Black House Museum

The Black House Museum provides a fascinating visit for all who want to learn about the way people used to live long ago in the 1800's, in the village of Lewis. The interesting name of the house can be derived from the fact that there are relatively few or no windows in these buildings and the smoke from the fire would give a black color to the inside of the house. The main reason, however, is that near the end of the 1800's a new means of housing was developed and to distinguish between the two the people would call the old house "black" and the new ones white houses because of the white exterior. The last black house to be occupied was 1974, so it was not that long ago.

The black house was a long narrow stone building, which could later have more buildings attached onto it. The buildings that were built on would lie parallel to the main building but they would share a common wall. The roof of the black house would be made from pieces of wood, which would make up the main frame of the roof. Later it would be layered with heathery turves and then with the actual thatch that would also protect the occupants from the cold weather.

Once the thatching was in place it would be tied down with twine or with an old fishing net, which in turn would be connected to large rocks that would prevent the roof from flying off with any strong winds or extreme weather. This frame would then lean on the inner wall made up from stones collected giving a distinctive wall-ledge look. Stones would also be placed along the bottom of the roof where the roof and the inner wall meet. The wall that the roof would lean on was made out of stones as mentioned before. The wall was made well with an outer and inner layer made purely from stone and then the middle of the wall filled with earth and peat.

The roof is built with no consideration for a chimney, it was expected that what ever smoke was produced from the central fireplace would eventually get out by itself one way or another. Because of the heather and thatch layers that made up the roof, the covering would be removed annually and replaced with new layers. The old roof layers would not be put to waste as they were considered excellent fertilizer for the fields.

The black house was made up of the living area for the occupants and a byre area for the animals. The byre area would have a ground floor with a drain of some sorts to rid the room of animal wastes. The other side of the house away from where the animals were kept would be where grain and other food products would be stored.


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