Ty Unnos: the house in one night.
I imagine the planning, the hints and rumours passed over the pews in chapel and the bar of the local inn. I imagined the time and place settled with a nod or a word in Welsh. It was important that the English landowners didn't find out. This house would be built on common land, and once that smoke was coming through the chimney, once the occupant had stood by each corner and thrown a mallet, then that would be the builder's land, and his children's land, and their children's..and so, I suppose, part of it should be mine.
It isn't of course. I've heard since that a lot of this was wishful thinking, not legal at all, and anyway, in the mid-nineteenth century when there were land clearances, the English landowners somehow took the common land back. * They evicted the people living in the Ty Unnos, as well as those in more conventionally acquired cottages, and enclosed their land to establish their own great farms. This, of course, happened everywhere, but it hurt more in some places than others.
The reason I'm thinking of all this tonight is that because today I read about a modern-day Ty Unnos being exported to the Smithsonian Folk Festival in Washington DC this July, and it reminded me of this story I heard from one of my grandmothers. It is a story I have incorporated into my Patagonia novel at a pivotal point. This house, this Ty Unnos, it turned out, explained everything...
* Added later. After doing a little more research I found out that many of the Ty Unnos were built as a result of earlier land clearances in the late eighteenth/ early nineteenth centuries. The people were evicted from their cottages then, and so forced to build on pieces of scrub that was infertile and no one else wanted - the common land.
But the clearances went on into the nineteenth century, and so did the building of the Ty Unnos, and some of these were cleared away too, as the landowners extended what was theirs.