chapter  4
30 Pages

House and farmstead

Buildings represent much in human society: primarily they are homes, where individuals are born, live and die, but they are also places of work, places of recreation and places of storage. When analysing the actual physical characteristics of individual settlementsand indeed individual buildings-it is helpful to envisage the presence of three types of space: first, there are public spaces, areas where everyone has a right to go, both the individuals inhabiting a place and their neighbours, together with travellers from other areas. Such spaces are characteristically seen in highways, streets, lanes and footpaths. In most European settlements these are closely defined, but in other regions of the world defined routeways merge with the communal spaces, i.e. the open land where the settlement is placed, where stock and people move freely providing they do not intrude into private dwellings or yard areas. Throughout Europe these spaces survive as commons or village greens, set within, near or around a settlement, although in many upland areas open lands close to the settlement merge with larger zones of unenclosed rough grazing land. However, clear-cut as this division between public and communal might seem, Pina-Cabral notes (in Layton 1989:61) that in the Alto Minho area of northwest Portugal the caminhos, old paths giving access to the settlements, were watched and controlled by the local community, effectively preventing the entrance of undesirable strangers, something which cannot be done with new paved motor roads. This leads to an interesting idea that the public spaces of roads represent for many settlements an unwelcome intrusion, and suggests that in many areas deep and subtle forces may have been at work differentiating between those settlements which were subject to easy open access, and those where access was more difficult. The cause may be no more than a few kilometres’ difference in location, but the effects, open contacts in one place and closure and introversion in the other, can be profound.