Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter IV - Section 2

Farm-houses and Offices

THE better kind of farmers and graziers have generally comfortable dwelling-houses, and convenient offices; but, if some little cleanliness is observed at the front of the house, no person can go into the yard at night with impunity. The poorer sort are usually badly lodged; their houses are mostly of stone, without any kind of cement, and of course let in the wind and rain. From the universal practice in Ireland of having a step down into the cabin, at least a foot below the level of the ground on the outside, they are almost always damp; the culpable carelessness or laziness of gentlemen or their agents, who permit this on their estates, is astonishing; if even wet clay, well tempered, was mixed among the stones, it would not only make them much warmer, but would help to keep the stones in their places; for, as every labourer is usually his own mason, they are often not very expert. Formerly there was scarcely a cottage, that had a chimney, and, where the landlord has built them, he has frequently found a flag or sod on the top of the chimney to keep in the smoke, which, they say, keeps them warm; this I have frequently seen myself, and, as the lower part of the cottage has for three or four feet from the ground but little smoke, they seem not to feel it, when they sit down*; but in this a great change for the better is taking place every day, and none but the most wretched are now without a chimney.

THE better kind of houses are slated either with a hard thin sand-stone flag, procured in the western part of the county, and near Lough Lickin, or with slates raised near Broadford, equal to Welch ton slates. Cottages are always thatched, either with straw, sedge, rushes, heath, or too often potatoe-stalks; sedge is preferred to straw, and six-pence per square perch is paid for it standing. Whilst the tenant is the builder of his house, little improvement can be expected, and, as the landlord never repairs, and the tenant usually gets his house and offices in a complete state of dilapidation, he merely patches it up for the present.

Cow-houses, even with some of the better kind of farmers, are not to be found, and other offices are perhaps equally rare. Cloacina frequently receives her offerings in the open air, and a person must tread cautiously, for, as no place of the kind is ever thought of for servants, they must do as well as they can, and it is astonishing, how little even people of property think of this necessary appendage to a well-kept house. Where straw is plenty, thatching is generally very neatly performed, and some taste shewn in the finishing of the twisted ridge, greatly superior to the Leinster method of covering it with mud or even mortar, as the first rots the straw, and becomes a bed of weeds or a nursery for houseleek, and the last generally cracks and peels off. There is always an eve-course of either hammered or some flat kind of stone, above which the thatch is, in general, evenly and neatly cut. The dunghill is placed uniformly as near the door as possible; even in towns the dunghill is permitted by lazy magistrates to accumulate almost to the top of the house, even in Ennis; it is ridiculous to say, that they cannot prevent it; some of these gentlemen should recollect their oath, and that it is not for their own advantage, or for the purpose of road-jobbing they receive their commission.

Few cottages are without sallows for kishes or baskets, and which every labourer knows how to make. 

The farm-houses on Lord Conyngham’s estate are in general very comfortable, and have every appearance of an attentive landlord; pity there are not separate tenures, and not joint tenancy. The cottiers of Boyle Vandeleur, Esq. are generally well lodged, and several new cottages are now building, for which purpose he gives them lime gratis.

* It is remarkable, that the same custom prevails near Castlecomer and in other parts of the county of Kilkenny, where they burn nothing but that abominable, sulky-looking, suffocating Kilkenny coal.

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