Rural homes

A survey of 2,403 houses in north Kerry in 1843 quoted by Alan Gailey produced the following statistics about size, roofing and lighting.

98.9% were thatched

99.4% were single storey

31.1% had only one room

48.5% had no façade window

20.1% had one window

29% had 2 or 3 windows

2.4% had 4 or more windows

Improvements were made to rural housing during the second half of the nineteenth century, after the famine.

Census data reveal a massive decline in numbers of one-room houses between 1841 and 1851; yet at the earlier date, two- to-four-room houses still represented about half of all rural dwellings in much of Ulster and Leinster, and about one-third in Connacht and Munster.
Alan Gailey, Rural Ireland 1600-1900, Cork, 1987, p.100.

Timber or flagged floors were replacing earthen floors and parlours were becoming fashionable, though these often doubled as sleeping accommodation to provide unmarried males and females with separate sleeping arrangements.

Irish cabin
Irish cabin
19th century travel book
Turf cabin
Turf cabin
National Photographic Archive of Ireland
Hearth fire
Hearth fire
Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Museums & Galleries of Northern Ireland
Thatched house in Co. Tipperary c. 1912
Thatched house, Co. Tipperary, c. 1912
Courtesy Walsh family


  1. A survey of ____ houses in North Kerry in 1843 showed that ___% were thatched, _____% had only one room and ____% had only one window.
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of statistical surveys like the one above as historical evidence?

  3. What improvements were made to rural houses in the second half of the nineteenth century?
  4. Suggest three important consequences for women of living in a one-roomed cabin in Ireland.


  1. Organise a visit to a Folk Park
  2. Do a research project on the varieties of rural housing in Ireland in the later nineteenth century.
  3. Do a research project on the history of rural housing in your own area.
  4. Using housing data in the census, study the changes in housing in your own area for any period since 1841
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