Ulster Folk Museum

Labourers’ houses, Tea Lane

Ballycultra Town buildings 3 & 4

These are original buildings. This terrace of six houses was built in the late 1820s and came from Rowland Street, off Sandy Row, Belfast. They were dismantled and moved to the Folk Museum in 1976.

When the houses were built Rowland Street was known as Tea - pronounced ‘Tay’ Lane.

The houses were built using brick from local brickfields.  These early whitewashed houses have some interesting features. The rooms are very small with a ceiling height of only 8ft (2.4m) and the windows originally had wooden shutters.

The larger house in the centre of the terrace has a passage through to the yard, enabling the occupant to keep a cart horse or donkey.

The houses do not have back doors and all household rubbish, including waste from the dry toilet, was carried through the house for disposal. City by-laws introduced by Belfast Corporation in 1845 and in 1878 insisted on improved sanitary and building standards for newly built houses.

Mains water was introduced to Rowland Street in the 1880s. Between 1905 and 1912 Belfast Corporation provided free gas fittings. During the early 1900s, the front rooms in the Tea Lane houses were used as both a living room and kitchen; main meals were cooked over the coal fire.

The Tea Lane houses were built for the workers in the nearby textile mills and brickfields in Sandy Row. In the 1900s, the houses were rented principally to unskilled labourers. The ready availability of rented accommodation in Belfast led to a high turnover of tenants. In 1906 the occupants included three general labourers; Richard Bateman, Henry Beggs and Robert O’Hara, and a plumber, John Moffett.

Look at the cramped living conditions and the absence of back doors.