The archaeology of a roof…

As a rule, thatching is a relatively peaceful craft; only the muted thumps of the Leggett dressing the coatwork to break the silence, or at worst the thud of a bundle against the floor to jostle all the stems down to the end. It’s a craft with a steady pace, not frantic with excitement; no high adrenaline rush….except just occasionally you do discover something extraordinary.

When we strip a roof of it’s old coatwork, we are first looking to see what lies beneath; usually old coatwork still thick with moss that’s perhaps several hundred years old; old timbers mostly cut straight from hedgerows,or perhaps much newer, measured and orderly and easier to find for fixing to. There was a regrettable fashion for plastic sheeting, which prevents the thatch from breathing, luckily we don’t find that often now. We are not often surprised by what we find, however this roof we are on now revealed not one, but three complete roofs, like a nest of Russian dolls.
The first and oldest is of a fairly shallow pitch and still has most of it’s thatch on, including the ridge. I think that perhaps this first roof must have needed renewing around WW2, but that not being possible a whole new roof of timbers and tin was put over the top. The tin has gone but you can see the dark and light tones on the battens where the corrugated tin hits and misses. For the third roof, the tin was removed but yet another set of rafters and battens have been constructed over the second set, steepening the pitch, and giving us the foundation of our new thatch.

Assailed by rain and snow in this last month we have raced a little more than usual to hide away these layers of life under a new golden coat, safe and secret until the next time.

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