The real problem behind Ireland's disappearing thatch cottages

By: Robert Hayes-McCoy - owner of a thatch cottage
DUBLIN - April 13, 2022 - PRLog -- Not everyone knows this, but there are two distinct types of heritage thatch cottage constructions in Ireland – cottages with walls of stone and those with walls of mud. The majority of these cottages have a preservation order served on them by The Heritage Council of Ireland.

The stone walled cottages tend to be found in the northern parts of Ireland and along the Wild Atlantic Way, while the mud-walled ones are mainly located in the southern parts of the country where stones are less plentiful.

Interestingly, provided the roofs are well maintained, both types of thatched cottages can, and do, last for centuries. However, if the roofs are neglected, even for a short period of time, water seeps through and the more vulnerable mud-walled constructions can very quickly get washed away. That's why we have so few mud-walled thatch cottages left in Ireland nowadays.

My wife and I are lucky to own a pre-famine mud-walled thatched cottage in Wexford, purchased by us more than 40 years ago..

Over those years we have observed many centuries old mud-walled thatched cottages being abandoned, disintegrating and then disappearing.

The whole cycle from 'dwelling house to dust' can take as little as ten years. And from what I can see, the chronological order of the reasons behind many of these 'disappearances' is:
  • The house belongs to elderly 'empty nesters' whose children have moved away from their parents' home. The elderly parents are happy and comfortable in their house and live in it, possibly on their state pension and with occasional support from their children.
  • The parents die, or move into an old-folks' home and the house is vacant.
  • The children put it up for sale because they have neither the time nor money to maintain it.
  • The house doesn't sell easily because the thatch roof needs money spent on it and insurance is difficult to get, and so on. Sometimes it will sell for the land alone that is attached to it and the house is simply left to disintegrate.
It's a logical cycle that is easy to understand and, from what I can see, local authority thatch grants and whatever can do very little to stop it. That's because the real problem is that these houses need dwellers as well as money.

Right now, Ireland has a serious accommodation shortage and we are looking for a fast, sustainable solution to it.

By my estimates it cost on average €2000 pa to keep the roof of a thatched dwelling in very good order. Surely, this is a combined housing, heritage, tourism and refugee accommodation solution that is well worth investing in.

Visit for updates on Irish thatch cottages.

Robert Hayes-McCoy
Tags:Housing Refugees
Location:Dublin - Leinster - Ireland
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