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Doors and Windows
Few early doors have survived. The very earliest described are wattle hinged with by rope at the top and bottom was still part of the oral tradition of west Donegal in the 1940s. These wattle structures were often plastered with mud and cowdung for a more impervious effect. Doors with characteristically raised panels have been recorded from the early 19th Century. Many of the later panelled doors are from the mid and late-19th Century. Many rural houses used boarded doors, constructed with a number of boards (early examples used fewer broader boards) fixed to three battens on the inside. Towards the end of the 19th Century many houses had windbreaks built around the front door (see photograph).
The half-door is often thought of as the quintessential feature of rural Irish houses. These were hung outside a full sized front door with both doors hinging inwards. They were used to keep animals from wandering into the kitchen and yet allowed a draft to control the peat fire. It appears that half-doors are not an ancient development and they probably were installed from the mid-19th Century, inspired by the stable doors of the landlords.
The data collected in the 1840s by Maurice Collis for the estates of Trinity College, and other properties, (and reviewed by Gailey in A view of Irish rural housing in the 1840s) indicates that many rural dwellings had no windows at that time. In Kerry the Iveragh estate had 83.3% of houses with no glazed windows. The housing in the Donegal estates studied appeared not to be just so poor. In Kilmacrenan and Ballintra the percentages were 46.5 and 23.2 respectively. In Kilmacrenan over 70% of dwellings had one window or less. While this is better than the equivalent 88.5% for Iveragh in Kerry, it still indicates poor housing.
Few early windows survive either, as they were easily altered but some sources suggest small windows located high in the walls, just below the thatch. Some of the early cruck framed houses had this type of window, but new openings had been made and the older windows had been filled in. The effect of formal Georgian architectural influences produced sash windows of six or eight panes in two horizontal rows of two or three on each sash, and these were found in many dwellings by the early 1800s. Later in the 19th Century the vertical glazing bars had disappeared and larger panes were used. As glass grew cheaper in the late 19th Century each sash had only one pane of glass fitted.
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