Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Houses of our ancestors, part II. - cottages and small houses

I promised another blog post about houses where our ancestors lived - about cottages and small houses. And here it is. So - what were the small houses like? How our ancestors lived there, how much space they had?

Glossary
  • Chlév / chliev - cow-shed
  • Izba (Slovak) - bedroom
  • Komora (kom.) - storage room
  • Kuchyně (kuch.) / č. k. (černá kuchyně) - (smoke) kitchen
  • Přístavek - outbuilding
  • Síň - hall
  • Světnice/světnička - "living" room / bedroom
Cottage with two bedrooms - often shared by two families, cottager's family and another family renting a room. These renters were often craftsmen who worked in the same room where they lived. Cottager's family lived in larger bedroom and kitchen was shared by both families. There were sheds outside the building for cows, pigs or goats as well as small outbuildings.

Two village houses (these examples were taken from Slovakian area but the same houses were also in Bohemia, I jus wasn't able to find plans) with one bedroom with open kitchen, hall and storage room. The second one also has a cow shed accessible from the hall, which meant smaller loses of warm during winter. But the odour... Well, I leave it to your imagination. :)

Many houses had just one small room, nothing more. Families of hinds, house renters, craftsmen lived in such houses. And those houses were really really small (12 to 14 square meters) - such as the one on a photo below which is located in open air museum in Veselý kopec.

 Photo: Author's archive

Ch - chlév, Čk - černá kuchyně, S - síň, Sv - světnice, P - přístavek.

Last one is a plan of poorhouse. It was a building administered by the municipality to provide sleeping room for poor people who were not able to support themselves. Often three or four families lived in such houses, while every family had one corner of the "living" room. 

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for such wonderful information!

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  2. Blanka, thank you for this very enlightening information. This really puts the house sizes in perspective. I will be traveling to my family's ancestral villages soon and will use this as a guide.

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  3. Blanka, thank you for this very enlightening information. This really puts the house sizes in perspective. I will be traveling to my family's ancestral villages soon and will use this as a guide.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My ancestors lived in similar cottages. One thing that has always puzzled me is the reason for having so many people in such a tight space. Surely it was not due to the expense (whether time or money or land) or the lack of skill. Yes, these were concerns, but given that most families lived in the same household for generations and would see expansion of a house as an investment, I'd think that building of larger houses was not resources limited.

    I would posit that people simply did not think to try to enlarge their houses. It was the norm to live in a one-room house. 'What would be the point of living in a larger house?'

    Thoughts?

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