thatching industry has undergone a recent boom in counties
such as Dorset where a number of new developments are being
built to meet increasing demand. These developments have provided
a crossover between traditional thatch and newly built property.
Existing Schemes have proved very popular among buyers looking
for the ‘rural charm’ of thatch with the layout
of a modern home. Due to the maintenance issues synonymous
with thatch, these developments are less likely to have universal
appeal but this is part or their attraction to buyers.
cottages have continued to be popular into the 21st century
among those who aspire to own a traditional rural home. It
is interesting to know that heat insulation properties of
thatch are higher in many cases than modern homes built in
conventional materials. Thatch enthusiasts remark how their
homes remain cool in summer and keep warm during the winter
months. With the drive for better heat efficiency and fuel
economy in homes, thatch performs well within government guidelines.
For this reason, the reintroduction of thatch buildings makes
sense from both environmental and aesthetic points of view.
still exist many misconceptions among potential buyers as
to the practicalities of owning a thatch property. There is
a high level of anxiety with regards to fire safety and home
insurance premiums. Proportionally, thatched property fires
are no more likely than conventional homes. Due to bad press
the risk of fire had unfairly discouraged potential thatch
owners and insurance groups. Safety measures were needed to
reinstall faith in the craft and provide the motivation for
new properties to be built.
a new system of thatching devised jointly by Dorset Fire and
Rescue Service and the Building Research Establishment has
helped encourage the recent rejuvenation of thatching. Under
the ‘Dorset Model’ guidelines “…all
new thatched properties must be built with a fire barrier
offering 30 minutes of protection. Smoke alarms must be fitted
in the roof and chimneys must rise at least 1.8metres above
the height of the roof ridge.”
appeal of living in a traditional style home is becoming more
obtainable as the number and range of schemes increases. The
fact that people have more money to invest means that developments
will continue to expand in number and location. Due to the
type of construction needed with new build thatch it has not
as yet been viable to build two-bedroom homes. Greater research
is underway to help lower the costs of construction. Typical
newly built thatched homes are larger family homes with spaces
designed for modern living.
you consider the historic occupancy of thatch cottages we
see that this trend is a reversal from tradition when cottages
were home to farm workers and were typically one or two bedrooms.
It is important to consider the impact that increasing house
prices have upon local communities and the need for smaller
homes if rural life is to be protected. In many areas local
people are being forced out of the housing market due to high
demand for second homes.
English Heritage, which
works to protect and conserve traditional vernacular architecture
commented, “Thatch is part if the built heritage of
this country. It must be protected from further loss and also
from inappropriate alteration”. It is interesting to
consider therefore, whether new developments are in the interests
of rural communities or rather to satisfy new buyers demand.
Indeed the principal motivation in a return to thatching is
from planners. It remains to be seen whether new thatch developments
will mark the return to traditional quality homes for the
local community, or simply creating the image of a bygone
era for town dwellers.
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