420 years I’ve stood here; I’ve seen people come, and I’ve seen people go. My claim to fame is that in 1651 after the Battle of Worcester I witnessed King Charles The Second being escorted past my front door on his way to Boscobel House, which is only a few fields away.
I’m very proud of my roof, it’s called a thatch. There are only 38 of us in this shire (Staffordshire), so I guess that makes me a bit special.
Anyway, that’s enough rabbiting, let me tell you about my crowning glory.
The passage of time has unfortunately seen the demise of my sort, probably due to the cost and impracticality of maintaining our good looks.
Excuse me if I blow my own trumpet, but, as you know, if I don’t, no one else will.
Luckily for me, I’ve been designated as a grade two scheduled building, Which means people must maintain my original splendorous looks. To reassure me further, a small number of individuals have trained in the artisan craft of thatching, and become Thatchers, thus guaranteeing me a place within the British countryside for the unforeseeable future:)
The last person to do my thatch was a chap called Dave, a Master Thatcher. Dave was helped by his Father-In-Law, Barry, and watched over, for educational purposes, by Mick, the bloke who lives in me now.
It was quite enlightening listening to the questions and answers that were being bandied about. I took it all in.
I didn’t know that here in England there are two types of material available to thatch a roof.
There’s Norfolk Reed, this is reckoned to be the best, making it the most expensive, then there’s straw, it’s cheaper, and more readily available. Yes, you’ve guessed correctly, I got straw. Not that I mind, it’s all I’ve known over the years, and I’ve never heard anyone complain about it.
A Thatcher is often thought to only work during the Summer,visualized as working aloft on a cottage roof, wiping the back of his hand across his brow as he briefly breaks from his labors to look at the glowing Summer Sun – that’s not true! Dave and Barry turned up to do my roof at the start of the New Year 2016. January, it was bitter cold. That’s the only working on a Summers day myth out of the window.
I remember Mick getting a bit panicky about the whole affair. The Plonka actually thought that a 40ft Truck laden with straw was going to turn up and that Dave would remove the roof, the whole roof, and nothing but the roof, all in one go. All of his ill-feelings were unfounded, Dave rolled up in his white van, ladders strapped to the roof rack, and only the straw he needed for the day’s work in the back. Phew!
After standing on the lawn with a nice warm mug of tea each, and exchanging small talk; hands were briskly rubbed together, and work began.
Dave and Barry hauled a large green tarp onto my roof and spread it out covering all of my south-facing side, they then pegged it down, securely. The tarp was folded back to reveal a third of my roof. This was going to be the section they worked on that day.
Unseen at a distance, the roof is covered in wire mesh. This was cut and removed.
The straw of my roof is in three layers, each layer being about 25cm thick. Only one layer at a time is replaced.
What I found interesting at this stage was the fact that the bottom layer dated back to the 1960s. Dave removed an ear of corn from this layer to prove this point; he held it next to a new fresh one for comparison. The difference between the two ears was amazingly clear. Twice the amount of golden grain clung geometrically in two rows to the fresh ear, demonstrating perfectly the advancement genetics had made over the years in agriculture. Not all the ears of wheat are separated, so my roof is a big larder for critters of all kinds to plunder.
The decoration along my ridge is called the Pie-Crust; this is made up of lengths of split hazel called Ligers and Gadds. The Liggers are the long pieces, the tram lines, and the Gadds are the short pieces, that form the cross effect. The style of the bedroom window is an eyebrowed window.
As if Dave hadn’t made me look wonderful enough, he turned up a day or two later to put the cherry on the cake, so to say. He’d only made me a pheasant out of straw, to take pride of place on my ridge.
Well, that’s me sorted for the next 20 years; I’d better get back to doing what I’m best at, that’s looking good and keeping everyone warm and dry.
Bye for now.
8 thoughts on “My new roof”
Mick, this is a delightful story! Thank you for answering a question I have often wondered about!
Hell, Carol. I had never met a Thatcher, or seen one at work, so when Dave turned up I had to seize the opportunity, and with his permission, watch his every move. I wasn’t disappointed; it was a once in a lifetime experience.
Jackie and I have been living under thatch for over 10 years now; we have no central heating, just two open fires to keep us warm. Having a straw roof with two chimneys poking out of it took some getting used to, the thought of fire was always on our minds; we’re old hands at living under straw now.
I’m glad that you enjoyed the read, carol; I wrote it with you in mind.
Mick, this is a delightful story! Thank you for answering a question I have often wondered about when I watch British films.
This was a fascinating story Mick. Thatches aren’t common up here – I don’t know that we have them at all, so it’s not something I’m familiar with except in images or on film. It must have been really interesting to see how they did it. Do you hear creatures moving around in the roof?
Hi Mick, I hope this works as the last comment didn’t! This was a fascinating story Mick. Thatches aren’t common up here – I don’t know that we have them at all, so it’s not something I’m familiar with except in images or on film. It must have been really interesting to see how they did it. Do you hear creatures moving around in the roof?
Hello. Andrea, I hope you are keeping warm and well in these sub-zero temps.
This was my one and only chance to see a Thatcher at work. There’s certainly more to it than meets the eye.
The thatch is alive with creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes; so this place is not for the squeamish. Personally, I love it; my favourite is to watch the Nuthatch take peanuts from the feeder to stash them in my roof. All day he’s at it, back and forth. There must be half a ton of nuts up there by now.
At night, when all is still, creatures scratch and gnaw. When the imagination is allowed to run wild, it sounds as though something as big as a Hippo is crawling around; but, truth be known, it’s probably only a titchy little mouse.
I look forward to hearing from you again soon, Andrea.
I think it would be nice to hear those signs of life – as long as you knew about them before you slept there, otherwise it might be a scary surprise 🙂 We’ve finally had a bit of snow here, yesterday and today but any that lay overnight is pretty much gone now. Just been to the park with Winston and it swirled around us but I don’t think it’ll lie. It is freezing though!