Thatching in Lancashire & Cheshire
This page contains details of the craft in both historic counties, with the exception of the northern detached part of Lancashire; which was included in the previous page. In times past the River Mersey formed most of the county boundary, between these two areas. Which the craft of thatching completely ignored; as both share the Northern tradition of thatching.
Boarded and rolled gables are common, with a fairly angular roof shape to any coatwork. In the past, some turf and mortar were used for ridging; along with the now normal straw. Long straw is the historic thatching method and material, using the stems, of both wheat and rye. But water reed has now become the dominant material, especially in Lancashire.
All parts of Cheshire and the lowland districts of Lancashire, still have examples of the thatcher’s work. The craft is also found, in surprising numbers, in the modern conurbations, of Merseyside and Greater Manchester. By far the largest group, is in the Churchtown area of Southport. This unique spot, has the greatest concentration of thatch in northern Britain…..
Churchtown… The picturesque cottages found hereabouts, have been captured on film for many years. The above cottages, like most others in this area, are now coated in water reed. The same row, opposite, photographed in Edwardian days; depicts the roofs in long straw.
More Churchtown cottages… The black and white images show thatch at Botanic Road and a fisherman’s cottage, both with mortar ridges, from around 1900. The right hand photo, depicts a thriving modern business, under one of Churchtown’s many remaining single story thatches…
Rolled gable… In Combed wheat reed, at Croston, east of Southport.
In Bolton, at Firwood Fold, only a single thatch remains. The birthplace of Samuel Crompton, in 1753. Inventor of the Spinning Mule, which revolutionised the textile industry. A century ago, his old home sported a tiled ridge and rick thatched roof. Very different to the neat and ornate thatch that the two counties now contain…
The image above, also from Bolton, shows the old Park View Inn. This featured as the ”Dug an Kennel’, by local, dialect writer Allen Clarke, in around 1900. Here his creation ”Bill Spriggs”, would hold court; espousing the author’s strongly held, socialist message… The building remains, but the thatch has disappeared…
On the left Crompton’s birthplace… This Edwardian image, shows straw thatch held on with sparred wire, similar to the thatched ricks hereabouts. The modern view is very similar, except a roof of water reed, protects this historic home. And a straw ridge has replaced the tiles.
Below are two Lancashire town centre pubs… on the left, the ‘Dog inth Thatch’, which lay in Standishgate, Wigan; captured around 1890, by local photographer John Cooper.. The repaired upper section of the roof has been topped with tiles. This image must date to just before the building was demolished, seemingly being replaced by another pub of the same name, which survived until the 1970’s.. The right image depicts the last thatched building in Preston. Known in around 1825 as the ‘Currier’s Arms’; by the time of its demolition in 1894 it had become the ‘Virgin’s Inn’; owned by the Lea family. The building lay in the centre of town, near the Market Place.
Ye Olde Hob Inn… Opposite is another Lancashire pub, dating from the early seventeenth century and lying in Bramber Bridge, south of Preston. The Edwardian thatch seen here is similar to that noted above at Firwood Fold in Bolton. Being fixed with wire and staples, under a mortar ridge… The lower photo depicts the extant pub, extended and altered, under a thatch of water reed.
In 1943 this inn welcomed American servicemen stationed nearby becoming a favourite haunt; but it was not popular with their military police; mainly because the drinkers were black…
In June, what became known as ‘The Battle of Bamber Bridge’ ensued , when the Military Police tried to arrest a black GI in the pub; this failed when the locals sided with the GI’s. Later both sides took up arms, with shots fired and a black serviceman dead.
Later still the Military Police tried to force the local publicans to impose a ‘colour bar’; they obliged, putting up signs reading ‘Black Soldiers Only’….
Lower photo, courtesy of Geoff Wilkinson under Creative Commons.
More town thatch… The above cottages belie their age, being cruck built, during the sixteenth century. Now some of the oldest buildings, in the town of Newton le Willows. photo; courtesy Terry Birkinhead
Mrs Southern’s Cottage, Prestwich Clough… The late Victorian image, opposite, depicts a thatch roof on its last legs; on the banks of the River Irwell… Just over 3 miles from Manchester City Centre. By 1906 Mrs Southern had probably moved on, as this “sylvan and beautiful” area was opened to the public and remains so today; without any thatched cottages.
The old building below; claimed to date from 1098. And sell original Eccles cakes, being situated in that Lancashire town; a century and more ago. The thatch being very similar to that on Crompton’s cottage, at Bolton. Thus this is likely the shop of one James Birch, who began selling small, flat, raisin-filled cakes in 1793.
Salford Thatch… The left hand thatch was likely situated in Weaste, on Eccles New Road, decades before it became the busy A57. Around two and a half miles from Manchester city centre… The thatch roof shown is typical for this area, with boarded gable ends, the long straw coatwork having an angular shape. Like other thatch hereabouts it has a wooden gutter, to protect passing pedestrians; as they walked along this seemingly empty road, already lit by gas in c1910. (The sender of this postcard, was one Minnie Gaunt, married in the local church in 1915.)
The two Edwardian images below show thatch at Flixton… Which lies about six miles to the southwest of Manchester City Centre. ‘Junction Cottage’, on the left, has a tiled ridge; in the right hand distance is the gable end of ‘Hathaway Cottage’, shown on the right; coated with a complete directional thatch. The building was based loosely on the more famous example at Stratford on Avon; built in 1721 and demolished in 1927. Flixton was a remote rural area until the railways came, in 1873. The River Mersey forms its southern boundary.
North of the Ribble… This cottage near Threales, is one of a group, found between the Lancastrian rivers, Ribble and Lune, including several near Blackpool. The old image below shows some typical, single story thatch, south of the sea side town; at Ansdell, now part of Lytham St Annes; in around 1905.
The cottage opposite at Inskip, in the Fylde area of Lancashire, belies its age, dating from the early eighteenth century and now coated with a thatch of water reed.
Much older is the pub, shown below, which claims to be the oldest on Lancashire… situated at Lydiate; ten miles from Liverpool city centre… Originally known as “The Royal Oak”; sections of the trunk of the oak, around which it is said to have been built, are still extant. All now under a water reed thatch.
Hale… Sits on the north bank of the River Mersey. This village contains a fair amount of thatch; some covering a long row of single story cottages, as shown in the topmost image. They date from the late 1600’s, as does the cottage depicted in the bottom photo; sporting a new coat of combed wheat reed. The middle right hand home, is one of several large, water reed thatches found here. Not so the farmhouse on the left, being an image of Ivy Farm, dating from around 1880; with two ladies of the Barrow family, in front of this long disappeared thatch.
Old thatch near the Mersey… Above, some ‘Old cottages at Grappenhall’ near Warrington. Showing some neat long straw thatching, in around 1905; finished with a rope top ridge… A type often seen, at this period, in Wales and the Welsh Marches.’The Oldest Cottage in Ashton on Mersey’ is opposite. This postcard, from around 1910, shows a typical boarded gable end and more unusually, a wooden gutter.
Thatching on the Wirral 1… This old image titled ”a little bit of old Liscard”, dates from the Edwardian period. The thatcher is using the stobbing method, fixing the roof top and bottom with single bent staples… A method also seen in Highland Perthshire.
Thatching on the Wirral 2… This cottage, one of several thatches hereabouts, is at Raby. Being a very similar building, to the long gone cottage at Liscard…
The Black Bear… At Sandbach; dated to 1634 and now this town’s only thatch. Water reed seems to have been the material of choice here, since at least the 1950’s. The pub’s name is said to be a left over from the ‘sport’ of bear baiting, that formerly took place in the market square, which this thatch overlooks…
Estate thatch… Below are three attractive cottages,at Barthomley; timber-framed, with roofs that are partly thatched and partly tiled. They date from the early seventeenth century, being up graded in nineteenth; by the Crewe estate. Onetime owners of the Black Bear…
A Chocolate Box Cottage… Immaculate thatching at Cox Bank, Audlem, in the south of Cheshire. This long straw roof, of the around 1930, has an angular look; as befits a thatch, in the ‘Northern’ tradition. The roof is finished with neat rope top ridge. Similar to work then found in neighbouring Shropshire and Wales.
More Cheshire thatch… The upper right hand home is at Eaton, showing the distintve, local boarded gable ends, on both windows and the main roof. The left hand cottages are at Weaverham. Both villages have a goodly number of thatches.
The upper image shows thatch at Bowdon… In around 1900. Once in Cheshire, this village now lies in Greater Manchester. As with some of the other old images, the thatch seen here is similar, to that used to cover the local farmer’s ricks. A directional coat, held by lines of sparred string, or wire. The ridge consists of a single line of twisted spars. Similar to the work shown above, at Liscard, on the Wirral… The right photo, from the same period, shows a thatcher at work, on the Post Office at Siddington, a Cheshire village still with some thatch. The left hand roof seems ridged with turf, with our man ridging with straw…The lower cottage lay at Oldfield Brow on the edge of Altringham; like Bowden above, now in Greater Manchester, but once in Cheshire. The old postcard depicts a newish, neatly thatched roof in long straw. The straw ridge is topped with mortar; a popular method hereabouts, in around 1900.
Now, two Black & White, Cheshire Cottages…. The stuff that dreams are made of.
And a footnote.
This late Victorian image, of some very typical thatch, for these two counties; was taken by a John Ingham from Sale. But even earlier images were taken of this area by, ”The Manchester Photographic Company”. Set up by Helmut Petschler and his wife Alice, in around 1859. Their work can be seen by following the green link… Photographic days Out in the 1860’s