Amgueddfa Treftadaeth Swtan



As the last thatched cottage on Anglesey, Swtan was long considered a building of historic interest and therefore worthy of restoration. The process of restoring Swtan fulfilled a number of objectives:

  • It provided opportunities for local unemployed people to learn new skills which could eventually lead to self employment.
  • It would result in a place of historic interest for local people, tourists and for schools to visit for educational purposes.
  • It would offer a resource for craftsmen and builders to learn about traditional building techniques – a fundamental principle of the restoration being that period materials be used.


The rebuilding of Swtan was financed from local and European Union funding through Menter Môn.

Making Walls Safe, Recording what was there, Preparation for Rebuilding

At the start of the restoration project in 1998 the delapidated buildings of Swtan were an archaeological site. Before any recording could take place, unstable masonry had to be removed or made safe, and any rubbish taken away was carefully recorded by the team, working with the archaeologist. Stones which were moved in either of these processes were numbered and stored systematically for use in the rebuilding.

Rebuilding the Walls

The walls have been rebuilt following the dimensions and styles of those that remained standing on the site at the start of the project. Major stones (those over 0.5 metres in size), which had been moved were replaced in their original positions. Traditional wall bonding techniques were used – the unworked stones were laid in rough courses, bedded and bonded in marl mixture. This mixture was made by mixing marl (fine grained sedimentary clay) from the fields surrounding Swtan with straw. The joints between the individual stones were pointed with a lime mortar. The walls have been finished with several coats of lime wash.

Timber work

Swtan has a traditional collared roof truss with pegged joints made from elm. You can see the truss inside the cottage. The truss blades cross at the apex and supports a ridgepole and a purlin on each side. At the time of Swtan’s construction, driftwood would have been used for all major timbers. For the reconstruction, timber of suitable size and shape was sourced from a local estate.

Rafters made from unworked poles or whole saplings were pegged to the purlins with wooden pegs and saplings interwoven through them to support the under-thatch of gorse.

The doors of Swtan vary in standard and construction according to where they are located in the building. They are all made from wide, thick boards sourced locally. Similar doors may be seen on many old cottages throughout Anglesey.

The Thatch

The thatch is supported by unmodified poles or whole saplings, spaced closely and pegged across the purlins. Through these, other poles are woven to produce a rough wattle work. An under-thatch of local gorse 100 – 200 millimetres thick, covers the wattle work and is in turn covered by an over-thatch of wheat straw and reed held down by pegs, nets and ropes.

The interior

At the start of the restoration, with the building derelict, there was little or no evidence of the interior of the building. However, the floors, complete with embedded iron plates said to be from a local shipwreck are as they were discovered. You can see the remains of the nails, which was used to hold down linoleum in the main room. In the interests of safety, the beam over the inglenook was replaced. The old timber is still in the grounds, outside the building. A replacement cast iron range was sourced locally and fitted to replace the original which was badly damaged. The cast iron kettle on the range was excavated from beneath about 40cm of spoil near the range during the archaeological recording of the site.

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