Llainfadyn cottage

Tŷ Unnos

Parent & Teacher Guidance
Tŷ Unnos

The tradition of building houses overnight was common across Wales between the 17th and 19th centuries. According to tradition, an individual could claim a home on common land by building a house on it between sunset and dawn the next day. In order to claim the building and the land, smoke had to be coming from the chimney before dawn. As well as claiming the land where the house was built, some areas of Wales had unique traditions and rules to accompany the practice of building a house in one night. In the Denbighshire area, house builders were able to claim land around the property up to the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house!

The walls were generally simple structures built of wattle and daub or turf with the roof covered with straw.

Once the structure had been completed between sunset and dawn the owner could improve the structure in the future. Over time the owner would secure solid foundations for the property, build it from stone and slate the roof. The cottages often had a floor to create a bedroom or loft for the family.

There are not many surviving examples of ‘tai unnos’ because of its simple construction. The Llainfadyn cottage which was relocated to St Fagans Museum and opened to the public in 1962 is one such example. It was originally built in 1762 at Rhostryfan, Gwynedd. The original owner was a quarryman and over a period of time between 1762 and 1870 the house was furnished. Rooms would be created by dividing the house with furniture e.g. dresser, table or bread and cheese cupboard. Over time the owner would extend the cottage by building a cowshed and a sty to keep pigs, cow and chickens in order to feed the family.

The tradition of building houses overnight apparently existed in Ireland, Italy, France and Turkey over the centuries.

Dawn is the time that marks the beginning of twilight before sunrise.
In a house like this, the loft was a bedroom above part of the room below.
Sundown, also known as sunset, is the daily disappearance of the Sun below the horizon due to Earth's rotation.
Wattle and daub:
Wattle and daub is a weatherproof method of constructing walls in which wooden stakes are woven with horizontal twigs and branches, and then daubed with clay or mud.
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