Eever since man has been growing cereal crops he has had a plentiful by-product of straw. This made an ideal thatching material and here began the tradition of straw thatching that survives today relatively unchanged for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Nearly all of our thatched buildings were thatched using this material, mainly wheat straw, although in some non-arable areas other materials were used such as heather, bracken, rushes and reeds.

Despite regional differences in style the basic principles are the same. Traditionally the technique used to fix the straw to the roof started with a base coat of straw or another readily available material being fixed to the roof timbers using withies, bramble or twine. Usually another layer would then be 'sparred' to the base-coat using hazel or willow spars. This weathering coat would wear back over the years until the fixings became visible. It is then time to re-thatch. Subsequent layers are then fixed into the one before until such time as the roof becomes too thick and a layer or two must be stripped before a new weathering coat is fixed. The rounded or poured on look of a traditional thatch is largely due to this build up of layers. This method of thatching, which is called 'spar coating' is still in use today.

In some cases the undercoats of thatch belonging to historic buildings have lain undisturbed since medieval times and act as an archive, giving clues, as to the regional techniques, materials and crop varieties used throughout the history of the building. For example, the photo below shows an example of a smoke blackened base-coat of thatch dating back to the 1400s and reveals evidence of a hall house that would have had an open hearth with little or no chimney.

Photo courtesy of John Letts

The following photos show very rare examples of traditional Welsh, Wattle and Straw Rope techniques used to support the over lying thatch.

We offer a service that is sympathetic to the care and repair of historic thatch together with the continuation of traditional thatching techniques.