“He lived in Yellow Walls, near Malahide, the stronghold of the Talbots, where he had a whitewashed cottage with clay floors, a wife, two children, [and] less than an acre of ground.”1
Before the first housing estates were built in Yellow Walls (starting with Ard Na Mara in the 1960s), families lived in individual houses distributed throughout the townland. Early twentieth century maps show clusters of houses around the crossroads and along Millview Road, Sea Road, Estuary Road, Old Yellow Walls Road and the Malahide-Swords Road.2
The 1901 and 1911 census records3 reveal what these houses were like in terms of building materials, the number of rooms, the number of outbuildings, and so on.
In 1901, just under half of the houses in Yellow Walls were traditional thatched cottages with mud walls that were common throughout Malahide at the time (like the ones shown below on Old Street in Malahide village*). The bulk of the remaining houses had walls of stone, brick or concrete with slated or tiled roofs.
By 1911, the number of houses with mud walls fell sharply to be replaced by stone or brick but thatched roofs were still found in over 40% of the homes.
Number of houses with walls of “mud, wood, or perishable material” and roofs of “thatch, wood, or other perishable material”
Number of houses with walls of “stone, brick or concrete” and roofs of “slate, iron or tiles”
Number of houses with walls of “stone, brick or concrete” and roofs of “thatch, wood, or other perishable material”
Most of the houses had 2-4 rooms and were occupied by a single family. The largest house in Yellow Walls was La Mancha with over 13 rooms and 19 outbuildings.
Gaybrook was another of the larger houses. In an advertisement to let from 1836, it is described as having “four Sitting-rooms, [and] six Bedrooms, with ample Servants’ Apartments and Out-offices; the Garden is fully cropped, with Potato Garden, and Grazing for a Cow.”5 The house stood on the Malahide to Swords road, where the Talbot estate is today .
The majority of houses had at least one outbuilding, described in the census as “out-offices and farm steadings”. The types of outbuildings recorded reveal a rural, self-sufficient way of life in early twentieth century Yellow Walls. The outbuildings listed include:
- Coach Houses
- Harness Rooms
- Boiling Houses
- Cow Houses
- Calf Houses
- Fowl Houses
- Potato Houses
The people living in these houses were farmers, farm labourers, housekeepers, dressmakers, thatchers, postmen, shopkeepers, and domestic servants to name a few.3
All of the thatched houses in Yellow Walls are gone except for one house on Sea Road. Older houses still standing in the locality may once have been thatched and then subsequently roofed with tiles or slates. The pitch or steepness of the roof is usually an indicator, with thatched roofs typically pitched at a minimum of 45 degrees to allow better rain-water run-off.4
*Most of the thatched houses on Old Street were gone by about 1915. In “Notes on Malahide6“, WE Vandeleur said of Old Street that “This same street is being much improved by the erection of artizan [sic] dwellings in the place of old cottages, some perhaps 200 years old, which have been condemned.”
1. O’Casey, Sean. Drums under the Windows, Macmillan, 1950.
2. Ordnance Survey Of Ireland, 2011, Public Map Viewer [online].
3. National Archives of Ireland, Census of Ireland 1901/1911 [online].
4. Muir, Richard. Landscape Encyclopaedia. Windgather, 2004.
5. Saunders Newsletter, 16 May, 1836.
6. Vandeleur, WE. Notes on Malahide. W. Tempest, Dundalk. Dundalgen Press, 1915.