An image of a thatched roof
Example of a thatched roof. © Historic England
Example of a thatched roof. © Historic England

Thatching Advice

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.

2020-21 material supply update

Historic England is aware that the 2020 thatching straw harvest was poor in many parts of the country. This was caused by very wet conditions during the previous autumn and winter, which meant that, in some places, it was impossible to drill the seed, and some of what was sown failed to germinate. This resulted in reduced yields. There then followed drought conditions in spring 2020 which meant that many of the crops did not grow very tall. Many thatching material suppliers and thatchers are concerned that this will result in shortages of thatching straw in 2021.

We are contacting suppliers and thatchers across the country to gauge the scale of the problem and discuss possible approaches to coping with any shortages. We will soon publish initial guidance aimed at thatchers, building owners and conservation officers.

Learn more

  • View the recording of the 2021 webinar on Conservation of traditional thatch. Thatch is the quintessential English country roof covering, contributing to the character and appearance of individual buildings as well as creating a sense of local distinctiveness. However, the conservation of traditional thatched roofs faces a number of challenges, not least the availability of suitable material for repair. This webinar looks at the materials traditionally used for thatching, how thatch contributes to the significance of historic buildings, and how to sustain that significance when maintaining and repairing historic thatched roofs.
  • 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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