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Roundhouse (dwelling)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Reconstructed crannog on Loch Tay, Scotland
Reconstructed crannog on Loch Tay, Scotland

A roundhouse is a type of house with a circular plan, usually with a conical roof. In the later part of the 20th century, modern designs of roundhouse eco-buildings were constructed[where?] with materials such as cob, cordwood or straw bale walls and reciprocal frame green roofs.


United Kingdom

A reconstruction of a British Iron Age Celtic roundhouse.
A reconstruction of a British Iron Age Celtic roundhouse.

Roundhouses were the standard form of housing built in Britain from the Bronze Age throughout the Iron Age, and in some areas well into the Sub Roman period. The people built walls made of either stone or of wooden posts joined by wattle-and-daub panels, and topped with a conical thatched roof. These ranged in size from less than 5m in diameter to over 15m. The Atlantic roundhouse, Broch, and Wheelhouse styles were used in Scotland. The remains of many Bronze Age roundhouses can still be found scattered across open heathland, such as Dartmoor, as stone 'hut circles'.

Early archeologists determined what they believed were the characteristics of such structures by the layout of the postholes, although a few timbers were found preserved in bogs. The rest has been postulated by experimental archaeology, which has tried different techniques to demonstrate the most likely form and function of the buildings. For example, experiments have shown that a conical roof with a pitch of about 45 degrees would have been the strongest and most efficient design.

Peter J. Reynolds also demonstrated that, although a central fire would have been lit inside for heating and cooking, there could not have been a smoke hole in the apex of the roof, for this would have caused an updraft that would have rapidly set fire to the thatch. Instead, smoke would have been allowed to accumulate harmlessly inside the roof space, and slowly leak out through the thatch.[1]

Many modern simulations of roundhouses have been built, including:

Image Name Town County Country Notes
Barbury Castle - Iron Age house building.JPG
Barbury Castle Swindon Wiltshire England (destroyed by fire)
Beeston Bronze Age Roundhouse Beeston Castle Cheshire England Built 2019
Bodrifty Reconstruction - - 974896.jpg
Bodrifty Iron Age Settlement Cornwall England
Brigantium Archeological Centre High Rochester Northumberland England Now Dismantled
Butser Farm Little Woodbury.jpg
Butser Ancient Farm Hampshire England
Cae Mabon Round House.JPG
Cae Mabon Wales
Castell Henllys - - 67364.jpg
Castell Henllys Pembrokeshire Wales
Cockley Cley, near Swaffham Norfolk England
Flag Ben Iron Age Roundhouse.jpg
Flag Fen near Peterborough England
Mellor roundhouse reconstruction Greater Manchester England
Peat Moors Centre Somerset England Closed to the public 31 October 2008

Raincliffe Roundhouse After Fire.jpg

Raincliffe Woods Scarborough North Yorkshire England Roof destroyed by fire April 2013. Timbers and thatch removed by Scarborough Conservation Volunteers. Walls undamaged.
Ryedale Folk Museum Roundhouse.jpg
Ryedale Folk Museum near Pickering North Yorkshire England
Celtic roundhouse village.
St. Fagans museum, Wales. South Glamorgan Wales The museum exhibition open for 20 years and was based on roundhouses in Conderton, Worcestershire.[2]
Bryn Eryr
St Fagans National History Museum South Glamorgan Wales New exhibition opened in 2016.[3]
Loch tay crannog 02.jpg
Scottish Crannog Centre Loch Tay Perthshire Scotland Roundhouse reconstruction on a man made island
Stonehenge Visitor Centre roundhouses Wiltshire England
Tatton Iron Age roundhouse and pit Cheshire England

Must Farm revelations

Much of the earlier supposition was confirmed or denied at a stroke by the finding of a set of Bronze Age roundhouses at the archaeological dig at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire, UK, where samples of all the materials, from posts to walls, to roof were all found, collapsed and charred, but still in situ after 3 000 years.

Modern British roundhouses

That Roundhouse, constructed in 1997
That Roundhouse, constructed in 1997

That Roundhouse is an early example of a modern roundhouse dwelling which was built in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Wales without planning permission as part of the Brithdir Mawr village which was discovered by the authorities in 1998.[4] It is constructed from a wooden frame of hand-cut Douglas Fir forest thinnings with cordwood infill, and reciprocal frame turf roof based on permaculture principles mainly from local natural resources. It was subject to a lengthy planning battle including a court injunction to force its demolition before finally receiving planning approval for 3 years in September 2008.[5]


Irish crannógs are located in Craggaunowen, Ireland; the Irish National Heritage Park, in Wexford, Ireland


Trulli (singular: trullo) are houses with conical roofs, and sometimes circular walls, found in parts of the southern Italian region of Apulia.


Galicia – Asturias

A palloza in Galicia, Spain
A palloza in Galicia, Spain

A palloza is a traditional thatched house as found in Leonese county of El Bierzo, Serra dos Ancares in Galicia, and south-west of Asturias; corresponding to Astur tribes area, one of pre Hispano-Celtic inhabitants of northwest Hispania. It is circular or oval, and about ten or twenty metres in diameter and is built to withstand severe winter weather at a typical altitude of 1,200 metres.

The main structure is stone, and is divided internally into separate areas for the family and their animals, with separate entrances. The roof is conical, made from rye straw on a wooden frame. There is no chimney, the smoke from the kitchen fire seeps out through the thatch.

As well as living space for humans and animals, a palloza has its own bread oven, workshops for wood, metal and leather work, and a loom. Only the eldest couple of an extended family had their own bedroom, which they shared with the youngest children. The rest of the family slept in the hay loft, in the roof space.


North America

Roundhouses were a common form of architecture in some Native American Tribes. Traditional roundhouses were often used for ceremonies "and provided a large work area during inclement weather."[6] The Chaw Se' Roundhouse in California's Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park is designated with state historical marker #1001.[7]

Modern roundhouses are being built such as the one at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage near Rutledge, Missouri, built of cob.[8]


Raun Haus, Papua New Guinea

Roundhouses are still in use in Papua New Guinea and are very similar to the ones built in western Europe.[9]


  1. ^ Aston, Mick (2001-10-05). "Peter Reynolds: archaeologist who showed us what the Iron Age was really like (obituary)     In Africa a round house was found on a volcano". The Guardian. London.
  2. ^ "The Project: St Fagans 05". 2005.
  3. ^ "Starting work on our new Celtic Village". 20 December 2013.
  4. ^ "Secret village to be pulled down". BBC News. 1998-10-23. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  5. ^ Barkham, Patrick (2009-04-12). "Round the houses". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  6. ^ Roseville History before 1820, Roseville Historical Society
  7. ^ Chaw Se' Roundhouse (No. 1001 California Historical Marker)
  8. ^ "Cob roundhouse". Archived from the original on 2009-04-10.
  9. ^ "Raun Haus / Round Haus".

External links

This page was last edited on 16 December 2021, at 23:08
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