LONGHOUSES IN DEVON
Cottages in Devon come in many shapes and sizes and much like villas the word cottage has long been misappropriated,
This said however there is a particular type of property peculiar to Devon and specifically Dartmoor; this is the Dartmoor Longhouse. They reach back as far as the 13th century and are known to be associated with the husbandry of livestock and to be found on the high moor. In ancient times both animals and humans would live under the same roof, in different sections of the building.
These dwellings we actually found in most western areas of the British Isles, Wales, Cornwall and Devon and were more commonly referred to “Longhouses” and “housebarns” or “homesteads”. Our French neighbours across the channel in Brittany, not surprisingly, have nearly identical buildings reaching back hundreds of years and are called “Maison) Longère”.
Local stones were used to build them, Dartmoor and Devon ones being made of the familiar granite of the region. As the farming culture developed many of these were turned into farm buildings only and separate accommodation was built for the farmers themselves. Some of these Longhouses have been converted into residential homes and some used as holiday homes. These buildings have often also been re-roofed to reduce maintenance and expense, the original marterials being shippon and medieval thatch.
In terms of their constructions and dwelling arrangements as longhouse was constructed of a long, single-story gable structure built along the downward the slope of a hill, with a central “hall or passage)' dividing the building into two rooms, partitioned with some form of divider. The top end of the building was occupied by the humans and their animals in the lower end.
The animal quarters were called the 'shippon' or 'shippen”, still used in local dialects to describe a farm building used for livestock. The buildings were arranged in this fashion to allow the animals “deposits” to drain out through the end wall and reduce the health risks and smells!
Many early Longhouses had no way of removing smoke from their fires except for a hole in the thatched roof and the smoke would circulate amongst the open rafters and roof, below the thatch. No doubt this was not ideal but it retained the heat from the peat and wood fires. We all need to bear in mind that windows with glass were not available, so it a matter of weighing the cold and elements against the light. Light often lost!
As the years past separation from the animals became more common with the introduction of stone fireplaces and upper floors, creating private spaces, while the roof spaces above the aninals quarters was often used as a hayloft or storage space.
There have been many medieval longhouses found at excavations, a lot having been abandoned after the Black Death of the 17th century and many dating back to the 13th century, all of which followed the commonalty of design as noted above. Add in stone porches, Inglenook fireplaces and elaborate chimneys, staircases and the Longhouses of today took shape. If you're looking for a Devon Longhouse to rent then Discovery Holiday Homes has some great cottages.