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Weaver's Cottage

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Weaver's Cottage

Many homes throughout the Ulster countryside were more than just places to live, but places of business. The weaver's cottage is a good example. You can imagine an entire family here - children combing and carding the flax, while adults spin flax fibres into yarn and weave the yarn into cloth.

This particular cottage, a replica of a weaver’s house, has three rooms and the middle room houses the handloom. There is only one bedroom so they needed a settle bed in the kitchen for children or an elderly relative to sleep in. The settle bed is a bench which opens out into a bed.

Landlords encouraged this cottage industry to create more wealth in the countryside. Linen manufacture meant that small patches of land could sustain a family, although prices did fluctuate. During slumps, weavers would often emigrate and seek better opportunities in America. Production kept increasing through the 1700s to the mid-1800s. Unfortunately, prices kept falling after 1815. By 1830, factories produced cheap linen thread and home spinning stopped. In the 1850s, linen factories replaced hand weavers and by the 1890s farmers stopped growing flax altogether.

At present, wool spinning and weaving are demonstrated in this house.

Look at the big hand loom. It uses a flying shuttle. This increased the weaver’s output, but in the long term it caused prices to drop faster.