Originally in the Middle Ages, cottages housed agricultural workers and their families. The term “cottage” denoted the dwelling of a cotter. Thus, cottages were smaller peasant units. In that early period, a documentary reference to a cottage would most often mean, not a small stand-alone dwelling as today, but a complete farmhouse and yard (albeit a small one). Thus in the Middle-Ages, the word “cottage” seems to have meant not just a dwelling, but have included at least a dwelling and a barn, as well as, usually, a fenced yard or piece of land enclosed by a gate. Later on, “cottage” might also have denoted a smallholding comprising houses, outbuildings, and supporting farmland or woods. A cottage, in this sense, would typically include just a few acres of tilled land. Much later (from around the 18th century onwards), the development of industry led to the development of weavers’ cottages and miners’ cottages. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term ‘cottage’ is used in North America to represent ‘a summer residence (often on a large and sumptuous scale) at a watering-place or a health or pleasure resort’ with its first recognized use dating to 1882, in reference to Bar Harbor in Maine.

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