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A History of Homes by Mind Map: A History of Homes
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A History of Homes

Mesolithic Houses

The people of Mesolithic Ireland (10,000 years ago) were hunters and gatherers - farming was not invented until the neolithic period. The family groups would have lived near rivers and lakes in houses made from animal skin spread over a bowl-shaped timber frame.


The Celts lived in round houses. They were built around a central pole with horizontal poles radiating outwards from it. They rested on vertical poles. Walls were of wattle and daub and roofs were thatched. Around the walls inside the huts were benches, which also doubled up as beds. The Celts also used low tables. Many crannógs were built on stilts in lakes for defensive purposes.

Middle Ages


Peasants homes were simple wooden or stone thatched huts. The poorest people lived in one-room huts. Slightly better-off peasants lived in huts with one or two rooms. There were no panes of glass in the windows only wooden shutters, which were closed at night. The floors were of hard earth sometimes covered in straw for warmth. At night in summer and all day in winter the peasants shared their huts with their animals. Parts of it were screened off for the livestock. Their body heat helped to keep the hut warm.


When the Normans invaded Ireland they built castles of wood. In the early 12th century stone replaced wood. Living in a stone castle was more comfortable as it was warmer and drier than a wooden dwelling. In the towns wealthy merchants began living in stone houses. In the Middle Ages chimneys were a luxury. As time passed they became more common but only a small minority could afford them. At first glass was very expensive and only rich people could afford it but by the late 13th and early 14th centuries the middle classes began to have glass in some of their windows. Furniture in the Middle Ages was very basic. Even in a rich household chairs were rare. Often only the lord sat on one so he was the 'chairman'. Most people sat on stools or benches. In a castle the toilet or garderobe was a chute built into the thickness of the wall. The seat was made of stone. Sometimes the garderobe emptied straight into the moat!

16th Century (1500's)

In the Middle Ages rich people's houses were designed for defence rather than comfort. In the 16th century life was safer so houses no longer had to be easy to defend. Roofs were usually thatched though some rich people had tiles. Furniture was more plentiful than in the Middle Ages but it was still basic. In a wealthy home it was usually made of oak and was heavy and massive. Tudor furniture was expected to last for generations. You expected to pass it on to your children and even your grandchildren.  During the 16th century glass windows became much more common. However they were still expensive. If you moved house you took your glass windows with you! In the Middle Ages a rich person's house was dominated by the great hall. In the 16th century rich people's houses became divided into more rooms. In the 16th century carpets were a luxury only the richest people could afford. They were usually too expensive to put on the floor! Instead they were often hung on the wall or over tables. In 1596 Sir John Harrington invented a flushing lavatory with a cistern. However the idea failed to catch on. People continued to use chamber pots or cess pits, which were cleaned by men called gong farmers. (In the 16th century a toilet was called jakes). None of the improvements of the 16th century applied to the poor. They continued to live in simple huts with one or two rooms.

17th Century (1600's)

In the late 17th century furniture for the wealthy became more comfortable and much more finely decorated. New types of furniture were introduced. In the mid 17th century chests of drawers became common. Grandfather clocks also became popular. Later in the century the bookcase was introduced. There were some improvements in poor people's houses in the 17th century. During the 17th century chimneys and glass windows became more common and by the late 17th century even the poor had them. In the early 17th century there were only casement windows (ones that open on hinges). In the later 17th century sash windows were introduced. They were in two sections and they slid up and down vertically to open and shut.

18th Century (1700's)

In the 18th century only a small minority of the population lived in luxury.  The rich built huge country houses filled with beautiful furniture, delicate crockery, expensive silver cutlery and ornaments.  Their houses were surrounded by lavish manicured gardens.  The middle class merchants built small but luxurious homes in the towns and cities. For the poor very little changed.

19th Century (1800's)

This century was called 'Victorian' because of Queen Victoria in Britain and because it was the most powerful empire in the world at the time. Middle-class victorians lived in very comfortable houses (Although their servants lived in cramped quarters, often in the attic). For the first time furniture was mass-produced. That meant it was cheaper but unfortunately standards of design fell. To us middle class Victorian homes would seem overcrowded with furniture, ornaments and knick-knacks. Gas lamps and gas ovens began to appear. The poor people in cities lived in big overcrowded buildings called tenements. Conditions were dreadful  with whole familes sharing one room across the corridor from many other families.  In the countryside it was far worse with many poor people still living in one room stone or turf huts with their farm animals.

20th Century

In the 20th Century as furniture became far cheaper to make, and with the advent of electricity, the living conditions of ordinary people vastly improved. In the early 20th century vacuum cleaners and washing machines were available but only rich people could afford them. They became more common in the 1930s, though they were still expensive. Fridges and washing machines did not become really common till the 1960s. Central heating became common in the 1960s and 1970s. Double glazing became common in the 1980s. Plastic or pvc was first used in the 1940s. By the 1960s all kinds of household goods from drain pipes to combs were made of plastic. New styles of architecture became popular like art nouveau in the early part of the century, then art deco and bauhaus in the 1960's. At the beginning of the century most people rented their houses but banks began to lend more money to ordinary people to buy their homes.  The government built large council estates in the middle of the century to move the poor people out of the filthy tenements in the cities and then in the 1970's built high-rise flats for them.  In the 1990's these high-rise flats became unpopular because of crime and poor people were moved back into new modern council estates. Many rich people bought expensive apartments in the city centres which were renevated from the old tenement buildings that had been vacated by the poor.

21st Century

In the 2000's people began to think more about building eco-friendly houses which used more natural light, were better insulated and were less dependent on fossil fuels.  New types of heating systems were developed like geo-thermal, wind energy and solar power. Furniture became so cheap that many shops sold them unassembled (e.g. IKEA).  Home entertainment systems like wide-screen televisions and games consoles became very popular. During the 2000's house prices tripled in value.  However a lot of people lost a lot of money during the recession from 2008 until the present when house prices dropped dramatically.  Experts believe that houses will never be that expensive again.

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