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Permanent exhibition

The Natural Environment


Learn about the Ireland of 1850, when most people lived off the land. A small number of wealthy landowners owned the land and they in turn leased it to their tenants. The question of land ownership dominated Irish political life from 1870 until the early 20th Century, when the majority of tenant farmers became the owners of their small farms.

Land and resources

See how the fertility of the land affected the quality of life for the vast majority of the population. Some areas contained desirable resources such as rich, well-drained land with easy access to a bog for turf used for fuel. Others were characterised by rocks and poor soils.

Natural materials for building

This exhibition also shows how farmers relied on local supplies of stone, sod or clay to build their houses. Walls were often covered or rendered with a layer of whitewash made from lime or seashells.

The primary factor affecting the quality and appearance of thatched roofs was the choice of material. Both wheat and rye straw had long life spans; wheat was the first choice for its cleanliness, uniform length, and ease of preparation. If wheat or rye straw were not available, oat straw, barley straw, reeds, rushes, flax or marram grass were used.

Straw - A local, natural, plentiful material

Explore how people took advantage of local natural materials to make everyday items. As a result, in different parts of the country similar objects were made of different materials. Straw was a cheap, readily available material that people used to make a wide range of everyday objects.

Straw objects such as mattresses, baskets, stools, horse collars and hen's nests demonstrate the material’s versatility. Each maker used the straw’s combination of lightness, flexibility, and strength to serve a specific function. For instance, the craft worker who made the stool used the strength of pieces of straw bound together, while the maker of the hen's nest took advantage of the insulating quality of the straw fibres.

On the flood lands of the River Suck in Co. Roscommon, bulrushes, lashed and woven around a wooden frame were employed to make a raft used for fishing and fowling. Such a raft can be seen on exhibition and demonstrates how well people adapted natural materials to hand to serve local needs. It is the only example of its type surviving in northern Europe.


The Natural Environment is located at:
Turlough Park,
Co. Mayo
F23 HY31

Life in rural Ireland was very much influenced by the landscape and its natural resources. People used local materials to make everyday items. As a result, similar objects were often made of different materials, depending on what resources were available locally.

Country Life

Traditional Irish Architecture

This collection contains a wide range of objects typically used in the construction of the traditional Irish house.

Read more
Traditional Irish Architecture

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Country Life

Turlough Park,
Co. Mayo,
F23 HY31

+353 94 903 1755