What Makes a Master Thatcher?
Just as is the case with most similar heritage craft professions the designation of “Master Thatcher” is not an official title bestowed by any official body, or attained with qualifications.
Thatchers need to have proper training, usually around five years as an apprentice to a Master Thatcher, who is also their mentor. An aspiring young thatcher nowadays also ideally needs some GCSEs, and to complete a Level 2 NVQ diploma in Roofing Occupations (Construction) with thatching as a specialism.
It is dedication, skill and experience, however, that make a Master Thatcher, just as has been the case with the Master of any craft for centuries.
Historically thatchers were part of the medieval guild system which oversaw the training of craftsmen and artisans in fields such as carpentry, stonemasonry, art, goldsmithing, even shoemaking. In days of yore the masters passed on the skills and secrets of their crafts and trades to apprentices, who had to demonstrate their prowess, competence and knowledge before they, in turn, could be admitted to the relevant guild as master craftsmen.
Things are not so different today, although the Guilds have transformed into trade and craft associations.
Meet a Modern Master Thatcher
Steven Hewlett, Master Thatcher in Salisbury, Wiltshire, is one of those who is proud to bear the title that puts him at the top level of his craft. He’s been accepted for membership of three professional bodies – the National Society of Master Thatchers, Wiltshire Master Thatchers Association, and the National Council of Master Thatchers Associations.
More importantly, though, Steven is the third generation of his family to have earned their living by thatching. He still runs the thatching business serving South West England that was started by his grandfather back in 1925.
According to Steven being a Master Thatcher means immersing yourself in much more than just the labour involved in the act of thatching. A true master of thatching has a deep-rooted respect and affiliation for the traditional craft, which dates from as far back as the Bronze Age.
For a Master Thatcher creating a roof is not just a construction job. There is so much involved in the craft, from the aesthetics and engineering to understanding the properties of the material used. Then there is the need to know and appreciate the various distinctive regional styles of thatched roofs, from the ridge design and flashing techniques to the style of the eaves.
The Pride and Passion of Master Thatchers
Thanks to the passion of modern Master Thatchers for their ancient craft, thatched roofs are still a popular architectural choice in 21st century Britain. In fact, sustainable thatch made with natural materials like water reed, which provides excellent insulation, is a sensible choice in an era where environmentally-friendly construction is of paramount importance.
When installed by a Master Thatcher you can expect a new thatched roof to have a lifespan of around 30 years – some can still perform well for 50 or 60 years with periodic expert care and attention before the time comes for a thatched roof replacement. Being organic in nature thatched roofs tend to develop and mature over time, sometimes requiring a surface layer renewal or a ridge repair. A Master Thatcher takes pride in watching over the roofs he has created as they age, extending their life for as long as possible.
Steven Hewlett, with his decades of experience and first class reputation as a Master Thatcher, will take good care of your thatched roof in Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire, the New Forest, Wiltshire and anywhere across the South West. Just call today on 01980 611 880 or 07790 020 917.
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.