Thatching in Essex


96aThe thatcher’s art is expressed in this historic county, on a great number of roofs. The work always strictly following the Eastern tradition of thatching; here also, long straw thatching still holds sway. Providing the county, with some very attractive roofs indeed.

Many of these long straw roofs are still multilayed, often having rolled gable ends, the neat sparwork, on these ends, gives them a pleasant decorative finish. Away from these features, most other work is very square and angular; as befits an East Anglian county. The local Elizabethan writer, Thomas Tusser, stated that the haulm straw, or long stubble, left standing after the harvest was used for thatch. In 1811, this valuable resource was noted as being mowed; and no doubt safely gathered, as soon as the harvest was complete…

thatch essex england

Village life… Easton, near Great Dunmow, around 1830. The artist has captured the thatch in this village well. Showing typically Eastern style, steeply pitched roofs.

Most thatch found today, occurs in the west and north of historic Essex, but all other parts of the county have more than a scattering. Even a few remain, in what are now the London suburbs…

thatch essex england

thatch essex england

Great Dunmow… A town with quite a few thatches. Both the roofs shown here are in long straw, the left with an attractive rolled gable.

thatch essex england

More village life… A century after the animated scene at Easton, this image shows a quieter street at Steeple Bumpstead. The gables, on the right hand cottages, show a neatly cropped turned end and a simply sparred rolled example. All the thatching, in this village, then being done in long straw…


thatch essex england

Typically Essex 1… A splendid example, of ornate long straw thatch, at Broxted.


thatch essex england

Typically Essex 2… New long straw, on a cottage with some very decorative pargeting, on the walls, at Great Bardfield.


thatch essex england

Typically Essex 3… A weather boarded cottage. With a roof type, encountered occasionally in neighbouring Suffolk and often in Essex; the twin pitched mansard roof. As described, in the Technical section; this can be an awkward feature to thatch. But it has been done well here, at Tillingham. The long straw, rolled gable, being also sparred neatly into place…


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1830/1831… This account of William Harris’ bill, relates to work in Great Stambridge, in 1830 & 1831. It shows the nomenclature, used in the craft, in late Georgian Essex well enough. The accounts seem to relate to two separate jobs. The first, in May 1830, was for coating, using the directional method, or ‘stack thatching’. The second contract was for standard thatching, on a newly built barn; as other records show. This was tied on, with ‘yarns’ (tarred twine). The ‘thatching stuff’ almost certainly included some thatching spars etc. The straw, for a long straw coat, would have been supplied by the employer. But not it seems the beer, which was billed for…


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thatching essex england

Old Essex long straw… The century old, left hand image, shows a rolled gabled thatch at Old Harlow. But, along with others, this thatched building survived all the upheavals, wrought by the creation of the surrounding New Town. The right image shows ‘The Manse’ at Matching Tye. The cottage being much older than the chapel, which was built in 1875…

thatch essex england

These two thatches belie their age… The upper Edwardian image, of thatch at Canvey Island, looks like a very early nineteenth century,‘cottage orne‘ style building but is much earlier, dating from 1618. Being one of a pair, still standing here. The lower house, at Orsett, under a very neat water reed thatch, looks quite modern. But the timber framing is the real thing. Thatchers have being covering this roof, for over five centuries…

thatch essex england




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On the city’s edge… ‘The Old Cottage, West Ham Park’. This late Victorian view, shows a long gone thatch, situated just five miles from the heart of London. This part of Essex was only officially swallowed up, by the Metropolis, in 1965. West Ham Park is still going strong, once part of the estate surrounding the former Ham House. Whose owners probably had this little cottage built, in the then fashionable ‘Picturesque’ style, around 1800. This view shows a roof of water reed, topped with an ornate ‘saw tooth’ ridge; which was all the rage in the late nineteenth century. But other thatched roofs still remain, in these former parts of Essex, now within ‘Greater London’…



And to finish… A splendid scene…

 

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The thatched, seventeenth century, almshouses at Thaxted, enjoy a splendid location. Perhaps one of the best in Britain. Next to the magnificent parish church and jostling with a later, attractive tiled block, of similar buildings. Which both overlook the town’s working windmill…

thatching essex england