Thatching in Rutland & Leicestershire
These two counties lie at the southern edge, of the Northern thatching tradition. As the boarded and rolled gables hereabouts, still testify. Also turf ridges were once to be seen; especially in Leicestershire. Here Charles Innocent noted the use of the stobbing method, a century ago. Known locally as Stingeing; the thatchers using a forked Stincher or Stinger, to push the thatch up into place.
Historically, long straw was the dominant material, more than a few examples are still to be found. A Mr Pitt, in his Agricultural Report noted, that in 1786, for: ‘threshing wheat and binding the straw’, workers were paid between four and five pennies, for each bushel (35 litres), of grain produced. This hand threshed straw must have coated many a roof, in these two counties.
Tudor thatch… A very attractive Elizabethan farmhouse, at Shearsby, in southern Leicestershire. Not far away, the old Roman road of Watling Street, forms the south western boundary, for this county and the Northern thatching tradition.
Today a good number of thatched roofs still exist. Rutland having a higher density than it’s neighbour. The turf ridges have gone and Eastern style ridging is now to be found. Which is not surprising as these counties adjoin this tradition. But Northern methods are still found, in the treatment of the gable ends…
Rutland thatch… The left cottage at Langham, sports a plain roof, in long straw. Similar to the roofs at Manton, above, in around 1910. The gable end on the middle cottage shows a thick multilayered roof. Seen in a good many old images of this county. Being similar to thatch in Yorkshire.
Edwardian thatch… At Exton. With some decorative long straw work. Not often seen at this period. This Rutland village still has many thatched buildings. Including those depicted here, along with the splendid example of plain, long straw thatching, on the right,
Rolled gables… At Whissendine. This Rutland cottage, is newly coated, in combed wheat reed. But the thatcher has kept to a traditional design, on the gables.
Leicestershire long straw… Above at Waltham in the Wolds. And below at Billesdon. Where the nearest cottage, had lost it’s thatch to galvanised sheeting. But this scene, from the 1930’s, is much the same today. With the remaining thatched roof, still going strong. Even if the motor cars and telephone lines have changed…
Old & new thatch… at Peatling Parva, in combed wheat reed.
Leicestershire Crucks… This house at Hemington belies it’s age, being built of brick. However the curved, cruck timbers, showing at the far end are from the fourteenth century…
Leicestershire turf… At Queniborough, in around 1915. The near and centre thatches, are turf ridged. The far block of cottages are topped with mortar. It could well be that shortages, during the First World War, caused a return to more traditional thatching methods.
Boarded and brick… Leicestershire gables. The right hand, quiet lane, at Braunstone, shows a wide, boarded gable end. Still found extensively, in this county. This scene has changed, in the century since this photo was taken. The area being swallowed up, by the nearby City of Leicester, between the World Wars. But some thatch remains. The upper cottage, at Appleby Magna, has brick gables. The far left one being of a Dutch design. Rarely seen with thatch. Constructed by one ‘HMS’ in 1693. According to a date stone.
Finally… Rutland, England’s smallest historical county, still has the thatched birthplace; of one of Britain’s smallest historical figures. In Oakham, one Jeffery Hudson was born in 1619. He grew no more than 42 inches (106cms). He was in turn, a favourite at the court of Charles the First. A refugee in Paris, with his Queen; in the Civil War. (Here he fought a duel and killed his opponent. Who mistakenly thought it might be fun, to use a very small pistol!) Then a slave of the Barbary pirates. And finally a pensioner of Charles the Second. He certainly packed a lot, into his sixty three years…