Building a Celtic Roundhouse.

 
   
 
 

This is one of the many roundhouses at Felin Uchaf in Wales where there are the remains of over 1,000 Iron Age hillforts each with many similar roundhouses. The Celts built their roundhouses from the natural materials available to them. The roundhouses at Felin Uchaf are built in the same way using only the natural materials available on or near the land.

   
           
       
   

The walls of roundhouses were either dry stone filled in with clay and straw, or a ring of support poles weaved with wattling and plastered in daub, or a mixture of both stone and wattling as being built here (left).

Wattle and daub is one of the oldest building techniques dating back to the Bronze Age and beyond. Wattling is a way to build walls by weaving long flexible sticks in and out of upright posts. Hazel, which is pliable and grows naturally long, is a good species to use for wattle. It is also the preferred wood used by straw bale builders to pin bales together.

Daubing is the method used to weather proof the wattle with a mixture of clay, earth (sand), straw and manure.

The upright poles are usually around 4-6 inches thick, straight with their ends charred in a fire (see bottom left) and buried about 8-12 inches deep. Charing the wood that will be buried below the ground protects the wood from rotting.

 
           
         
 
   
 

A tour of Felin Uchaf

 

The recipe for making daub is much the same as the one used by cob builders but because the daub is not structural getting the mix right is not as critical. Broadly speaking daub is made from equal proportions of cow manure, earth, clay, and straw with water added a little at a time until the mix has turned into a heavy paste.

The daub is smeared onto the wattle on both sides and should be at least an inch thick making sure the daub is pushed into the gaps between the wattle.

With the walls of the roundhouse built the roof poles are raised and bound with rope using more hazel rods. A snake of reeds (left) is bound close to the foot of the roof to provide a stitching anchor for the thatch.

 
           
         
 

Here are two more Welsh roundhouses built using the same techniques.

 
     


Below is an interior picture of the roundhouse which by day is a meeting and storytelling room and at night a bedroom for volunteers who come to Felin Uchaf to learn natural building and natural living skills.

 
           
       
   
   
 

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