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 were constructed[where?] with materials such as cob, cordwood or straw bale walls and reciprocal frame green roofs.

Reconstructed crannog on Loch Tay, Scotland


United KingdomEdit

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. The people built walls made of either stone or of wooden posts joined by wattle-and-daub panels, and topped with a conical thatched roof. These 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'.

Early archeologists determined what they believed were the characteristics of such structures by the layout of the postholes, although a few timbers were found preserved in bogs. The rest has been postulated by experimental archaeology, which has tried different techniques to demonstrate 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 been allowed to accumulate harmlessly inside the roof space, and slowly leak out through the thatch.[1]

Many modern simulations of roundhouses have been built, including:

Image Name Town County Country Notes
  Barbury Castle Swindon Wiltshire England (destroyed by fire)
Beeston Bronze Age Roundhouse Beeston Castle Cheshire England Built 2019
  Bodrifty Iron Age Settlement Cornwall England
Brigantium Archeological Centre High Rochester Northumberland England Now Dismantled
  Butser Ancient Farm Hampshire England
  Cae Mabon Wales
  Castell Henllys Pembrokeshire Wales
Cockley Cley, near Swaffham Norfolk England
  Flag Fen near Peterborough England
Mellor roundhouse reconstruction Greater Manchester England
  Peat Moors Centre Somerset England Closed to the public 31 October 2008


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 near Pickering North Yorkshire England
St Fagans National History Museum South Glamorgan Wales
  Scottish Crannog Centre Loch Tay Perthshire Scotland Roundhouse reconstruction on a man made island
Stonehenge Visitor Centre roundhouses Wiltshire England
Tatton Iron Age roundhouse and pit Cheshire England

Must Farm revelationsEdit

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 roundhousesEdit

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.

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 with contemporary living
A modern-day Round Garden Building built by Imagiine[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]


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 – AsturiasEdit

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.


North AmericaEdit

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


Raun Haus, Papua New GuineaEdit

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. ^ "How To Choose Where To Position a Round Oak Building". Imagiine Round Buildings. 12 December 2019. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Secret village to be pulled down". BBC News. 1998-10-23. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  4. ^ Barkham, Patrick (2009-04-12). "Round the houses". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  5. ^ "Cob roundhouse". Archived from the original on 2009-04-10.
  6. ^ "Raun Haus / Round Haus".

External linksEdit