Dutch Cottage – Essex, England - Atlas Obscura

Dutch Cottage

This octagonal cottage is the smallest and the oldest council house in the United Kingdom. 

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This building takes its name from the 17th-century Dutch immigrants who lived in this area and constructed many of Essex’s coastal sea walls.

However, the exact history of this odd cottage is rather vague—even its year of construction is something of a mystery. Inscribed above the door is the number 1621, leading many to believe that was the year when the cottage was built. But experts in history and architecture believe that the house was actually built until around the year 1740.

The cottage’s octagonal shape is unusual, but serves some useful purposes. It is sturdy and easy to thatch, and in addition to the architectural benefits, it has a supernatural advantage. A common superstition at the time held that evil spirits could become trapped in right-angled corners and linger. Luckily the irregular shape of the Dutch cottage contains no sharp angles, leaving it free of bad luck and hauntings.

The cottage is technically a council house as it is owned by the local district council and currently occupied by a tenant. However it is so small that furniture must be specially made to fit within the small rooms or, like on one occasion, lifted through a window to bypass the narrow stairs.

Know Before You Go

The cottage is open for guided tours on Wednesday afternoons.