The Demise of the Roadside Cottage

Mantlepiece with Tea Towels

The roadside cottage is an historic feature of Ireland.  Often associated with a romantic view of a rural picturesque idyll, this idealised view is now outdated.  The roadside cottage is in decline.   Though some of these dwellings are inhabited, for the most part roadside homes have become abandoned and derelict. 
Bedroom with carpet plants
Roadside cottages are usually made up of three small rooms with a small flat roof extension on the rear.  As these spaces become empty they are rarely given new inhabitants.  There are two reasons for this; the first being that they are too near roads that have now become extremely busy.  The second reason is that they are too small to meet contemporary living standards.   Modern housing is built further away from the road and has become increasingly larger.  In some cases the floor space of the roadside cottage can be smaller than the living room of a modern house.  
Roadside cottages are often invisible within the local community.  With boarded windows and flaking paint, people would rather not look at them.  The interior of these spaces have often been left intact.  While nothing of worth remains, it is often disturbing to see the personal effects that are left behind.  Shoes sit waiting for an owner who will never come back, a biscuit tin holds odds and ends, a picture of Jesus looks into an empty room.
Ladies Shoes
Jacob's Biscuits
Jesus Waiting
These spaces are suspended in time and space.  As life moves by outside, inside, apart from the inevitable decay, things are very still.  The interiors of derelict cottages chronicle a way of living that is now lost.  The inhabitants must have been elderly and what is most unnerving is the thought that these people have probably now passed on.  It is saddening to see that their treasured possessions remain; this acts to remind us of the impermanence of life.  
Commode and Chair
Family photograph

It is often possible to date when a dwelling became empty by checking dates on cartons of milk and on newspapers.  In one derelict space I photographed nobody had been in there since 1997.  It took a hour to get through the brambles to the open back door. 
Tea and Coffee from the 90's
These spaces are museums of bereaved and abandoned objects.  They are a valuable resource because they show a pre-boom way of living that will never be repeated. 
Souvenir of Knock
Bread Bin
Horseshoe with Fly
10 year old toothbrush
 It is important to record and document these museums because at some point in the future they will no longer be around to show us a forgotten way of life.  The roadside cottages shown here are all in north Co. Sligo.


  1. Jesus Waiting - savage photo.

  2. And very interesting calling them museums. No interpretative centres, no glass, no hush, no pretence at all. Just what's left

  3. Thanks Karen. Lots of people are having problems leaving comments. Glad you got yours on x


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