Monday, 24 November 2008

Lost in time

Farmbuilding or earlier dwelling I'm not sure but there's a line where it looks like the top half may have been added.


I took myself off on a long (5 mile) walk yesterday, camera in hand, planning to record the many abandoned ruins of cottages which were once homes in the 1881 census of this area. I found a fair few and discovered the remains of a tall old mill, so ruinous now that only one wall remains anything like the original height. I had ridden past it on Fahly, but usually in the summer, when the leaves on the trees in the cwm where it is situated hid it from view. I am still trying to positively identify it, but having compared the details on the 1881 census with properties on the map I have reached the conclusion that the census enumerator must have been roaring drunk or else been incredibly gormless when it came to trudging the lanes as he has taken a most tortuous route, bearing very little relation to the layout of properties today. He also seems to have gone from one side of the map to the other, shooting off at tangents. Matters are not helped by the fact that half the properties mentioned are mis-spelt in the census as it was translated to the record the disc was taken from, and the other half are no longer there at all . . . I would not recognise any property names for page scroll after page scroll - suddenly one would seem familiar - but where had I seen it on the map? A good way of relaxing after the walk anyway.

I am pretty certain that the tiny very elongated triangles of land fenced off still from bigger fields, have quite possibly contained a cottage in the past, but one that was robbed out for building maintenance elsewhere. Some were probably of the "built-overnight" sort in the first place - when one could lay claim to a tiny piece of the common land if (with the help of friends) you could build walls and roof them and have smoke coming out of the chimney next day. The Welsh term for them is 'tai unnos' and they would have been very basic to start with, barely habitable, but able to be improved upon. We once viewed a cottage for my mum, in a nearby village, which still had the cloam fireplaces squatted out from the chimney stacks. I should imagine these are long gone now, but they survived until 1988 . . .

With the enclosure of common land, poor people, desperate for a roof over their heads, had to build the tiniest of cots on the roadside, although sometimes placing a cottage on marginal areas was encouraged as it would contribute a rent - however meagre - to the income of a marginal farm.

Throughout the 19th century neighbours would join forces to build "tied" cottages of a more lasting design, with windows and loft space (an improvement on the earlier cottages which were more like the Scottish 'black house' which had four walls, a door (often in the gable end) and a thatched roof.

Many thanks to an overview on the following link: http://www.underthethatch.co.uk/essays/essay-traditional-cottages.htm
Up by old Isaac's. The remains of what was once the main residence on this farm, the thatch being covered by wriggly tin many moons ago, and reused as a barn when a more modern farmhouse was build around the time of the First World War.
This gives you a good idea of the Cruck Frame construction. The gable wall was, for many years, leaning at ever more an acute angle towards the lane, until finally taken out by one gale too many around Christmastime a few years back.

It was nice to have a change of scenery as I don't often walk this side of the hill.

If you look carefully you should just be able to make out mossy stones which are all that remain of a tiny cottage on the edge of woodland, which I didn't know existed until yesterday, so well is it camouflaged.

The bane of so many Welsh cottages and farmhouses - the slate wall (we have our fair share in this house, especially on the side which catches the weather so has been slated-over). We live on slate bedrock here, and there's more slate than stone. It is very porous and lets in the weather . . . I rather like the way they have eeked out the stones in this gable wall.

Beneath the brambles, you would hardly know it was there at first, apart from the rusting framework of an old caravan which for some reason, has been thrown up in place of a roof!

As you can see, walkers are not encouraged round here!

You can barely make it out, but there is the remains of an old mill down in this cwm. Only the front wall is at anything like its original height (it would have been three floors).

The original gateway to the mill . . .


A slightly more substantial wall shows where this cottage was. I have yet to find it on the 1881 census though.

From the front, with the doorway blocked.

This name hasn't come to light on my census scanning yet - perhaps it was the name of the more modern cottage behind it.

The other end of the footpath was scarcely more welcoming without secateurs!


All that remains of a roadside cot - now little more than a passing place along the narrow lane. The walls were a little bit more substantial 20 years ago, when we first moved down here.

Clues. . . this path cut into the bedrock is, on the map, just the end of a footpath. But a little triangular corner of the field is fenced off here, and I can't imagine anyone going to the bother of cutting the rock away just for a footpath, so I suspect there was a cottage there once, and these steps accessed it.

Another cottage clue - a cottager's hedge, not one planted for enclosure purposes. There is a wild gooseberry in this stretch of hedge (just out of shot) too, and a flat area behind. This is just the other side of our land.
One that not only survived (and was bought in the last 5 years as a derelict farm building, though it had windows and doorways for two dwellings and is reminiscent of a small longhouse) and has now been restored and extended. My sort of cottage, this . . .

I am still trying to identify the missing cottages on the census, so if I find them I will do a quick update.

6 comments:

Nan said...

What a very, very interesting venture. A great way to learn about your area. And the benefit of exercise as well - a perfect day.

Greentwinsmummy said...

oh that last photo is lovely!can you magic over here please :o)
You are a fab detective BB,I will have to take some pics of the missing ones round here,they were all up the hill once I believe,theres one place where all thats visable now are remains of a hedge & a rusting garden roller :o(
Its sad to think of them all gone,yet I often wonder if someone were to say right in our village for example~the amount of houses was to double,there would probably be outcry! yet the village used to be alot bigger,still tiny by most standards but bigger than whats left here
GTM x x x x

Kim said...

Lovely post, as usual, BB and the previous one was a little sad :( Your pickled pears look scrummy though :)

Kim x

silversewer said...

Just a note to say I enjoyed reading about your walk trying to identify buildings mentioned on the census whic have all but disappeared.

The hand cream is doing the job, thank you, ould you cinsider posting the instructions on how to make it???????

nita x said...

lovely post again jennie :o)
it is nice to find the history of the surrounding area where you live, most of ours was barracks for the army, they had everything, all self contained here, from homes to hospitals and shops. gradually they are being rebuilt and converted into business premises and a new housing estate where i once walked the dogs.

Bovey Belle said...

Silver-sewer - yup I'll do that. Glad it's helping. You won't be able to make it until next spring though, when the Elders flower again (unless you can get some dried elderflowers from somewhere? Perhaps google search them?)

I must confess, I have a bit of the bloodhound in me! I love researching GTM - finding out who lived where and when makes the past step into the present.