Thatch is a traditional roofing material in many parts of England. It has rich regional traditions that contribute to the local distinctiveness of vernacular buildings. Thatch also has important archaeological value; for example, in some roofs medieval thatch survives below more recent layers.
Historic England encourages the conservation of traditional thatch and seeks to:
- Recognise regional diversity
- Conserve the character of historic buildings and areas
- Protect material of archaeological importance
- Sustain traditional materials, techniques and skills
However, conserving traditional thatch is a challenge; there are occasional shortages of good quality materials; some thatchers prefer to use imported materials and methods rather than home-grown thatch prepared and applied in the traditional way; and the understanding and skills required to conserve traditional thatch are slowly being lost. In addition, there is sometimes confusion about the need for listed building consent when a change of thatching material or technique is proposed.
Historic England is developing technical advice on thatch and thatching, which we will be consulting on later this year. In the meantime, information about the history, deterioration and repair of traditional thatch is included in the Historic England volume Roofing in the Practical Building Conservation series, and advice on the general principles to take into account when considering the repair or alteration of a historic thatched roof are included in Historic England Advice Note 2, Making Changes to Heritage Assets.
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