The challenge ….
An original 17th Century thatched cottage in Coate, Swindon enjoys a busy life as part of a museum set up to commemorate Victorian nature writer, Richard Jefferies, who was born there in 1848.
The quintessential chocolate-box country cottage has had its thatched roof repaired and renewed numerous times over the centuries, but recently the Richard Jefferies Museum Trust realised the thatch on the roof of the listed building was once again in a sorry state, and in dire need of attention.
The specialised job was put out to tender by Swindon Borough Council, who – on the recommendation of the National Society of Master Thatchers – invited Steven Hewlett Thatchers to apply. Steve and his long-established firm of traditional Wiltshire master thatchers was the obvious successful candidate, and before long he was hard at work restoring the cottage roof.
The solution ….
This time-lapse video shows the re-thatching process, from removing the tired, degraded and soiled thatch and repairing the underlying timbers, to re-thatching “like for like” with straw and hazel spirework. In real time the work took around two months.
The roof ridge was finished in traditional Wiltshire flush style, because, as Steve explains, “we like to keep things in character, particularly on a listed building”. A special touch, in honour of Richard Jefferies himself, was the addition of a thatched finial figure of a pheasant on the roof, dubbed “Dickie”.
The beautifully restored roof of the Jefferies cottage also features another traditional thatch feature – the catslide. This is a section of roof extended down to cover a side wing, sweeping down from the ridge almost to the ground.
No doubt Richard Jefferies, a great conservationist, would be delighted with the result!
My family are something of a rarity in modern Britain. Myself & my brothers represent the fourth generation of the Hewlett family to work as master thatchers, carrying on a business that was started by his grandfather back in 1925, at the tender age of 16.
I am a proud member of National Society of Master Thatchers and have been thatching roofs across Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset & The New Forest for over 40 years.