( NB the following are a general guide
to thatching terminology. You may come across local and individual
terms that describe these same definitions).
The layer of thatch directly beneath a window or chimney.
Often covered by an extra layer of thatch as a pad to protect
The edge of the thatch roof that overhangs the gable
The original layer of thatch that is often left in place when
a roof is re-thatched. In particularly old properties there
may be ‘smoke blackened’ thatch layers on the
underside of the roof. This is protected due to its historic
importance and must not be removed.
This type of ridge stands proud of the main coat of the thatch.
This type allows thatchers to decorate the ridge line in a
personalised style. In many examples it is possible to identify
the individual thatcher by the ridge patterning.
These are the individual bundles that form the eaves of the
The first course up from the eaves formed by the bundles.
The uppermost surface of the thatch. In the case of overcoating
a new layer is fixed to the existing undercoats and may not
be in the original material.
These are the steel nails used to fix the reed thatch to the
These are lengths of split timbers used to decorate the ridge,
eaves and gables of the finished thatch surface.
This describes the technique of aligning jumbled material
for use as thatch.
Half rounded shape, similar to Leggett, used to help form
Although not a specific thatching term, flashing is the lead
or cement strip applied around chimneys and other protrusions
of the roof for safety.
This term describes the matting used on the underside of thatch
above open rafters. These mats are often woven water reed
and used in lieu of battens.
A more traditional type of thatch and one that many planning
offices are keen to return to. The ridge is finished flush
with the coat layer of the main roof. There are two common
ways of achieving this finish, butt-up ridges is where the
two sides are merged at the roof. The other method is when
a single layer is wrapped over to form the roofline.
This describes the bats used to position the thatch on the
roof. Typically one end is treated so as to catch the ends
of the reed used. This tool is used by the thatcher to dress
the reed into place and ensure an even finish.
Usually made from willow or hazel these are lengths of split
wood that are used to hold the upper surface of the thatch
in place. Once in position these fixtures perform the same
job as sway rods but in a different position. In modern thatching
these are used on long straw roofs to hold the eaves and verges.
When a roof is re-thatched using water reed or combed wheat
reed the use of these wooden strips is normally only used
on the ridges.
This is tool used by thatchers to fix the thatch material
to the battens. The needle is a flat sided implement that
is used like a sewing needle to thread twine through to the
These terms describe a raised end of a ridge overhanging a
gable or roof hip. In many parts are decorated and help define
the local characteristics.
When the ridge level needs to be higher a ridge roll is used.
This is a tight bundle used to build up the height prior to
the finishing layer.
This is the section at a junction between the main roof coat
and a lower ridge.
This describes the layer of thatch out of which a pattern
is cut into. This may be either surrounding the chimney or
run along a block ridge.
Used to secure new thatch to older coats and liggers to the
coat surface. Commonly used materials include willow and hazel.
Twisted into a U-shape, they work by holding down a ligger
or a sway to the upper surface.
This is a layer of thatch laid as work progresses. Typically
¾ m wide strips of thatch running from the eaves up
to the ridge.
Traditionally wooden but now more likely to be made from steel
used to secure the thatch to the roof. Each layer is placed
horizontally above each preceding layer to conceal rods.
Often used to fix sways to rafters these are strong fibres
strengthened with tar to hold together thatch to rafters or
This is a layer formed by drawing straw from a bed of dampened
or threshed material. It is for use in coat work or for the
In addition, yealming describes the process of preparing the
material while on the ground before forming these yealms by
the process of drawing.
Combed Wheat Reed (Devon reed, wheat reed, combed wheat)
A form of thatching straw composed of stems that have been
combed mechanically to remove grain and extraneous waste material
without crushing the stem.
2) The technique of thatching a roof with this material, using
the material in bunches which retain a common orientation
to the stems. The material is dressed into place and usually
secured without external fixings other than at the ridge.
The technique of thatching a roof with straw, using yealms
made up by drawing from a bed of threshed straw, the ears
and butts lying both ways. The resulting material is laid
on the roof and is tied down using spars and liggers rather
than dressed into place as in water reed or combed wheat reed
2) The material used in this way, straw normally cut low on
the stem by a reaper rather than a combine harvester.
reed (Norfolk reed)
Wetland plant (phragmites australis) used for thatching.
2) The technique of thatching with this material, which is
carried onto the roof in bundles and secured, butts down with
sways and crooks.
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