Room with a View
Room with a View

I came across this photograph while doing a fairly major tidy up the other day and it brought me back to my single days in Dublin when I lived in a ‘bedsit.’ Bedsits, for those who don’t know about them (as they are now outlawed in Ireland), were self-contained rooms for rent in houses that might have up to seven or eight such units.

This was my poshest bedsit. It was in a lovely leafy part of Dublin, right at the top of a three-storey house and looked out on what was a very well kept back garden which had lots of cherry trees which were a joy in Spring.

The room was small,  about 15ft x 10ft, and housed a tiny bathroom, a little kitchenette,  and bedroom cum sitting-room cum study.

The table by the window was where I typed my PhD thesis on that Brother typewriter, which seemed very modern in the 1980s. There was also a set of wooden book shelves that sagged from the weight of all the books and papers I stacked on them.

The room was heated by the sun in summer and by an electricity-eating fake fire in Winter. When I was short of money for the electricity meter, I’d fill a hot water bottle and use that to keep me warm as I typed away in the cold weather.

We were a close knit gang in the house; though everyone liked their privacy. Many’s the night we spent drinking coffee and chatting in each other’s rooms ’til all hours and, of course, we shared the old black button A and button B phone in the hall just inside the front door.

I don’t think I’m being overly nostalgic when I say I was very happy living in this little space. It was mine; I felt safe; I loved my independence; and I will never, ever forget the joy that the cherry blossoms brought.

It’s hard to understand fully why bedsits have been made illegal. I know there were some terrible places; I viewed quite a number of them. But, I somehow think than many, many single people could be happy like I was in that little room without the worry of exorbitant rents and the stress of trying to find accommodation at this time of such short supply.

Have you had experience of ‘bedsit’ living? How was it for you? 



Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

44 thoughts on “Bedsitland”

    1. Hi Val, that resonates alright. I was fortunate to have a Tea’s Made gadget that my father won playing golf. It boiled the kettle, turned on the lamp and rang the alarm all in one go so I would wake to boiling water beside the bed and lots of steam.

  1. Enjoyed your trip down memory lane. I never had a bedsit but I’ve visited some awful ones, but as you said there may be people who would be happy to live in one.

  2. Hi Jean,
    How things change…I remember when I was young that bedsits were hard to come by and I wasnt confident enough to move out of home into a shared house…although they weren’t in great supply either close to where I worked…but it is interesting that they are illegal in Ireland now…I wonder what the case is here in Australia? So, like myself, you have always been interested in photography:)

    1. That’s a pity you never got to experience bedsit living even for a vacation. My mother used to come and stay with me. It brought her back to her bedsit days!!
      Yes, photography has always been in me.

  3. I got married at 17 straight from home, we were lucky enough to buy a two bedroom maisonette, ( 4000, pounds at the beginning of the 70’s) which had a living room, a kitchen and bathroom as well, and also a long narrow garden filled with fruit tree. This was my first experience of independence even though I was married!
    My dad as child in Dublin at the beginning of the 19th century lived in a ten roomed house each room had a family of at least ten with maybe one outside toilet for all to the math and shudder at the thought… we are so lucky! ❤

    1. Willow, that’s pretty amazing about you and your independence so young. As for your father, there’s still collective memory of such living conditions in Ireland back in the day. We certainly are lucky. Homelessness is a big issue here in Ireland TODAY.

            1. The recession certainly hit a lot of people and it seems like it’s going to be very hard for many to ever get back on their feet. So sad and not a good reflection of the kind of society we live in.

  4. I’m not familiar with bedsits, but they remind me of what might be a dorm room that the colleges have over here…Atleast you had a view from your window which is always great. Better then a windowless room.

      1. I think over here they would be called “boarders”..someone that lives in a home and has their own room . Perhaps having to share the bathroom and also having kitchen privileges (use of the appliances)…for a fee.

        1. Joni, we have ‘boarders’ here. The old-fashioned name for the houses they lived in was ‘digs.’
          That’s a bit different to bedsits where the landlord/landlady doesn’t live in the house and each unit has its own kitchenette and bathroom ~ albeit tiny!

  5. I lived in several–we called them “efficiency” and it would be only one room with a tiny kitchenette unit and bathroom. I was very creative at arranging them, and yes, some of my best times were living in the tiny room that was all mine.

      1. In Taos, NM, I lived for five years in a one-room adobe casita. My little writer’s cabin. It was attached to a larger house but on the far side of the garage. It had spectacular views of the Taos Mountains, and every day when I walked outside, I thought, “Wow, look where I live.” But, in the long snowy winter, it was apt to cause cabin fever. Six months of snow is too much for me. Now I live in a one-bedroom apartment that is about three times the size of the little casita, and it feels so spacious. And, I have six months of hot steamy weather and the rest mild. I give thanks to Mr. Carrier, the A.C. god every day.

          1. There is a worldwide “tiny house” movement, reducing your carbon footprint. Many of them are equipped with solar panels. They are very small, but some are so cute. On the other side of that, I hosted a “sanctuary” house for the spiritually awakening. It was a 6000 sq. ft. three story historical mansion in Houston, and eight of us lived there full time, and about 50 others trailed in and out as needed. I’m very interested in the balance of privacy with communal living. I also lived alone in the middle of 80 acres in Southwest New Mexico for a few months. Spectacular views and billions of stars at night. I lived with many different people in many different situations over a 15 year period (contemporary gypsy), and when I arrived at my Houston apartment three years ago, I was so happy to have my own space again. I could relax.

  6. The picture is wonderful–and I can picture you sitting at that table as you worked on your Ph.D. I never heard the term “bedsitland” until I read this post.

    1. Hi Sheryl, glad you like the pic. Certainly brought me back!
      The term is ‘bedsit,’ short for bed-sitting-room. ‘Bedsitland’ is a makey up word of mine, though I suspect it could be elsewhere as certain parts of Dublin, especially were strongly associated with big houses converted into bedsits.

  7. I am not aware of similar legislation in the UK but it is a long tome since I heard that word – maybe the circles I move in 🙂 I can’t imagine how I would have survived without bedsits in my yoof which begs the question how do young people manage now. I enjoyed all of mine – thanks for the reminder Jean.

  8. I enjoyed this memory, Jean, and I lived in what is called a studio apartment years ago. It was 400 sq. ft. with a kitchen, living/bedroom, dressing area, and bathroom. I had a sofa bed and later, a daybed in the living room. It sufficed for a year and a half, then I was ready for more room. 🙂
    What made me smile was the Brother typewriter, the cherry blossoms, and the fact that this little room was your space and you were safe. I didn’t know you have a PhD; that’s wonderful, and to think you typed it on the typewriter, which was modern at the time. Oh, how technology races with time…I had never heard of this term before, so thanks for sharing, my friend..

  9. I lived in many studio flats but never in a bedsit. However, your description of the electricity meter made me laugh with nostalgia as my friend had one when we all lived in London. She would beg us to bring coins whenever we visited to add to her “heating collection”. We were fascinated by this system of heating a room.

  10. Illegal? No wonder there’s a big homeless problem. Young single folk are often perfectly happy to have a place of their own, no matter how boxy, rather than stay with parents etc.

  11. I was never able to afford to live on my own until quite late, Jean, but I know exactly what you mean – even in shared houses my tiny bedroom was my haven and I loved them. I agree that banning this sort of accommodation is nonsense. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all strategy for a home. The kind of tiny bedsit which will make a full-time student feel cosy, happy and independent may not be suitable for a 48-year-old working man who is lonely or depressed, but that doesn’t mean the option shouldn’t be available for the student. The short-term thinking on housing by the current government gives me rage sometimes.

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