Letter: A straw poll on thatching

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The Independent Online
Sir: In the many writings concerning thatching, it has never been mentioned that the principle weakness is the ridge.

In the 1930s I was working in Dorset on the management of a large private estate. We had more than 200 cottages, farm houses and buildings with thatched roofs. Being responsible for their upkeep, I seldom slept at night when a winter storm was blowing and raining hard. According to my knowledge then roofs thatched with Norfolk reed would last 60 years-plus and combed wheat straw 30 years-plus. But in all cases, as the reed would not bend over, the ridges were capped with straw.

Naturally this would be replaced several times before the roof was due for recovering. Also, the ridge capping had to be covered with fine gauge wire netting to keep out rats and sparrows; in fact some straw roofs were wired all over. After my experiences I would never buy a property with thatch. One's hand is in one's pocket all the time.

Yours faithfully,




28 July