the materials we use
Only three materials are commonly used today: water reed and straw for the main thatch, and sedge which is used mainly for ridges,
Today thatching materials are of a higher quality than in days gone by due to improvements in harvesting and processing. In stripping the "ear" modern machinery does less damage to straw, which these days is specially grown for the job. Water reed, today of excellent quality commonly sourced mainly from East European countries, benefits from modern cutting machinery and is much more widely available, thanks to modern transportation. The cutting of sedge, where stubble length is important for regrowth, is a specialised craft.
Base thatches, sometimes called layers or coats, usually remain untouched, during rethatching, unless the roof is in really poor condition. Some date back to medieval times. Traditionally they were constructed on fleakings, a weave of water reed, brushwood, split or riven greenwood lathes or battens. Today they can even be constructed on membranes.
Thatch has traditionally been fixed down by being tied to roof members with hand-made rope, by twisted straw sways, spars made from sharpened hazel known as liggers or even by metal crooks or spikes, traditionally made by the local blacksmith.
EMMTA aim to conserve the traditional methods and materials as much as possible. Thatching itself, while very much a craft, is carried out to the association's own exacting standards and to meet modern building construction regulations. (See Craft Specifications)
East Midlands Master Thatchers' Association
© EMMTA: East Midlands Master Thatchers' Association 2008