Roundhouse (dwelling)

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 started to be built using techniques such as cob, cordwood or straw bale walls and reciprocal frame green roofs.

Loch tay crannog 02
Reconstructed crannog on Loch Tay, Scotland
CSIRO ScienceImage 630 Eucalypts Used in African House Construction
Eucalyptus used in roundhouse construction, Zimbabwe (2000)


British Isles

Roundhouse (dwelling) Celtic Wales.jpeg
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. They used walls made either of stone or of wooden posts joined by wattle-and-daub panels and a conical thatched roof and 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'.

Most of what was assumed about these structures by earlier archaeologists was derived from the layout of the postholes, although a few timbers had been found preserved in bogs. The rest has been postulated by experimental archaeology, which has shown 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 accumulated harmlessly inside the roof space, and slowly leaked 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 Barbury Castle Swindon Wiltshire England (destroyed by fire)
Bodrifty Reconstruction - - 974896 Bodrifty Iron Age Settlement Cornwall England
Brigantium Archeological Centre High Rochester Northumberland England Now Dismantled
Butser Farm view Butser Ancient Farm Hampshire England
Cae Mabon Round House Cae Mabon Wales
Castell Henllys - - 67364 Castell Henllys Pembrokeshire Wales
Cockley Cley, near Swaffham Norfolk England
Flag Ben Iron Age Roundhouse Flag Fen near Peterborough England
Mellor roundhouse reconstruction Greater Manchester England
Westhay Peat Moors Centre Somerset England Closed to the public 31 October 2009

Raincliffe Roundhouse After Fire

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 Ryedale Folk Museum near Pickering North Yorkshire England
Celtic Village St Fagans 01 St Fagans National History Museum South Glamorgan Wales
Loch Tay Crannog Scottish Crannog Centre Loch Tay Perthshire Scotland Roundhouse reconstruction on a man made island
Round houses at Stonehenge Visitor Centre, December 2018 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 spring
That Roundhouse, constructed in 1997

New designs of roundhouse are again being built in Britain and elsewhere. In the UK straw bale construction or cordwood walls with reciprocal frame green roofs are used. There is one manufacturer of contemporary Roundhouses [2] in Cheshire, England, using modern materials and engineering to bring the circular floorplan back for modern living.

Roundhouse construction
A modern-day roundhouse - one of many constructed by a UK firm "Rotunda Roundhouses" [1] attempting to revive the ancient form of architecture and make it more compatible for contemporary living

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.[2] 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.[3]


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

Palloza galega
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.


Nakpanduri village center
Nakpanduri village centre, northern Ghana

Round houses can be found in various countries in Africa.[4] In South Africa they are known by the Afrikaans word rondavel.

North America

Modern roundhouses are being built such as the one at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage near Rutledge, Missouri, built of cob.[5]


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.[6]


  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. ^ "Secret village to be pulled down". BBC News. 1998-10-23. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  3. ^ Barkham, Patrick (2009-04-12). "Round the houses". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  4. ^ Eric Rosenthal (1961–1978). Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa. London: F. Warne. p. 35. ISBN 0-7232-1487-5.
  5. ^ "Cob roundhouse". Archived from the original on 2009-04-10.
  6. ^ "Raun Haus / Round Haus".

External links

Flag Fen

Flag Fen, east of Peterborough, England, is a Bronze Age site developed about 3500 years ago, comprising over 60,000 timbers, arranged in five very long rows, creating a wooden causeway (around 1 km long) across the wet fenland. Part way across the structure, a small island was formed. Items associated with it have led scholars to conclude the island was a site of religious ceremonies and significance. Archaeological work began in 1982 at the site, which is located 800 m (0.5 miles) east of Fengate. Flag Fen is now part of the Greater Fens Museum Partnership. A visitor centre has been constructed on site, and some areas have been reconstructed, including a typical Iron Age roundhouse dwelling.


A hut is a primitive dwelling, which may be constructed of various local materials. Huts are a type of vernacular architecture because they are built of readily available materials such as wood, snow, ice, stone, grass, palm leaves, branches, hides, fabric, or mud using techniques passed down through the generations.

A hut is a shape of a lower quality than a house (durable, well-built dwelling) but higher quality than a shelter (place of refuge or safety) such as a tent and is used as temporary or seasonal shelter or in primitive societies as a permanent dwelling.T

Huts exist in practically all nomadic cultures. Some huts are transportable and can stand most conditions of weather.


A palloza (also known as pallouza or pallaza) is a traditional dwelling of the Serra dos Ancares of northwest Spain.


Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, sedge (Cladium mariscus), rushes, heather, or palm branches, layering the vegetation so as to shed water away from the inner roof. Since the bulk of the vegetation stays dry and is densely packed—trapping air—thatching also functions as insulation. It is a very old roofing method and has been used in both tropical and temperate climates. Thatch is still employed by builders in developing countries, usually with low-cost local vegetation. By contrast, in some developed countries it is the choice of some affluent people who desire a rustic look for their home, would like a more ecologically friendly roof, or who have purchased an originally thatched abode.

Hut dwelling designs and semi-permanent human shelters
Traditional immobile
Traditional mobile
Named huts
Related topics

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