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Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

Meenagarragh’s cottier’s house

Rural Area - Discovery Farm 47

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This is an original building. The small one roomed house was built in the 1880s and originally sited in the townland of Meenagarragh, near to Plumbridge in County Tyrone. Built for one person the room measures approximately 12ft by 11ft (3.6m x 3.3m). It was dismantled and moved to the Folk Museum in 1974.

It is a stone built house with a thatched roof and a bed outshot or alcove bed positioned beside the hearth.

The house is characteristic of a type of dwelling common throughout Ulster before 1840 and was often used to house a large family. The families who lived in these one roomed ‘cabins’ were the poorest people in Ireland. Mostly landless labourers who lived as cottiers on farmers holding.

At the time of the Great Famine in the 1840s much of Ireland’s population lived in one roomed houses. According to the 1841 census, one in every five houses in County Down had only one room. The proportion of one roomed houses in west Ulster was much higher than in east Ulster.

The Great famine of the 1840s, and the widespread emigration which followed it, resulted in a rapid decline in the numbers of single roomed dwellings. By the early 1900s they had all but disappeared everywhere in Ireland. A few examples, like the Meenagarragh house, did remain but they were now generally lived in by one person rather than as in previous century, by a family.

The Meenagarragh cottier’s house was built for an elderly widow who had decided to move out of the family farmhouse to make room for the next generation.

In later decades the house provided temporary rented shelter for local labourers but by the 1950s it was unoccupied and used as a farm store.

Look at the cramped and very basic living conditions. Although originally built as accommodation for a widow who had moved out of her family home, this type of dwelling commonly housed large families in the 1840s.