having been lime washed at some time.

Instead of branches, the thatch in the Llanon cottage is supported by ropes tied over the purlins.

In 'Soar' the straw thatch rests on the crumbling clom. The stone wall has been built up to lintel height.

Greg Stephenson has reconstructed a thatched chimney on his cottage 'Troedrhiwfallen' at Cribyn. Even if older cottages have brick or stone chimneys, these were often added in Victorian times to improve ventilation and to provide a more fireproof escape for the hot smoke. 'Doldeg', above has two brick chimneys. The one seen in the 'Doldeg' photo  vents above a Victorian cast iron range. However, close inspection in the roof cavity reveals the remains of a Hazel lath and plaster fire hood which would have been over an open fire on the floor when the cottage was first built.  


The remains of the Hazel and
plaster fire hood at 'Doldeg'

The fire hood in the Llanon cottage is made from plastered boards

An example of a wickerwork fire hood can be seen in the Aberaeron
 Tourist Office
Internally, the cottages were generally divided up with wooden plank partitions. These are often papered over with multiple layers of wall paper and or newspaper. Above the wooden partitions, a partial wooden ceiling  made an additional bedroom in the loft - the crogloft - accessed by a ladder. 

The doors typically were constructed from  boards held together with nailed and chamfered rails.

Floors were often made of flagstones - later replaced with  more even square quarry tiles.

The wooden-cased front door 
lock in 'Doldeg'.

 

An interior sprung door latch
 in 'Doldeg'.

A wooden roller supported a calico window blind in 'Doldeg'.

Some old wooden cased lock keys, one of which was found in 'Doldeg'.

 


Part of the room 
partition in 'Doldeg'.


The inside of
 'Doldeg's front door

A tin roofed thatched cottage at Pennant, Ceredigion.

 

'Fynnon Oer Isaf' and 'Uchaf' between Temple Bar and Cribyn

 

Thatched cottage near Llwyndafydd.

 

 

 

all photos Rod Attrill 

   

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addressed to the Tourist Information Office Here.