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Tŷ unnos

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A ruined tŷ-unnos construction
A ruined tŷ-unnos construction

Tŷ unnos (pl.: tai unnos; English: one night house, also hafodunnos) is an old Welsh tradition that has parallels in other folk traditions in other areas of the British Isles. It was believed by some that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, the land then belonged to them as a freehold. There are other variations on this tradition, for example that the test was to have a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning and the squatter could then extend the land around by the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house.

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Plural

Plural

The plural, in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical category of number. The plural of a noun typically denotes a quantity greater than the default quantity represented by that noun. This default quantity is most commonly one. Therefore, plurals most typically denote two or more of something, although they may also denote fractional, zero or negative amounts. An example of a plural is the English word cats, which corresponds to the singular cat.

English language

English language

English is a West Germanic language in the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabitants of early medieval England. It is named after the Angles, one of the ancient Germanic peoples that migrated to the island of Great Britain. Existing on a dialect continuum with Scots and then most closely related to the Low German and Frisian languages, English is genealogically Germanic. However, its vocabulary also shows major influences from French and Latin, plus some grammar and a small amount of core vocabulary influenced by Old Norse. Speakers of English are called Anglophones.

Wales

Wales

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, the Celtic Sea to the south west and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2021 of 3,107,500 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate. The capital and largest city is Cardiff.

Common land

Common land

Common land is land owned by a person or collectively by a number of persons, over which other persons have certain common rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect wood, or to cut turf for fuel.

Origins

From a period spanning the seventeenth to the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, the expansion of the Welsh population combined with poverty brought about a series of incidents of squatting on isolated patches of land in the most rural parts of Wales. The practice arose because of the pressure of the lack of land due to the land enclosures of the period, and the taxation laws established by landowners. Family units paid taxes based on the land they inhabited, so families with adult and married children faced paying additional taxes on a second home, even if it was on the same land.

Legal status

The Ugly House (Welsh: Tŷ Hyll) near Betws-Y-Coed, a famous example of a tŷ unnos.
The Ugly House (Welsh: Tŷ Hyll) near Betws-Y-Coed, a famous example of a tŷ unnos.

Tŷ unnos has no status in English common law (the legal code which applied to England and Wales in this period), although there is some tradition of legal discussion about the point at which land occupied by squatters without title may be regarded as a legitimate possession. This legendary belief may bear some relation to genuine folk customs and actual practices by squatters encroaching on common or waste land.[1] The tradition may have provided squatters with a sense that their actions enjoyed some legitimacy conferred by an older code of laws more in tune with values of social justice than the supposed "Norman yoke". The customary practice has no foundation in the Common Law regarding land usage as it applies in England and Wales.

Many localities in Wales and England have a house or houses which may be identified as a one night house in local folklore. These may in fact be properties that were originally built by squatters and may be constructed in a vernacular building tradition using locally available materials. The Ugly House (Tŷ Hyll) is a celebrated example in Snowdonia.[2][3]

Many of these legends seem to be passed on in ignorance of the broader tradition of the one night house and may feature picturesque details based on variants of the traditions noted above. These legends generally take the form of a prominent member of local society proposing a wager with a landless family that members who could raise a house in a night and a day could keep the property. Some versions of these legends may emphasise that the family may cheat and win out over the complacent authority figure by building a very small hut or by simply building a hearth and chimney.

A good general account of one night house traditions is provided in the book Cotters and Squatters, by the British anarchist and writer on housing issues, Colin Ward. Ward considers the one night house tradition in the context of squatting and other informal systems of occupying and using land and relates accounts from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which demonstrate clear parallels in different folk traditions. He observes that similar traditions exist in Turkey, France, and North and South America.[4]

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Welsh language

Welsh language

Welsh is a Celtic language of the Brittonic subgroup that is native to the Welsh people. Welsh is spoken natively in Wales, by some in England, and in Y Wladfa. Historically, it has also been known in English as "British", "Cambrian", "Cambric" and "Cymric".

Common law

Common law

In law, common law is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions.

Norman yoke

Norman yoke

The Norman yoke is a term denoting the oppressive aspects of feudalism in England, attributed to the impositions of William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England, his retainers and their descendants. The term was used in English nationalist and democratic discourse from the mid-17th century.

Folklore

Folklore

Folklore is shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. This includes tales, myths, legends, proverbs, poems, jokes and other oral traditions. They include material culture, ranging from traditional building styles common to the group. Folklore also includes customary lore, taking actions for folk beliefs, the forms and rituals of celebrations such as Christmas and weddings, folk dances and initiation rites. Each one of these, either singly or in combination, is considered a folklore artifact or traditional cultural expression. Just as essential as the form, folklore also encompasses the transmission of these artifacts from one region to another or from one generation to the next. Folklore is not something one can typically gain in a formal school curriculum or study in the fine arts. Instead, these traditions are passed along informally from one individual to another either through verbal instruction or demonstration. The academic study of folklore is called folklore studies or folkloristics, and it can be explored at undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. levels.

Snowdonia

Snowdonia

Snowdonia or Eryri, is a mountainous region in northwestern Wales and a national park of 823 square miles (2,130 km2) in area. It was the first to be designated of the three national parks in Wales, in 1951.

Colin Ward

Colin Ward

Colin Ward was a British anarchist writer and editor. He has been called "one of the greatest anarchist thinkers of the past half century, and a pioneering social historian."

Architectural development

Very little is known in detail about the building of these structures, their numbers or inhabitants, and no accurate representations survive.[5] Most Tai Unnos (pl.) were originally made of turf and soil, with a roughly thatched roof. Once established, the walls were often replaced with local materials, including clay and stone. An experimental construction in Carmarthenshire in 2006 demonstrated that a rudimentary structure could be assembled quickly.[6] The squatters may not have depended exclusively on agriculture and in some areas may have worked in quarries and mines. This development led to dispersed settlement patterns seen in the Welsh landscape today. Materials from early stages of construction may have been replaced by higher quality timber and slates, available via the new railways. Single storey Tŷ Unnos cottages were modified by raising the roofs and enlarging the windows.[7]

The most recent known tŷ unnos was built in 1882. Four brothers built it in Flintshire. Oliver Onions fictionalized the story in his 1914 novel Mushroom Town.[8]

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As a name for modular housing

The Coed Cymru "Tŷ unnos" design looks similar to this traditional Japanese framing design, but it lacks the internal horizontal members, has fewer vertical members (such that the side openings are square), and lacks king posts and queen posts. It uses glulam, and is clad with oriented strand board[10]
The Coed Cymru "Tŷ unnos" design looks similar to this traditional Japanese framing design, but it lacks the internal horizontal members, has fewer vertical members (such that the side openings are square), and lacks king posts and queen posts. It uses glulam, and is clad with oriented strand board[10]

The "ty unnos" concept has been used as an inspiration for low-cost modular housing systems. The Welsh woodland charity called Coed Cymru used "Ty Unnos" as a name for a house design using local materials.[11] In 2009, they were invited to show the design in Washington, D.C. as part of the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which showcased Wales.[9]

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King post

King post

A king post is a central vertical post used in architectural or bridge designs, working in tension to support a beam below from a truss apex above.

Queen post

Queen post

A queen post is a tension member in a truss that can span longer openings than a king post truss. A king post uses one central supporting post, whereas the queen post truss uses two. Even though it is a tension member, rather than a compression member, they are commonly still called a post. A queen post is often confused with a queen strut, one of two compression members in roof framing which do not form a truss in the engineering sense.

Oriented strand board

Oriented strand board

Oriented strand board (OSB) is a type of engineered wood similar to particle board, formed by adding adhesives and then compressing layers of wood strands (flakes) in specific orientations. It was invented by Armin Elmendorf in California in 1963. OSB may have a rough and variegated surface with the individual strips of around 2.5 cm × 15 cm, lying unevenly across each other, and is produced in a variety of types and thicknesses.

Charitable organization

Charitable organization

A charitable organization or charity is an organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, launched in 1967, is an international exhibition of living cultural heritage presented annually in the summer in Washington, D.C. in the United States. It is held on the National Mall for two weeks around the Fourth of July holiday. The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage produces the Festival.

Source: "Tŷ unnos", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, February 20th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tŷ_unnos.

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Bibliography
  • Iorwerth C. Peate, The Welsh House (Brython Press, Liverpool, 1946)
  • Colin Ward, Cotters and Squatters - Housing's Hidden History (Five Leaves Publications, Nottingham, 2002)
  • Eurwyn Wiliam, Hand Made Homes: dwellings of the rural poor in Wales (National Museum of Wales, 1988)
  • Eurwyn Wiliam, The Welsh Cottage (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 2010)
References
  1. ^ Sayce, R. U. (1942). "The One-Night House, and its Distribution". Folklore. 53 (3): 161–163. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1942.9717642.
  2. ^ "BBC - North West Wales Betws-y-Coed - Snowdonia Society". www.bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 May 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  3. ^ "About Tŷ Hyll &". Snowdonia-society.org.uk. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  4. ^ "The worldwide one-night house Colin Ward - openDemocracy". www.opendemocracy.net. Archived from the original on 20 July 2006. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  5. ^ WILIAM, Eurwyn: The Welsh Cottage. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. 2010
  6. ^ "The Welsh House, Self Catering Holiday Cottage West Wales, Carmarthen | Ty Unnos - Self Catering Holiday in West Wales". The Welsh House, Self Catering Holiday Cottage West Wales, Carmarthen.
  7. ^ "DefaultHomePage". www.period-welsh-cottage.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 August 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  8. ^ Prior, Neil (23 August 2020). "Tŷ unnos: Homes made using 17th Century 'squatters' rights'". BBC News.
  9. ^ a b "A 'one-night' house for America". BBC Wales. 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  10. ^ from image in BBC source[9]
  11. ^ "Ty Unnos - a house in one night | TRADA". www.trada.co.uk. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2022.

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