Thatching on the Isle of Man


74a Thatching on this island, strictly follows a Highland tradition. Very similar to work in North West Ireland, in Argyll and some of the Inner Hebrides.

Old images show a very consistent method of work, throughout the island. A good thickness of directional thatch; which is roped and tied firmly to the walls, around the edges of the roof. Locally called Sugganes, in Manx Gaelic. These ropes were once of straw, Mr Quayle, in his agricultural report of 1794, noted that the life of the roof was only a couple of years, due to: ‘the decay of the straw ropes’.

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‘Fisherman’s Cottages, Port St Mary’… A rather romantic view,  from ‘The Illustrated London News’, of 1881; but showing the roped thatched roofs clearly enough. As does the more realistic image below, which dates from much the same period…

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This type of fixing goes back a long way, on Man. Projecting stones, or Bwhid Suggane; to which the roping was attached, were noted on the wall top, of the very ancient church at Ballahimmon; many years ago. As in other Highland areas, wire netting replaced most roping; in the mid twentieth century.

Wheat straw, was the preferred material in the south of the island. The north made use, of the extensive areas of marram grass, that grow there. Known locally as Bent. As ever, other materials were used, especially heather and gorse; or freoagh and aittyn, in the Manx Gaelic.

Today, few thatches have survived, but the craft is by no means dead. By far the best group is preserved at the Cregneash Folk Museum, in the very south of the island…

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Cregneash Folk Museum… keeping the craft alive… Photos; copyright & thanks Adie Jackson & Andy Stephenson.**


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Two of the few Manx thatches, outside a museum… at the other end of the island from Cregneash, at Cranstal.
Copyright and thanks to Andy Radcliffe & David Dixon.**

 











Below, a stunning location… For these thatched cottages at Niarbyl, in the south western part of Man. Photo; copyright and thanks, Richard Hoare.**



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A few images of Manx thatching, a century or so ago…

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A typical roped gable end, at Ballig

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This cottage at Ballaugh, is unusual in the Highland thatching area; in having two storeys…

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‘Pete’s Cottage’, near Ramsey. With ‘Old Pete‘, in reality one John Kennish, outside. The hero of a well known novel of the time, ‘The Manxman‘; was said to be based on him.

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A less famous cottage, at Glen Helen….


And, two lost landscapes…

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No Sugganes… Not a rope in sight, on this late Victorian building, suituated in a splendid position, at Bradda Head, near Port Erin. The thatch is of standard long straw, with a rope top ridge. Similar to work in North Wales and Ireland. Perhaps the thatchers came from one of these locations…



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Lost thatch and a lost railway… This image is from a 1913 postcard, addressed to; ‘Station Master, Sulby Bridge, Isle of Man’. Stating… ‘This is one view from Primrose Hill that will interest you’. Thus placing this scene well. Sulby Bridge station, closed along with the railway, in the 1960’s. When the little thatched cottage, in the foreground, disappeared is not known…



** The new images, found on this page, were taken from the excellent Geograph site; licensed for reuse under Creative Commons. So thanks to all concerned, for allowing their images to be used…