What's In a Surname?

This is one of those posts that starts out talking about one thing and ends up talking about something else.

Baker, Fisher, Lawyer, Cooke, Archer, Barber, Smith are all English surnames derived from crafts or skills associated with that name and they're all mostly self explanatory. ie: Smith = blacksmith/metal worker

Oh yes, my hair is thatched.  It's thatched real good.

The Oscar nominated film, The Iron Lady, got me thinking about surnames, specifically, Thatcher, and obviously that name is derived from the craft of thatching or building thatch roofs.  Which lead me to this:


Seriously, move me in here stat!

Thatching is an ancient method that is in use both in the tropics and temperate climates. It is also used in developing countries because it is inexpensive but by contrast it is also the choice of wealthy people who want a rustic look for their home or who wish to use environmentally friendly building materials. It is also used where law requires an owner to maintain a home in its original state. There are more thatched roofs in England than in any other European country. Thatching is also widely used in Asia including Japan and Korea.  

Thatching ideally uses vegetation found around a farm. Straw, reed, sedge, rushes and heather are utilized to create thatch. The skill of thatching is traditionally passed down from generation to generation. Man what I wouldn't give to interview a master thatcher right now.

Traditionally, a new layer of straw was simply applied over the weathered surface. Over 250 roofs in Southern England have base coats of thatch that were applied over 500 years ago, providing direct evidence of the types of materials that were used for thatching in the medieval period. - Wikipedia

Thatch is not as flammable as you may think because it is extremely dense and tends to burn slowly like a closed book, but because of its perceived flammability, thatched homes are harder to insure.

Swiss cottage

Closeup of thatching

Inside a thatched roof.  Doesn't it look warm?  I bet it smells awesome.
This inside view shows the lathing.  The base to which the thatch is applied.

Thatch is perfectly reliable in snowy conditions and like any roof it's durability depends mostly on the materials and construction of its base. With new layers of straw being added to existing roofs, this ‘spar coating’ tradition has created accumulations of thatch over 7’ (2.1 m) thick on very old buildings.  I'd say that would be insulation enough in cold weather.

There is a series of videos on YouTube showing how a thatched roof is made but it's split up into many parts.  

Part Two shows the initial application of the reeds.

Part Five is the wrap up.

I searched far and wide for a single how-to video on thatched roofs but could find nothing in English. Here is a link to a video on how thatched roofs are made featuring Glen Holloway, a master thatcher in Dorset, England.

For a gallery of photos of thatched roofs by Glen Holloway, featured in the above video link, click here.  

I don't know what it is about thatching and thatched roofs that fascinates me.  Maybe it's the fact that millions of individual reeds make up the solid plane of a roof.  Maybe it's the fact that it is literally an ancient craft that has not changed much throughout the centuries and today's thatchers working their craft is like a window into architectural history.  Whatever it is, there is nothing as quaint and cozy as a teeny, tiny, Cotswolds cottage with a thatched roof and garden and I wish I was in one right now.


A-Gran said...

All of my Farmville barns have thatched roofs. Yes. Yes, they do.


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