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COTTAGE INTERIORS 19th century

Most tourists in Wales didn't visit cottages unless they needed to take shelter from the rain. The impression from many of the descriptions, certainly those before the 1840s, is that they were clean and tidy and that the inhabitants were healthy and content with their lot.

The descriptions of the worst cottages may well be those occupied during the summer months (the hafod) and these required little if any comforts: the furniture was basic because the owners spent most of their time outside tending their flocks.

For illustrations of cottage interiors see Bebb, Richard, Welsh Furniture, 1250-1950, vol 2, (2007)

Description of a cottage by Michael Faraday, 1819, on road between Dolgellau and Bala
'During one shower we stepped into the shelter of a cottager's doorway. A poor woman was within with her family and seeing us she used all the English in her possession and bade us 'sit down'. Her little boy got us chairs and we entered and rested ourselves. The hut was a little place made of stones and thatch standing on a very few yards of ground. The rooms we were in were occupied by far the greater part of it and extended upwards from the foundation to the roof. Still, however we almost filled it from side to side and from top to bottom. There were two or three pieces of wonderfully clean and bright oaken furniture about as a clock, a chest of drawers, a dresser and shelves, etc., and the crockery ware and other small things arranged in their respective places were in the nicest order. Even three legged stools looked respectable from the care taken of them. They were either white as milk [scrubbed] or bright [polished] as hands coud make them.The air of comfort about these little places is astonishing. A thousand conveniences present themselves which have either been purchased at the expense of hard labour or contrived and executed with much judgement and there appears to be no cessation in their endeavour to make all complete. It is true their means are very humble and their production so too. But they have the true merit of being useful and they are the best ornaments cottages can have for they are proof of their virtues and powers and proclaim the value of their character. All too is so clean. The outside of the houses are either painted or limewashed and the insides are rubbed and scoured until they surpass anything I have seen in London. At first sight of a female cottager out of doors we would hardly suppose them to merit this character but they have the greatest right to it. They are bare legged and bare footed, sometimes bare headed. Their clothes are coarse and hang loosely and they hve not the appearance at first of being remarkable for cleanliness or order. But this erroneous judgement must be rectified. In their houses and their persons, they are equally orderly and the very custom of walking bare legged and footed is a proof of it. Every girl and woman in going from their houses to the town takes her shoes and if she has stockings, them also with her. She walks however without them on, but on nearing the town washes her feet in a brook, puts herself in order and them makes a respectable appearance.
The mistress of the hut into which we had entered was sitting on a low stool knitting, and surrounded by her family., a stout chubby boy and two little girls. One of them, and infant, was ill and the others were trying to amuse it or administering to its wants. The woman, with all the care she had could still entertain pity for us and showed her sorrow at the weather in a very expressive manner. Her little boy gave us seats and took my hat and then retired to the window and we talked with each other and the woman with her little ones each set smiling when by some easy word they found the other was speaking of them. Another traveller, a man of the country, came up whilst we were there and she asked him also to come in seeming to mind nothing how much trouble she caused herself nor how much we dirty her clean house, but he rested himself in the porch ... When the storm had subsided, we prepared to be gone and the woman appeared to be astonished when we offered her anything like recompence to her little boy for the trouble we had given her. We left them very happy ourselves and they very much surprised'.
Dafydd Tomos, Michael Faraday in Wales : including Faraday's journal of his tour through Wales in 1819 [1972], p. 73

COTTAGE EXTERIORS

COTTAGES IN CEREDIGION