Raising The Roof (2 of 2)

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A pair of leggetts, used to ‘dress’ the thatch on the roof and achieve a smooth surface.

There are as many different spellings for this device as there are internet sites I researched, so please don’t quote me.. !


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One of the more memorable quotes I did come across is that a thatch is like a “controlled compost heap”, for as soon as it is laid it starts to decay. Looking back at this original shot of our roof, it is clear that some slippage has occurred under the end gable chimney. After combing off the moss, the thatchers started the repair.


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The aim is to fill the gap by repacking it with straw. Yelms (bundles of straw) are laid onto the roof and fixed into place with twisted and bent spars, the latter hammered in to act like staples.


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You can see the ‘staples’ more clearly in this shot, there are two to the right of the new straw and one to the top right of the leggett. They’re just temporarily poked in there awaiting deployment.


The thatcher starts to work at the bottom of each section, building up the thatch coat in layers. Each layer has to be densely packed if the roof is to remain watertight and then securely lashed down before the next one is applied. It’s a lot like upholstery in many ways, if the foundation isn’t right nothing put on top will be able to correct it.


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The new straw is blended into the existing coat as the thatcher works. It obviously stands out like a sore thumb at the moment, but in a few months it will have weathered back and be difficult to distinguish from the old.


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The finished patch


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After the ridge, areas of thatching around chimneys are the most vulnerable to wear over time. On each side of this chimney depressions had formed, possibly where rainwater runs down the brickwork and on to the roof. Here, on the back slope, the depression was quite deep. The thatcher fixed this by packing straw under the cement flashing to form a new chimney apron.


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The finished job.


The Precipitous Bank was once home to 30 or so large conifers which towered above the cottage. As we were purchasing the house our surveyor, and later a thatcher, recommended they came down. Obviously we’ve done that but the historic lack of air circulation has taken its toll and clearly this slope is in less good condition than the front, even though it is in fact a more recent roof.


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The front slope after combing


A near perfect coat and a good illustration of the need to have the very large spruce tree down as well. The longer we can keep the roof looking like this the longer we put off that humongous bill..

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief foray into thatching. Come back in three years when it’ll be time to do the ridge!

Raising the roof pinterest

For Part 1 of this tale go to ‘Previous’ at the top of the page, or click HERE.

Linking this post to blog share learn, a weekend blog hop at LivingWithBatman.com HERE 


2017-10-24T19:32:43+00:00November 5th, 2015|Tags: |


  1. derrickjknight November 5, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Great post. Informative and well illustrated. I don’t think I’ll wit 3 years to come back, especially now I’ve spotted the robin in your header picture

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks Derrick and welcome!
      I’d really like to get a better picture of that robin. So far, he has not been cooperative.

  2. annincumbria November 5, 2015 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Hi Jessica I haven’t commented for a but have been following all your goings on I bet you both are feeling relieved that the trees are gone and the chimney and roof are repaired and watertight for the winter week done????

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Ann, great to hear from you whenever you get a chance. The summer went by so quickly and before we realised it we were into autumn with a lot to do. So we’ve had a bit of a push to get things ready for winter, especially with all the reports that it’s going to be a cold one. The best bit will be having an open fire again. The draughts will still creep around the cottage, but maybe it won’t feel quite so bad.

  3. annincumbria November 5, 2015 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    That should be well done

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Predictive text has a lot to answer for 🙂

  4. Jacqueline November 5, 2015 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Thatching is such an amazing skill isn’t it Jessica ? Thank goodness we still have people who can do it …. I do hope that young people will still take it up as a trade. I guess there are plenty of thatched buildings to keep people in a job !! …. and, removing the moss has made such a difference too. XXXX

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      It’s a hard life but, yes, I hope there will be enough new apprentices coming through. Apparently there are a lot more new builds being thatched these days too, especially in conservation areas, so there should be plenty of work.

  5. Sam November 5, 2015 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    Fascinating. The newly combed thatch and new patches look very neat. What a good job you got rid of that big tree…

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      I don’t think we will ever regret taking down the tree. Apart from the benefit to the roof, the extra light we now have is amazing. It’s getting more noticeable as the sun is getting lower and shining straight in through the windows with no branches to block it.

  6. woolythymes November 5, 2015 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    i’ve always loved the look of a thatched roof home but never had any idea how they happened!!! love this post. 🙂

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      Thanks Steph. It’s a lot harder than it looks too. I was watching a video last night about some students learning the trade, they were struggling a bit!

  7. Christina November 5, 2015 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Love all the information you manage to include in your posts, Jessica. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      It does feel like an adventure, there is always something new to learn. But if we want to do the renovation properly then the old ways are usually the best.

  8. Sue Garrett November 5, 2015 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Fascinating. I wonder do birds ever do much damage to the thatch as I can imagine they would see acting as quite a good source of nesting material.

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      They do indeed. I remember being on the phone one day and gazing out of the window to see the woodpecker making off with great chunks of straw in his beak. I suppose that’s where the practice of covering the roof with chicken wire comes into its own. But methods vary across the country and in Devon they don’t normally do that.

  9. CJ November 5, 2015 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful job has been made of it, it really is an art. And how interesting to see how it’s done. Long may it last! CJ xx

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      Long may it last indeed! Thanks CJ.

  10. ginaferrari November 5, 2015 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    I love the look of thatch and we have a lot in our villages but I’m so glad I don’t have the responsibility of one!

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      It is a mixed blessing. It’s very attractive to look at but prospective buyers need to know just what they are letting themselves in for if they take it on. And have a proper survey done so the future expense can be quantified and planned for.

  11. homeslip November 5, 2015 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    What a good job your thatchers have done. Well done for getting it sorted before the worst of the winter weather arrives.

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 10:47 pm - Reply

      It was a big hole under the chimney, it wouldn’t be good if water had got in under there over the winter. It’s a relief that it’s done.

  12. Jo November 5, 2015 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Such an interesting post. That’s another job to cross off the list, and the much bigger job a few years down the line that you can put to the back of your mind for the time being.

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      I hope so Jo, barring fireworks and falling trees..

  13. Josephine November 5, 2015 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Such an interesting post !
    Those men really are craftsmen.
    Looks like the repairs are all good for a few more years.

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      The apprenticeship takes four years so there’s a lot to learn and skills do indeed need to be honed. I believe there are some women thatchers now too… stronger than me! Thanks Jo.

  14. Brian Skeys November 5, 2015 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Thatching is one of the great rural skills, like Blacksmithing and hedge laying. I would think it is interesting and enjoyable to watch them work.

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      Very much so, although they work so fast I did miss crucial bits!

  15. bumbleandme November 5, 2015 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Wow, doesn’t it look fantastic! Lovely read, thanks! X

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 11:13 pm - Reply

      The colour of the new straw is already beginning to fade with all the rain we’ve had. By the end of winter the patchiness should be gone. Thanks Hannah.

  16. frayed at the edge November 5, 2015 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    We loved the thatched houses when we lived in Hampshire, but they are few and far between here.

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 11:15 pm - Reply

      If I remember correctly there’s one on Skye, with rocks hung all around the roof to weigh it down against the wind!

  17. croftgarden November 5, 2015 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    I know the English language is changing all the time, but it is rather sad to see many of the older words disappearing – inevitabel I suppose as the old crafts, trades and tools disappear. Mispalced nostalgia, but they sound so much nicer than many of the new words which are thrust into our language.
    Lovely to see your renovated thatch – such a shame that maintaining our older properties is like fuelling a black-hole.

    • Jessica November 5, 2015 at 11:23 pm - Reply

      It’s one of the most satisfying parts of doing this project, delving into the old ways of doing things and learning more about traditional crafts. I remember in our previous cottage watching a carpenter shape a beam with an adze, beats some new fangled electrical gizmo any day.

  18. Charlie@Seattle Trekker November 5, 2015 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    I know that your house-cottage has to seem like a lot of work at times, I hope you can still enjoy it’s amazing uniqueness…What a wonderful lifestyle.

    • Jessica November 6, 2015 at 8:04 am - Reply

      It is hard work at the moment. The plan is to have a few years living in it when it is done before we get too ancient to keep climbing all the steps. I hope it works out that way, I take nothing for granted.

  19. Kris P November 6, 2015 at 4:23 am - Reply

    What a job! I’m sure you’re glad to have it behind you – if only for 3 years.

    • Jessica November 6, 2015 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      It was the anxiety about the garden underneath which was the worst thing. Still, I’m told the ridge work requires scaffolding. Maybe adds to the expense but at least it keeps the boots off the soil!

  20. germac4 November 6, 2015 at 5:30 am - Reply

    Very interesting post! It look wonderful now without the moss, and the new straw so neatly blending in. I’d never have known what was involved in the upkeep of a thatched cottage…a labour of love!

    • Jessica November 6, 2015 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      It is a bit like that. Especially as the budget is limited. We have to pick and choose what we do, pay for the things that need specialist expertise and do as much as we can ourselves.

  21. Julie November 6, 2015 at 9:02 am - Reply

    The light in your first photograph of the thatchers tools is absolutely beautiful, I would happily buy a card with that image on. Lovely second post on your roof too.

    • Jessica November 6, 2015 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      I couldn’t resist that shot. Apart from moving a bag of something or other out of the way I didn’t change anything either, the tools had been left just like that at the end of Day 1. A bucolic vignette!

  22. pagedogs November 6, 2015 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    What wonderful posts! I love the look of a beautifully thatched roof–almost like a horse’s coat. I may have missed this, but I’m curious as to what you have on the ceiling under the thatch. Is the thatch exposed underneath or is there another layer of something? If it’s exposed, do you get thatch litter raining down on you as it ages?

    • Jessica November 6, 2015 at 10:48 pm - Reply

      Yes and no! The lower part of the roof slope is visible in the upstairs rooms where it’s covered with lime plaster and painted, effectively sealing it. There’s a small loftspace in the apex of the roof and here you can see the underside of the thatch in places. It’s very dusty up there as you can imagine. Sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk I hear bits of debris fall down on to the flat upper part of the ceiling!

  23. Backlane Notebook November 6, 2015 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    Brilliant skill, brilliant tools and beautifully photographed. I love seeing patching on anything worthy of restoration.

    • Jessica November 6, 2015 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      I hadn’t even noticed until the thatcher pointed it out, but we can see places in the roof where it has been patched in the past. Layers of history.

  24. bittster November 7, 2015 at 12:05 am - Reply

    What an interesting story. Not an easy or cheap thing to get into but your roof looks much fresher with the repairs and grooming as well as the attention paid to the chimney.
    Living under a giant compost pile. I like that idea, very hobbit-esque 🙂

    • Jessica November 7, 2015 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      There is probably about the same amount of livestock in it as a compost pile too. Best not to think about that too much..

  25. elaine November 7, 2015 at 7:28 am - Reply

    The men have done a good job on your roof. Thatched roofs are such an expensive responsibility aren’t they. One in our village has just been completely re-thatched – it took weeks but was fascinating to watch the men at work and the craftsmanship involved.

    • Jessica November 7, 2015 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      I dread to think how much that must have cost. It should look fabulous though.

  26. kate@barnhouse November 7, 2015 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Absolutely fascinating posts, so well illustrated too. Thank you, Jessica.

    • Jessica November 7, 2015 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Kate.

  27. Julieanne November 7, 2015 at 11:21 am - Reply

    I enjoyed both these posts, very informative. I didn’t know you could repair part of the thatch and remove the moss etc, I thought the whole thing needed replacing. Seems obvious now I’ve read your post. It’s looking good and with those conifers removed, will hopefully put off the time for the big bill. I admit that I rather like the idea of a wren nesting in it, but then it’s not my roof!

    • Jessica November 7, 2015 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      The wrens were OK, I must admit I got rather attached to them. Every time we went out through the back door all the little beaks appeared wanting more bits of sandwich!

  28. Jennifer November 7, 2015 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    I’m really sorry not to have commented on your thatching posts sooner, but I have really enjoyed them. I’ve never really seen a thatched roof in person before and I had absolutely no idea what went into making one. Your posts about the roof are fascinating, thank you so much for sharing. I’ve learned a lot! Hope you’re doing well, Jessica.

    • Jessica November 7, 2015 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jennifer. I think I’m about ready for a rest, it’s been a busy few weeks. But good to know we’ve made some progress before winter and will have a safer and hopefully warmer house than was the case last year.

  29. casa mariposa November 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    This is fascinating to me because thatching isn’t a part of American culture. Sometimes your blog feels like a fairy tale to me since it’s the closest we come to thatched cottages here. Your cottage is beautiful but I agree with all the wildlife that it’s a great place to live. If I were a wren or a mouse, I’d move in, too!

    • Jessica November 7, 2015 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      The wrens are OK, they keep to their nest. Perhaps pinch a bit of the straw and the moss. The mice are more of a problem, chewing wires in the roofspace etc. It’s all had to be rewired with armoured cable!

  30. CherryPie November 7, 2015 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    We see many thatched roofs in Shropshire and know that great skill is needed to thatch a roof.

    I have really enjoyed you posts on thatching, they have given me more insight to the skills involved.

    • Jessica November 8, 2015 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      Thanks Cherie. Skill and stamina.

  31. Angie November 8, 2015 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed both posts Jessica – very informative. I had a rough idea on just what is involved having watched way to many DIY shows in the past.
    I had no idea though that critters would take up residence, although thinking about it I should have known that. Very talented tradesmen, worth their weight in gold.

    • Jessica November 8, 2015 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      There is something living in the roofspace above my desk. Now it’s getting colder I frequently hear it scuttling about. And when we had the floorboards up there was evidence of mice there too. Goes with the territory I suppose. Thanks Angie.

  32. Sarah November 9, 2015 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    On our walk in a nearby village over the weekend I was looking more closely at the thatched roofs,( after having read your previous post.) It looks as if many needed the treatment that you are having! Sarah x

    • Jessica November 9, 2015 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      They don’t stay looking pristine for long, unfortunately, especially in our west country climate. I don’t remember seeing nearly as many green roofs in the south east.

  33. welshhillsagain November 9, 2015 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    I think you are very brave with the whole thatch roof thing. I love them and my family are in Devon so it resonates. Our ancient and wonky slates seem an easy option! It does look beautiful though.

    • Jessica November 10, 2015 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      I was up on the drive today and it is amazing how quickly Devon rain has changed the appearance of the new straw. It already looks almost integrated with the old, after just a couple of weeks.

  34. rachel November 10, 2015 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    That was fun – and took me right back to when I documented the re-thatching of P-up-the-road’s roof a year or so ago. It’s all darkened now, but for the very few months when it was bright new straw, it looked like something straight out of a fairy tale book. And the poor thatcher was waiting for his second rotator cuff operation – thatching is a skilled job that is hard on the craftsman.

    Between you, friend P, and The Gardener, I will never ever be brave (or foolhardy?) enough to live under thatch, but it’s very interesting – and sweetly attractive – to have in such numbers in the South West.

    • Jessica November 10, 2015 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      I remember your friend’s cottage and it did look good, still does I’m sure. It’s not an easy life for a thatcher is it, despite the idyllic view of it from the ground. They were lucky enough to have a couple of sunny autumn days whilst they were here. A different matter altogether when the cold wind doth blow.

  35. Em November 20, 2015 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Just catching up…..I think patches look lovely; like you care! x

    • Jessica November 20, 2015 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      It needed doing, already you’d be hard pressed to spot where they are!

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