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Why are so many Welsh cottages whitewashed?

The pretty bright white stone ‘bwthyn’, or cottage, is typical of rural Wales. The uneven white walls topped with thick chimney and slanting slate roof is a common sight on hilsides, in valleys and farmyards. But what is the story behind this tradition of our whitewashed walls?

Whitewash is made from crushed and heated limestone. It was one of the cheapest ways to paint a cottage - available to the poorest of cottage dwellers. However it flakes easily so needs to be reapplied often. 


In some parts of rural West Wales, the building stone was often a grey-brown colour, deemed a little bland for some, so many chose to brighten this up through whitewashing to improve the cheerfulness and aesthetic of houses. Sometimes the lime wash was even mixed with bull’s blood, coal dust or yellow ochre to stunning effect! (Not sure there is much ox blood mixing going on now however).

Its disinfectant qualities mean that it has always been popular with dairy farmers, who coat the interiors of sheds and barns with it. The practice ‘to whitewash’ can also mean the concealment of unpleasant truths. But here at Welsh Otter we think no concealment is needed - let the white shine!