Heritage Thatching

Do you own a property that is classed with historical importance and beauty? Does this property boast a thatched roof that needs to be maintained? If you have been searching for a company that can effectively maintain the thatched roofing on your heritage property, you have certainly come to the right place. The NSMT is the largest recognised body of thatchers in the UK, and we specialise in helping to maintain the thatching on properties with historical significance. 

If you need a recognised thatcher that can work on historic properties, you will find one here. We make it easy to search for and find expert thatchers to assist with the roofing on your property. Finding companies qualified to work in conservation areas will be a thing of the past with the help of The NSMT, so give us a call today on 01530 222954. We will be more than happy to discuss your requirements further. 

The History of Heritage Thatching 

Heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, and this includes any property with a thatched roof. Historic England has brief advice for listed buildings with thatch, and that is any “existing thatch should be replaced with a like for like materials unless a strong case can be made for change”. 

Here in the UK, we are fortunate to have a rich thatch heritage, with thatchers able to take on the responsibility of thatching work in conservation areas. With conservation, thatch and thatching must be allowed to evolve using the very best current materials and methods, but respect for the past is necessary. 

When Was Thatching First Introduced? 

Thatching is a method that has been around for centuries, with the earliest record of thatched roofing dating back to circa 700AD. This would most likely have been wild grasses and straw, but no evidence remains from these dates. Thatching became a more popular and wellrecorded method in the 11th and 12th centuries when the Normans made their way to England. Record show thatched roofs were used on family homes, castles, and churches, to name a few buildings. 

Why Did Thatching Become Less Popular?

In the 13th century, thatching started down a decline, and there is a significant reason for this. While it was considered a cheap method of roofing, it was dangerous to use in urban areas where structures were built close together due to the risk of fire.  

However, the real decline began in the 18th and 19th centuries as a result of the Industrial Revolution, as other materials were available at a lower cost. Slate, for example, became a readily available material, and it soon replaced thatching. 

Why Thatching is Now More Popular Than Ever 

Since the 1970s, the number of buildings in the UK with thatched roofing has been quite stable, and this is largely due to conservation efforts. Thatching is also seeing a small comeback, with more builders offering this service in rural areas. We at the National Society of Master Thatchers Ltd are leading the way in thatching conservation, preserving the history and taking the craft into the future. 

Thatch vs Other Roofing Materials

You will find there are many roofing materials available, with thatch being a less popular choice for many homes that utilise tiles and slate instead. However, thatch actually does offer many benefits that other roofing materials don’t, which you can read more about below. 

Why Thatch Reigns Superior

Thatch offers many benefits that other roofing materials simply can’t match, one of which is that thatch is lightweight. It weighs much less than other materials, so it doesn’t need the added support structures, which in turn helps to reduce costs.  

It is also more aesthetically pleasing than other options, and it can be formed into more shapes than a rigid roof can. Plus, thatch is a natural insulator, so it will keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It is also eco-friendly and probably the most sustainable roofing material out there. 

More Sustainable Than Other Materials

As mentioned above, thatching is much more sustainable than any other roofing material available. This is especially true when local materials have been used to create the thatch for your roofing structure. You won’t find a more eco-friendly and sustainable roofing material. 

Very Durable

You will find that a thatched roof is very durable and can last for many years to come, especially when it has been well maintained. Water Reed thatch can last from anywhere between 25 to 40 years, with Wheat Reed lasting from 25 to 35 years. 

What Materials are Used in Thatching?

There are two types of material used in thatching, Cereal Straw and Water Reeds, and you can find out more about both below. 

Cereal Straw

You will find that Cereal Straw can be processed in different ways to create different characteristics. 

Cereal Straw, otherwise known as Long Straw, has been produced from straws specifically grown for thatching. It is known by this name, not because of the length it grows, but because of the way the finished roof looks. This straw has been threshed to only remove the grain, which leaves a straw that is tangled and broken, needing further preparation before use. The finished roof has a slightly shaggy finish and commonly has stickwork around the eaves and gables, which are cut to form a neat edge.  

Combed Cereal Straw, or Reed, takes its name from the processed material. This straw has been threshed to remove the grain, but an attachment to the threshing machine removes the weeds, leaf and broken stems too. It leaves the processed straw, which is a straight length resembling a reed. These roofs take on a smoother carpetlike finish, with the eaves and gables cut to form neat, rounded edges. 

Water Reeds 

Water Reed, also known as Phragmites Australis, is a grass that grows in wetland areas, and the length is dependent on the nutrients available. This reed is cut during the winter months before the new shoots appear. They are stacked loosely to dry before being cleaned and bundled, then sorted into differing lengths, ready to be used by a thatcher. A reed roof can be styled to look like a combed straw roof, but it generally forms sharper edges to eaves, gables, and hips. 

Find a Thatcher 

If you have a thatched roof on a historic property and you need to have it maintained, repaired, or replaced in line with conservation regulations, you will need to find a reputable team of thatchers. Here at the NSMT, we make it easy to find companies for heritage thatching with our handy ‘Find a Thatcher’ tool.  

You can find a thatcher in your local area by searching by postcode, or you can search for a thatcher by name. It is important to be careful, however, as some thatchers will try to look like they are a part of the NSMT by displaying it on their vans and websites. The best way to ensure you work with a reputable thatcher is to check our list; if they do not appear in our ‘Find a Thatcher’ list, then they are not registered members. 

We have heritage thatching members that work throughout the UK, with some prepared to work abroad if needed. You are sure to find a reputable thatcher through our site. 

Check Out Our Gallery of Thatched Properties

We know that you may wish to see some of the many thatched properties across the country, whether for inspiration for your own or to see our members work to help decide on a team to use for your heritage thatching. This is why we have a dedicated online gallery page, which shows a wide variety of images of different thatching projects. 

You can see through these images the quality of each member’s workmanship, which should give you complete peace of mind when hiring them to work on your own thatching project. 

Contact Us

While there are many thatchers in the UK, you will need to ensure you work with a company that is approved to work on conservation areas. When you are looking for heritage thatching companies, you need to come to us at the NSMT, where you can find registered members across the country. We are here to help you find the perfect thatching team for your project, so you need simply get in touch with us via one of the below contact methods. 

First, you can give us a call on 01530 222 954 or 07930 392652. We will discuss your requirements in further detail, answer any questions you may have, and offer honest and impartial advice should you need itAlternatively, you can get in touch via written method by sending an email to us at info@nsmtltd.co.uk. Simply leave your enquiry and preferred method of contact, and we will respond as soon as possible.  

However you choose to reach out to us, we look forward to hearing from you soon. 

National Society of Master Thatchers