Who are you? Post #1 Where are you from? #Cornwall #Mayo

This is the first in a week of blog posts following on from my blogging tip of A blog post a day on a specific subject.

For those not completely up to speed the topic is a big one and is probably the most important of all – Who are you?

To see the introduction to this post CLICK HERE…

So this first ‘Official’ post on this subject deals with Where are you from?. Obviously I don’t know who you (the reader) are (I’d love for you to tell me via a comment however), so the thrust of this piece tells you about where I am from and how this has influenced my life and where I am now…

I’m not Irish.

There, I’ve said it. As far as I know there’s probably very little Irish blood in my body. I am however entitled (via marriage) to Irish citizenship and an Irish passport; I’ve lived and worked in County Mayo for over 10 years now and have built a West of Ireland architectural practice specialising in understanding and designing architecture appropriate for the West of Ireland.

But where did this come from? Where did my understanding of the strong yet simple forms of Irish vernacular originate. And back to the question – where exactly am I from and in the words of Alex Haley what are my Roots?

Well, I’ve researched my family tree back to the 1600’s and my fathers family originally came the Channel Islands (via Henley on Thames) as Navy sea-men; my father was born in Guernsey and was evacuated to Bodmin, Cornwall in 1938 prior to the war breaking out. My mothers family were entirely from Cornwall.

Now, although I wasn’t born in Cornwall (London), I spent a lot of time down there; every holiday: Christmas, Easter and Summer and including every half term – even going to primary school there for a while.

Now here comes the interesting bit; let’s look at the rural, vernacular architecture of Cornwall and compare it to Mayo:

1. The landscape is very similar

2. The indigenous architecture is very similar; strong, simple forms built in natural materials that were at hand.

The comparison goes further, let’s look at the County Council Design Guides for North Cornwall and Mayo:



They are practically identical:

Cornwall: “Traditionally many houses were only one room deep, and this generated a narrow rectangular form which was extended by lean-to or sequential additions (generating additive forms). Aim to restrict spans and work on additive principles. Avoid big boxy near-square plan forms”

Mayo: “The traditional Irish vernacular house or cottage was normally one room deep. If a building becomes more than 2 rooms deep, the roof span is consequently doubled or tripled in size and the apex is raised substantially…break into several smaller forms rather than one large form…”

The similarities are endless and I suggest anyone interested in Mayo or Cornish vernacular architecture and how to design in an appropriate way to read the documents, even down to ‘Use gables sparingly’ which was featured in one of my recent blog posts on protruding front gables. Actually the diagrams illustrated in both design guides of right and wrong ways to design are remarkably similar. I would be very surprised if either design guide ‘copied’ the other (who cares if they did if it means better architecture); the reality is that both Cornish and Mayo vernacular architecture are very similar; they were built by working men, using their hands with the local materials such as stone and slate that were at hand. I suspect both areas would also have used shipwrecks for the timber on their roofs.

So what am I?

A Londoner?


From the Channel Islands?

A Mayo man?

I asked this question a while back and the best answer I got back was the one I am going with – I am Celtic.

Comments welcome…