An A-Z of everything to do with cottages and Irish Cottage Terminology.  Far from being a definitive work – it is always being updated.

Irish words in italics.

Byre – A byre dwelling is a cottage that is shared with animals. This would have been the case where the occupants had few animals thus making them a valuable asset. They were usually built on a slope so the animals effluent would drain away from the living accomodations. See Cottage History

Conveyancing – is the transfer of legal title of property from one person to another, or the granting of an encumbrance such as a mortgage or a lien. (Source:  Wikipeda) See Buying an Irish Cottage – Part II

Cottage – ‘a small house, typically one in the country’ (Oxford). While this is normally the case, cottages are also found in cities, built by industrialists for their employees – Railway cottages are probably the most popular example of this.  See Cottage History

Clachan – ‘Clachán’A cluster of cottages forming a farming collective. Dwellers farmed the surrounding land which was split up according to a system referred to as the Rundel System – scattered plots of good, medium and bad land. Mountainous land was allocated in soums where inhabitants maintained grazing rights for a number of their animals. A similar system is still in place for grazing sheep on wild rocky terrain today.  See Cottage History

Freehold – you own the property and the land outright.

Gazumping – The seller of the property raises the price after the sale has been agreed, this can also happen in reverse where the buyer of the property pulls out of the sale and goes back in with a lower bid on the same property.  Neither action is illegal but both are considered to be bad practice and frowned upon.  See Buying an Irish Cottage – Part I

Haggart / Haggard – A wild piece of garden seperated from the main decorative garden, often located to the side of the property and used to hold animals temporarily when needed nearer the cottage, grow vegetables or to store bric-a-brac associated with the running of the farm. Purpose and location varies from cottage to cottage.

Hearth – ‘the floor or surround of a fireplace (often used as a symbol of domestic comfort).’ (Oxford) Often the central focus of the cottage providing heat, food and a stage for performance.  See Cottage History

Leasehold – you own the property that is built on the land but not the land itself.  The land is leased for a fixed number of years – you will pay rent on the land which is usually to a local authority.  The most famous example of this is St. James Gate – which was leased by Sir. Arthur Guiness in 1759 for 9000 years for a rent of 45 pounds a year.

Outshot – An alcove built into the cottage walls close to the hearth where the elderly inhabitants of the dwelling slept for the warmth. The outshot would usually be curtained off from view.  See Cottage History

Renovation – The process of bringing a dwelling up to modern standards. This may require altering the fabric of the dwelling to make it fit for a purpose including moving walls, extensions and altering window sizes.

Restoration – The process of restoring a dwelling to its former state. Unless this is undertaken for historical purposes, restoration will normally be undertaken with renovation to bring the dwelling up to modern standards whilst retaining the original charachteristics and charm.

Rundale System – A system of jointly leasing land amongst dwellers of a Clachan.   The land was divided with each dweller maintaining disjointed farm of good, medium and bad plots and soums of grazing rights.  This system was most popular in western costal areas where dry stone walls were used to subdivide the plots.  The most famous example of this is the Ceide Fields in Co. Mayo.  See Cottage History

Scallops‘Scolbacha’ – A twisted length of hazel or sally branch used to secure the thatch to the roof. Also known as rods, spars or sways.

Soum – An allocated measurement of grazing rights for animals on mountainous land within a Clachán. (See Clachan above)

Thatch – The use of reeds, straw or heather to roof a dwelling. Once the standard form of roofing, the evolution of more stable methods has seen thatching become more of an art form and a decorative addition to cottages and dwellings.

Tithe – is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a (usually) voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a religious organization. Today, tithes (or tithing) are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products.  (Source Wikipedia)  The most notable incidence of this in Ireland is the Tithe Applotment Books of from 1823 to 1837.  See Discovering the age of your cottage.  See Cottage History

Wattle and Daub – A traditional method of building walls.  Wattle consisted of a lattice of wooden rods and twigs which was filled or ‘daubed’ with any combination of muddy clay, wet soil, sand, animal dung and staw.  Once the daub hardened, walls were formed.  See Cottage History

Whitewash – A traditional protective layer applied to the outside of cottages and buildings made from lime. It is a breathable, repairing, natural material that can be applied in traditional white or be mixed with pigments for colour. The effect achieved with repeated application has led the much sought after smooth undulating texture of cottages.

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