Photographic Days Out in the 1860’s

The Petschlers, a Camera and Some Thatch

By the mid nineteenth century, the art of photography had come of age. And outside images were easily obtained, especially of buildings. Which unlike people, didn’t move during the exposure time required for a good picture. Many commercial companies appeared, to capture and sell all sorts of photographic images; including the odd one, showing some Victorian thatching…

One such business was; The Manchester Photographic Company; set up by Helmut Petschler and his wife Alice, in around 1859. It comes as no surprise to learn, that Helmut was born in Germany, in 1832; but Alice was a local girl. They were based in the Gorton and Fallowfield areas of Manchester. Helmut was dead by 1871, and the business died with him. So all their photos are before this date. And fortunately quite a few survived them.

It seems that Alice and Helmut wandered a good deal around Manchester and beyond, looking for suitable subjects. No doubt using the railways, for their longer excursions. Below, are some of the thatched buildings they saw and recorded for posterity… Around a hundred and fifty years ago…

thatch history

59bat-400-dpi‘Appleby, Westmoreland. The Sycamore Tree under which Wesley and Knox Preached’… This is a very rare, early image of Westmoreland thatch. The enlarged photo shows a roof of heather, with a wooden gutter underneath. The ridge is of turf, which also covers the gabled ends. A type of finish, seen in later photos, of cottages outside Leeds and Edinburgh.


Alderley Edge, Cheshire. From before the Station’… The view from the railway station, twenty years or so, after the first train arrived here. The thatch is of long straw, with a rolled and boarded gable end. A thatched hay rick, is on the left of the main photo; with it’s layered interior cut open. The enlarged image, shows this cottage’s ridge, to be held down with a single line of twisted spars. With not a ligger in sight…

‘Our Post Office at High Leigh’… Now known as High Legh, this Cheshire village lies seventeen miles, south west of Manchester city centre. Perhaps the Petschlers lived hereabouts? The thatch is long straw with a timber gable. Of interest is the seemingly flat top to the roof. A tiled roof probably sloped down the rear elevation, at right angles to the thatch. The locals seem very well dressed…

thatch history


Trentham Village, Staffordshire’… Some sixty years, before this village became part of Stoke on Trent. This cottage has a long straw roof, with a neat cross sparred ridge. The enlarged image, shows the porch with a little lead on top of the ridge. All looking quite modern. The way the thatcher has completed the turning eyebrow windows, is unusual. It seems he stopped his new coatwork, a little short. And made use of the previous coatwork, to carry the water over the gable edge.


thatch wales


‘On the Heights at Abergele, North Wales’… Alice is posing, rather artistically, in this photo.  The enlarged photo, shows a neat long straw roof. With rolled gables. The barn, to the left, is more roughly thatched. The thatch on the main roof, follows a style seen, on both sides of Offa’s Dyke. It must be harvest time, as in the background stooks of sheaves await collection. Giving a clue, as to the type of thatching material, used in this area.

thatch history

Old Cottage, Cheadle Churchyard’… When this image was taken, this village lay in rural Cheshire. It is now part of Greater Manchester. The thatch, on this little cottage has been repaired, but it looks like more work is needed. Today, this area still retains more than a few thatched cottages. Including another one near the church.

thatch history

‘Thatched Cottage on Eccles Old Road, Lancashire’… In fact a wayside Inn, as the sign states that ‘Alice Beadburn’ was licensed to sell ‘Beer Porters To Be Drunk on The Premises‘. These beer houses were common enough in this period. Like the pervious image, this area has also been swallowed up, within modern Greater Manchester. Now being the busy A576, in Salford. The thatch here has a ridge, fixed in a similar fashion, to that shown at Alderley Edge. Although this one has two lines of twisted spars, with a further one on the eaves. This is a thatching technique now lost, in this area. But most methods, seen in these photos, are still practiced by today’s thatchers. Showing how little has changed, in a century and a half…



‘In the Cornfield’… Our intrepid photographers seem to be taking a rest, in a Cheshire cornfield, of the 1860’s. The gent, who has removed his top hat, is very likely Helmut. A lady is reading, but another lady’s hat is in the foreground; so Helmut’s wife Alice may have captured this scene… The hand tied sheaves of corn are stooked, ready for collection, when the uncertain British summer, has allowed things to dry out. A scene that would be common for almost another century, after this trio took a rest…