Ancient Irish Halls

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XV

From the description which Wright [5] gives of Anglo-Saxon domestic architecture, it appears to have differed but little from that which was in use at the same period in Ireland. The hall [6] was the most important part of the building, and halls of stone are alluded to in a religious poem at the beginning of the Exeter Book: "Yet, in the earlier period at least, there can be little doubt that the materials of building were chiefly wood." The hall, both in Erinn and Saxon land, was the place of general meeting for all domestic purposes. Food was cooked and eaten in the same apartment; the chief and his followers eat at the same time and in the same place. On the subject of food we have ample details scattered incidentally through our annals. Boiling was probably the principal method of preparing meat, and for this purpose the Irish were amply provided with vessels. A brazen cauldron is lithographed in the Ulster Archaeological Journal, which is a most interesting specimen of its kind. It was found in a turf bog in the county Down, at a depth of five feet from the surface; and as this bog has been used from time immemorial for supplying the neighbourhood with fuel, and is remembered to have been forty feet above its present level by a generation now living, the antiquity of the vessel is unquestionable. As a specimen of superior workmanship, the cauldron has been greatly admired. It is made of sheets of gold-coloured bronze, evidently formed by hammering: the rim is of much thicker metal than the rest, and is rendered stiffer by corrugation—a process which has been patented in England within the last dozen years, as a new and valuable discovery.[7]


[5] Wright—History of Domestic Manners and Sentiments, p. 11.

[6] Hall.—Hence the term "hall" is still used to denote mansions of more than ordinary importance. The hall was the principal part of the ancient Saxon house, and the term used for the part was easily transferred to the whole.

[7] Discovery.—Ulster Arch. Journal, vol. v. p. 83.