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Heritage Cottage is Cadw's 129th property and youngest asset. It is a small nineteenth century terraced house in Cwmdare, in the heart of the south Wales valleys. It is typical of so many traditional buildings in Wales and elsewhere but unique in that it has remained almost completely unaltered inside and out since it was built in 1854.

With one in three buildings traditionally built in Wales, Heritage Cottage is an important as a representative of such a significant proportion of our built heritage. 

This project led by Cadw will ensure that Heritage Cottage is not only preserved for future generations to enjoy, but also used as a learning resource to highlight how a traditional building, whether a castle or terraced house, can retain its character while being energy efficient and sustainable with a minimum amount of work.

Heritage Cottage will help Cadw showcase best practices which can be shared across the whole of Wales and beyond, and knowledge sharing is a major objective of the project.

Heritage Cottage is not only interesting because of its construction and on-going restoration, but it also has a wonderful social history. This can help us understand why it was built, who lived here and how they spent their daily lives.

The mid-19th century saw a huge growth in demand for Welsh steam coal. It was the fuel of industry, powering factories, ships and trains. By the 1850's Cwmdare boasted four collieries and the village grew as terraced housing was built to accommodate the influx of workers.

Heritage Cottage is a relatively unaltered example of the type of housing built by mine owners to attract their workforce.  It housed family after family of working miners, usually accompanied by their wives, children, extended families; and sometimes lodgers too!

So who were the occupants of Heritage Cottage and how do we find out more about them? Our first port of call has been the census records which from 1871 onwards provide detail about the people who called this their home. These records paint a vivid portrait of life and work at the time. It is a portrait of crowded cottages and a transient workforce that included child labour.

Census Records

It is a portrait of crowded cottages and a transient workforce that included child labour.

1871 - the first recorded occupants are the Voss family, with both father and stepson listed as working in the coal industry.

By 1881 the Morgan family is in residence - mum, dad and five children, all in a tiny two-up two-down.

Ten years later, collier and widower Edward Jones is head of the family that includes his two children, his collier nephew and the latter's wife. The census shows that Edward's 13-year-old son also worked underground.

1901 - the Read family lived here. Both father and son worked in the mines.

Yet another family had moved in by 1911. Collier Rees Lewis and his wife Elizabeth had four children and two lodgers, also miners working shifts. Mam would have been constantly cooking, cleaning and heating water for baths - possibly the longest shift of all.

After that, there were fewer changes - George Marsh, his wife and children came here sometime after World War I and the cottage  stayed in the family for all but a few brief years in the 1960's. It was George Marsh's granddaughter, Hazel Hartland, who owned the house prior to its purchase by Cadw.  Miss Hartland's memories of the cottage date back nearly 80 years. Her vivid recollections of family life are helping us to interpret the house for future generations.

Under Cadw's guidance the renovation of Heritage Cottage will go back to basics and study cost-effective, energy-efficient measures that build on the inherent sustainability qualities of traditional buildings.  The work will be a blend of modern and traditional measures ranging from insulation and draught proofing to good repair work that will help the original building fabric to provide optimum performance. 

The work will be carried out in stages. Our starting point is a detailed analysis of the building to really understand it. This will focus on condition and energy performance and includes different types of tests, before repair work is undertaken, after repair and then after energy efficiency retrofit measures This will help to identify the incremental energy efficiency improvements that we can make, firstly through putting the building in good repair and then by retrofitting with energy efficiency measures.

The process, the information generated and conclusions reached, with the support of other research, will help us to develop an informed and realistic approach to the refurbishment of buildings like this without the need for extensive research and analysis on every traditional building.

The work is divided into three sections:

A very detailed survey has been undertaken which includes in depth analysis for damp and timber rot. Other tests have also begun, including insitu u value (thermal) tests. The results are compared to the u values calculated from published data, which is what is almost always relied upon. The u values of the walls of Heritage Cottage are up to 30% better than they were thought to be. This finding is supported by studies of other traditional buildings that provide the same conclusions.

Other testing and analysis includes thermal co heating tests which will measure how efficient the building is in using energy. Infrared thermography will enable us to see where energy is leaking out of the building, and air leakage tests will help us find the source of draughts. There will also be environmental monitoring to measure how environmental conditions are affected by the weather and the use of the building and how this all effects the thermal performance if the building envelope, as well as moisture movements, as this also affects the condition of the building fabric.

Maintenance and repair that keeps a building dry and free from draughts can enhance energy efficiency if it is done properly.

Traditional buildings are frequently misunderstood, and are often treated the same as modern buildings. For example, the way walls are treated and repaired can have a huge impact on energy efficiency.  Damp walls can increase heat loss by up to a third and repair work at Heritage Cottage will include removing existing cement mortar pointing. Cement mortar can develop cracks which allow moisture in, which is then trapped inside the walls. Walls will be repointed in lime mortar which allows moisture to escape and therefore leads to lower moisture levels inside the building.

Windows, once repaired and draught proofed, can reduce air leakage by 86% and as a result improve their energy efficiency.  Other energy efficient repairs will include lime rendering the rubble stone rear elevation, work to the rainwater gutters, down pipes and drains, and repairs to the chimney and roof.

There is a range of retrofit measures that can potentially be implemented at Heritage Cottage to enhance energy efficiency further including secondary glazing creating a 63% improvement which increases to . 77 per cent is paired with insulated timber shutters.

Other measures include reinstating the lobby inside the front entrance, and the construction of an external porch to the rear where there was previously an out building. Loft insulation, low energy lighting, low energy heating, renewable energy, good heating controls, smart metering along with  water conservation measures are all likely possibilities. However, it is the conclusions of the research and analysis that will determine the most appropriate retrofit measures.