The ‘Eastern’ Tradition of British Thatching


The Eastern Tradition… The steep pitch and very angular shape of the roofs. Along with the design of the ridge and gable ends; are historically unique here.

Turned gable ends have a rather narrow, cropped appearance, in this area. Rolled gables are also found; especially on long straw work. Which is this area’s main historical thatching material. With water reed always having a local use; around the Broads and Fens. The shapes used here, with water reed, have spread to other traditional areas of Britain, in the belief that all thatching, with this material, has to follow Eastern working methods.

The traditional ridge ends, often called Pinicales have an attractive point. Usually associated, with ornate block ridging, which probably evolved in this area. And this seems to be the only thatching method, used in Britain, that is historically found nowhere else in the world…

Something else unique to this area, is the splendid group of medieval churches, that have kept their thatched roofs. Their page is highly recommended. At the end of this ecclesiastical tour, the final church will show it’s little wooden treasure; Britain’s oldest thatcher…

thatch cambridgeshire england
Eastern thatch… Near Linton in Cambridgeshire. This immaculate thatch, of long straw, is typically Eastern. The design, of the ridge end or Pinicale, being found historically in no other area of Britain. But is very similar, to the image of North German thatch, seen on the world tour page. There is no ornate ridge on this roof. These were mainly confined to roofs of water reed; when this photo was taken, between 1914 & 1918, if the lads uniforms are anything to go by…

thatch norfolk england

thatch suffolk england

The ornamental cut block ridge… Of either straw or sedge grass, seems to hail from this area. The top left image is of Tunch in Norfolk, in the 1930’s; showing a fairly plain example. The right hand modern, Suffolk thatch is at Wrentham. Which also shows the decorative edging, often found on ‘Eastern’ water reed roofs. The lower photo, takes the ornamental block ridge, back to around the 1860’s. This rather faint shot of ”Whitton School” shows the ornate building, with a thatched ridge to match… This was probably located at Whitton near Blofield, which lies close to the Norfolk reed beds, on the River Yare…

thatching norfolk england

Below are some images, of the areas covered, in the 8 following sub pages…

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