Museum News

Thatching in Action

By 11 May 2023May 15th, 2023No Comments
Thatching at the weald & dowlnland living museum

Visitors have been able to see thatching in action at the Museum. We’ve recently had a team of thatchers in to carry out conservation work on several of the buildings at the Museum including Hambrook Barn. We also repaired the two thatched huts at Bayleaf Farmstead that were created to represent a pig sty and goose hut. These are not relocated historic buildings, they were built to be in-keeping with the farmstead using reclaimed and authentic materials.


Meet the Thatchers

Thatchers in action at the weald & downland living museumChris Tomkins has been conserving our thatched buildings since 1987. He first visited as a young boy with his parents and has had many memorable moments here since. Such as hosting The National Society of Master Thatchers (NSMT) at the Museum and meeting members of the International Thatcher’s Meeting which included thatchers from Holland, France, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa and even Japan. Thatchers in action at the weald & dowlnand living museum

Thatching in action

Over the last few weeks, Chris and his team have been repairing and cleaning the slopes of Hambrook Barn as well as putting in a new ridge made from thatching straw and hazel spars. The thatch on Hambrook has a bottom layer of water reed from Norfolk from when it was re-erected. Previous work to Hambrook included repairing the slopes of the water reed in 1988/1989 and fixing a new coat of combed wheat reed stapled to the old water reed coat with hazel spars in 2013.

Sd 2023 04 pickering andy daryl mallows dsc 3859 1The pig sty was erected and thatched by Museum staff following a lesson with Chris in 2005. Second hand water reed was used that had been taken off local roofs in Aldwick. This month saw all of that replaced with new water reed and a straw (ridge) from Turgis Court on the Duke of Wellington’s Estate. 

The bee hut thatching is also being replaced and repairs have been carried out to the goose hut, which has been thatched several times as it suffers from rat damage. The grain from the goose feeders were hung inside the building for when the geese were put away at night and of course all the split grain attracted rats. Chris’ team will prepare and fix the remaining existing thatch to the timber structure then staple a new layer of combed wheat reed (straw) using hazel spars to the old thatch underneath.

Photos by Anne Purkiss