The thatch work began February 2019. It was scheduled for August 2019 and was unexpectedly (and happily) brought forward by six months, due to a cancellation.
The thatchers, Dodson Bros Thatchers travel to/from Huntingdon and plan to work Monday to Friday 7am to 3pm for 5-6 weeks. So far there has been minimal effect upon our work and the vast majority of clients have been content to attend for counselling whilst the thatch work has been going on, despite me offering appointments outside of ‘thatching hours’.
The rest of this page is a progress report on the thatching work:
Thursday 7th February 2019, anticipating the scaffolding going up.
By the end of the day, Robin and his team at Logic Scaffolding had put up the scaffolding, ready for the thatch work to begin.
Monday 11th February 2019, Stuart Dodson from Dodson Bros Thatchers was first to arrive and later that day some water reed arrived, ready to go on the roof.
Gradually a new roof began to appear, on the back garden.
Wednesday 13th February, the first signs of new thatch starting to appear as a roof on the house. Iain explained to me that the wire (lower left of photo) that will eventually cover the thatch to protect it, is fastened to wooden batons before the thatch is added. It is under the thatch from the start, rather than disrupt the thatch later.
Thursday 14th February 2019, this is a dresser or leggett, being used by Shaun to dress the thatch (to knock, in this case water reed, into place and to firm up the thatch). Shaun told me today is the hottest day of the year so far and that is really helping to make it a warm and enjoyable day to be on the top of scaffolding working in the sunshine.
Jack is removing the old thatch from the apex of the house (and posing for the camera!).
Once Jack had removed the old thatch, he placed the new thatch ready to be fixed down. Here the new thatch is being placed at an angle to the side of the roof. The reason for this, Iain explained to me, is so the rain doesn’t twist the thatch over the side of the roof. The left side of the thatch, not shown in this picture, is placed under a base layer of thatch to anchor this down and further prevent it twisting over the side for the roof.
Iain showing me his ridge knife! This is modified from a machete and has a hardened upper surface to keep it rigid and an old axe handle added. Primarily the ridge knife is used for cutting out the shapes seen on the ridge of the building and is also a multi-purpose knife for anything that needs cutting. Iain showed me how his ridge knife can be used for sharpening the ends of wood inserted into the thatch to hold it in place and it is a very sharp knife!
Tidying up at the end of a day of good progress in the warm February sunshine, featuring a distant photograph of Shaun.
Monday 18th February and Iain has been building a wooden support around the chimney stack for a lead covering to guide the water off the roof from the chimney area. This is a work in progress and the plan is for the lead to be added later this week.
Meanwhile Shaun and Ross have been adding long-straw to the sloping part of the roof. The valley (to the left) is covered in water reed since this is more robust to the higher concentration of rain run-off.
Tuesday 19th February and the warm sunny weather has helped with progress as the thatch is built higher up the roof and around a dormer window.
Wednesday 20th February and Jordan from Reed Roofing has been creating the lead covering around the chimney stack. Cuts are made into the brick work and the lead is shaped around the chimney and wedged into place with pieces of lead.
Meanwhile the focus for the thatching work has moved to another part of the roof, away from the lead work. Another part of the roof is having the old thatch removed to make way for the new.
Our current favourite song:
Thursday 21st February, progress continues in building up the thatch around the dormer window.
Friday 22nd February and the on the south side the thatching is nearing the roof ridge. Some impressive walking along the ridge, as exemplified here by Ross, casually standing on the top of the house!
Monday 25th February 2019 is the hottest winter day ever! Iain and Shaun are battling against the heat on the south side of the house.
The thatch has now reached the top of the roof.
Meanwhile Jack and Ross have been preparing a layer of thatch on the north side of the house, out of the intense heat and sunshine!
Tuesday 26th February and the heat continues with another record breaking day of winter heat. Shaun is building up towards the ridges on the south side of the house. Iain has been working on the top of the dormer window, before moving to work on the north side of the house, out of the sun.
Wednesday 27th February and Iain explains that the thatch is pinned down with hazel spits and spars to keep it in place, such as around the top of the dormer window. Lead is also put in place to protect the thatch at points of vulnerability.
At this stage the thatch is only loosely pinned down in these places, because eventually all the dormer roofs will need to match. The spits and spars can be put into place at the edges of the thatch at this stage, such as here.
Friday 1st March and there is much more action at the front of the house now, with Shaun, Ross and Iain all working at the front and side of the roof.
Monday 4th March and it had been recognised that some of the oak beams needed to be replaced, where the old ones had deteriorated. Today the replacement oak was available and Iain began removing one of the damaged pieces. He put in places pieces of wood to hold up the roof whilst the remedial work was undertaken.
The damaged beam could then be removed, together with the wall above, so the replacement oak could be inserted (the replacement oak is shown in the foreground).
Once the replacement beam was inserted this could then be built upon (Tuesday 5th March) to recreate the wall and ceiling, upon which thatch could be placed (Wednesday 6th March). The wall and ceiling then need re-plastering.
Attention was also placed upon another area of water damage surrounding a dormer window at the front of the house. Wednesday 6th March and supports are put in place to hold up the roof whilst another damaged beam is removed and replaced.
Iain and Ross having a few moments break after removing the radiator, window and walls to replace the damaged beam.
This view from outside the house (Thursday 7th March) shows the damaged beam has been replaced (lower left of photo) and this has been used temporarily to affix external supports to hold up the dormer roof.
Later (Friday 8th March) it turns out that the roof spars above the dormer roof are also damaged and need to be replaced, such that the dormer roof itself needs to be removed. There is now a large hole on the first floor in the front of the house!
By the end of the week (Friday 8th March) the window can be put back in place and is shown here covered over with tarpaulin to protect it over the weekend. The replacement beam and roof spars are also in view. More work needs to be done to rebuild the walls either side and return the dormer roof.
At the back of the house the partially completed thatching of the dormer window gives an indication of where this reconstruction work is heading.
Monday 11 March: Question – How many ladders does it take to thatch one house?
Answer – Today we could count twenty six ladders!
Thursday 14 March and the work on the dormer window means it can now be thatched.
Tuesday 19 March and the thatch covers the main part of the roof and can be firmed into place.
Friday 22 March and long cylinders of straw are prepared on the ground and taken onto the roof to create the ridges.
Monday 25 March and the ridges are now apparent.
Tuesday 26 March and Iain has begun cutting out the ridge patterns with his ridge knife.
Wednesday 27 March and Ross is attaching the thatch using hazel around the window. The wire netting work is already underway and can be seen at this part of the roof.
Wednesday 27 March and the ridge cutting work continues.
Friday 29 March and Paul (right) is covering the thatch with wire to protect it from birds. Meanwhile jackdaws are removing wheat from the newly thatched roof for a nearby nest.
Friday 29 March and the thatchers are ensuring the details match-up between the various features of the roof, in this case that all the dormer roofs match.
Wednesday 3 April and the thatch work is complete.
Monday 8 April and Robin and his team from Logic Scaffolding arrive to carefully remove the scaffolding.
Monday 8 April 2019 and the scaffolding is removed. The re-thatching is complete and further work can begin on renovating the house.
Thank you to all those who supported the completion of this work, including those who worked directly on the project and clients who made this possible.