The Snowdonia Cottage – a rich architectural heritage preserved in the mountains
The traditional Snowdonia Cottage is as much a part of the landscape as the mountains themselves. These charming old dwellings are imbued with the essence of times past. They speak of a quieter, simpler way of life, when people were more in touch with the natural environment around them.
The materials you see used in these traditional buildings are local to Snowdonia. Cottage walls are built from stone found and quarried in the immediate area. Even the roofs use slate from the local quarries.
Part of the landscape
Nestled in the rolling, mountainous landscape of Snowdonia you will find some wonderful examples of the Snowdonia Cottage. These charming old buildings have a natural fit with the area; in fact it is hard to imagine a Snowdonia without them. The rugged appearance of the traditional cottage echoes the craggy landscape found in and around the Snowdonia National Park.
An architectural legacy
Most Snowdonia Cottages were built in the 17th and 18th century – this period of development has left us with a delightful architectural legacy. These distinctive buildings, with their thick, solid walls, small bayed windows, solid oak doors and cosy inglenook fireplaces are now much sought after.
Traditional way of life
The Snowdonia Cottage was seen by early travel writers in the mid 19th century as indicative of a less civilised, archaic way of life. The idea of living in such an apparently primitive fashion was anathema to the English town or city dweller. It is true that rural poverty was widespread during this period and it had an influence on the rustic style – these cottages were simply the most affordable way of building a home. Ironically, many of today’s urban sophisticates have learned to appreciate the traditional craft and solid workmanship associated with the traditional quarrymen’s or farmer’s cottage.
Welsh hill farming
During the 19th century Welsh hill farmers clung to their traditional farming methods, while across the border in England large scale farms had become the norm. The shift to larger cattle and sheep farms did not happen in rural Wales until the early 20th century. Consequently, the traditional cottage remained an entrenched part of the housing stock in areas like Snowdonia. Although some cottages were abandoned as the larger farms took over, many remained in use.
Locally sourced materials
Prior to the Industrial Revolution much of the Welsh countryside was inaccessible to heavy or bulky loads. Heavy building materials by necessity had to be sourced locally. This meant using whatever could be found in the immediate vicinity – be it rough stone blocks cleared from improved land or from small scale quarries. Roof timbers were harvested locally and often installed without any significant squaring off. All of these rustic materials contributed to the distinctive character of the Snowdonia Cottage.
Slate roof tiles were not widely used on rural cottages in most areas of Wales until the rapid expansion of commercial slate quarrying in the mid 19th century. A more common roofing material was wheatstraw thatch. However, in Snowdonia small scale slate quarries were common and consequently the use of slate for cottage roofs was adopted at an earlier stage.