Where Do They Get The Thatch For Thatched Cottages

Thatched cottage

This cottage stands all on its own on a small road that I think is within the grounds of Longleat.

If you are not familiar with the name, Longeat is a huge estate and safari park in the south-west of England,

And now for a diversion to where I used to live – in Norfolk. For those outside the UK who are not familiar with where it is, it is on the east coast of England and is mostly a low-lying county, with parts near the coast under shallow water.

Where there is shallow water there are reed beds, and Norfolk reed is or was prized for thatching. The stems are long and they resist weathering. A Norfolk reed thatched roof will last forty years,

Wheat straw is an alternative, but it only lasts half as long.

The Longleat cottage is in the south-west of England, hundreds of miles from Norfolk. Of course, with modern transportation it is easy enough to bring reeds from one place to another.

But what about when the cottage was built? What about when other cottages in the south west were built?

Did they carry reeds from the east?

You would think they wouldn’t build with materials that had to be brought in from far away, and that they built with local materials.

And if that is the case, and the thatching material is local, then where does the thatching material for cottages in the West Country come from?

The answer comes from the West Country Thatch Advice Centre that describes how thatch in that part of the world is cereal straw known as Combed Wheat Reed, (also known as Devon Reed). It is laid with only the butt end of the straw showing, and the rain that falls on the roof trickles down from one butt end to another.

In Norfolk reed, the long stems are laid on the roof and the rain runs down the length of one reed to the next.

Can you envisage it? Imagine the direction of the thatching material. In Norfolk reed, the reeds lie down the slope of the roof. In West Country thatching the straw is more nearly horizontal with just the butt ends peaking out.

By the way, what do you think of the Longleat cottage?

Cottages In The West Country

Here are more cottages in the West Country. They have stone roofs, as you can see. Stone is heavy, and that weight affects the whole way the cottage can be built. Get it wrong, and the walls start to spread under the weight.

A Thatched Cottage In The West Country

One might think that the cottage at Longleat is an oddity, but there are thatch cottages here and there.

2 Comments

  1. John says:

    Amazing material to work with, thanks for the education. The stone roof seems in need of repairs. Most homes in Las Vegas have tiled rooves that resist the powerful desert sun very well.

    Like

    1. Sun and tiles are made for one another! I think of the lovely roof tiles in Italy.

      We have tile roofs in the UK, also. And slate roof tiles – they are great because slate slices into thin sheets just using a chisel. The downside is the colour – not everyone likes the dark grey-blue colour. We need all the colour we can get!

      Like

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