The Thatching & Building Company
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philosophyAn important aspect of thatching is its long history with regional variations in style and choice of thatching material evolving according to availability and local weather conditions. Cereal production meant straw was widely used with only those living near areas of wetlands such as the Norfolk Broads able to utilise the available water reed. When farming became industrialised, a new method for speeding up the process of straw production saw the invention of a mechanical ‘combing’ technique which did away with the laborious task of preparing straw for thatching. This ‘combing’ process meant straw retained uniformity and led to it being quite distinctive in appearance and easier in its method of application. The process was adopted primarily in the West Country where it stayed localised and became known as ‘combed wheat’ whilst other straw areas retained the ‘long straw’ process, equally distinctive and now protected and still very much in evidence in East Anglia.

These subtle differences were unique to specific areas and until transportation enabled methods and materials to spread, local idiosyncrasies remained. The destruction of thatched buildings during the first half of the 20th century caused a crisis for thatching with its demise all but complete by the 1960s. The distinctive characteristics of the relatively few remaining buildings were subject to an increasingly uniform approach as the numbers of thatchers dwindled. This is why the distinguishing features that have survived are important to protect if we wish to preserve this aspect of traditional thatching techniques.

The majority of our work is on Listed Buildings. However, the fact that a building’s performance - let alone its value - is increased by the use of thatch has meant the craft is no longer seen as a relic from the past. This, together with the fact that it makes an important contribution in the effort to use sustainable, renewable building materials, means thatch is increasingly considered for new housing.

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Members of The East Anglia Thatchers Association