Thatching in the North & East Ridings of Yorkshire


These two areas share a common thatching tradition with the old West Riding; all parts following the Northern style of working. But hereabouts the historic local thatching methods, are more closely adhered to. With thick multilayered, angular roofs in long straw, still being completed….


Sea side thatch… A well known thatch, at Runswick Bay, north of Whitby.

Turf was commonly used as a base; here it was laid in strips a yard (one metre) long. It also ridged a good many roofs. The stobbing method, was also used well into the last century. The tool for this, being known locally as a Swallowtail. Some thatchers using no other method of thatching. In moorland areas, heather was an important resource.

In the late sixteenth century, the good folk of Hull banned the craft; forbidding hay, straw and reeds. Their by- law showing us what local Tudor thatchers, were using. The straw was almost certainly long straw. The East Riding farmer Henry Best, who features in the History section; was providing his thatcher with this materia, in 1641. John Tuke, noted in his Agricultural Report, both wheat and rye straw thatching in 1800. Along with: ‘small and low’ cottages. And long straw has retained it’s popularity down to the present day…

thatching torkshire

Low, but not so small…. as this attractive, long staw roof at Pockley, once extended over the tiles on the left…


Looking at the modern images, it is good to see that all Mr Tuke noted has survived; but it in greatly reduced numbers. Today’s thatchers are encouraged to follow local traditions, with some very pleasant results. Thatch is very widely scattered, over these two old Ridings, the North having by far the most to show. The best groups being found along the southern edge, of the North York Moors…

thatch yorkshire

thatch yorkshire

More Sea side thatch… Above, at Runswick Bay and further up the coast, at Marske by the Sea. These Edwardian images show a worn roof, under a mortar ridge at Runswick. And a directional thatch, fixed with sparred twine at Marske. This being similar to rick thatching… Below is a water reed roof at Sandsend, which replaced a pantiled roof; which in turn had probably replaced the original thatch, on this early sevennteenth century building.

thatch yorkshire

Long straw thatch… Following the local style. Above at Rievaulx, using rye straw. And below at Harome, using wheat.

thatch yorkshire

Last legs…? The exact location, of the 1890’s image opposite is not known; but perhaps was near Whitby or on the moors. The chimney details are very similar to the new replacement shown below, at Eskdale. The worn thatch consists of long straw, with the remains of a turf ridge. The right hand end of the building looking in a very poor state!

thatch yorkshire

Moorland thatch… The above cottage, with a date stone from 1713; lies in Eskdale. Having recently had some work completed, in long straw. The thatch on the right, once lay on the far side of the North York Moors, at Gillamoor. Topped with a turf ridge; over a century ago…

thatch yorkshire

Two Long Houses, from the North Riding…


thatching yorkshire

Old and new… The Old Sun Inn, in Bilsdale. Restored with a roof of rye straw and dating from the sixteenth century. The image above shows it ridged with turf, around 1910. A more modern pub, of the same name, stands close by…

thatch yorkshire

Still going strong… The Star Inn at Harome, which started life as a fourteenth century longhouse. The sign here shows that one James Bowes held the licence, around 1905. The stobbed roof gable end, is held down by a pegged timber. A local detail, still found hereabouts. As is the pub; still thatched and well frequented.

Some Thatch, from the East Riding…



East Riding thatch… Of which there is now very little. This long row, of Victorian estate cottages, above, at Warter; being a rare example.


thatch yorkshireThe upper image shows the village of Easington, a century ago. The single storey thatches are long gone. But this place still has a thatched threshing barn, as depicted in the lower image, from around 1900…

thatch yorkshire

thatching yorkshire

Above is a cosy cott, in a village with a comforting name… Holme on the Wolds. This East Riding thatch has now gone, but the cottage remains; tiled…


Finally, some Ideal Thatch…


Ideal homes … ‘House of the Year 1938′, at the Ideal Home Exhibition, rebuilt in Scarborough. The bracing Yorkshire sea air, had allowed this house to keep it’s original roof of Norfolk reed, for over sixty five years; when this picture was taken…