Wednesday, 22 February 2012

English Thatched Country Cottages and Staddle Stones

Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, rushes or even heather. It is an ecologically friendly roof, and these days is not the fire hazard it was hundreds of years ago. Gradually, thatch became a mark of poverty and the number of thatched properties gradually declined, as did the number of professional thatchers. It has become much more popular in the UK over the past 30 years, and is now a symbol of wealth rather than poverty.
These village fire hooks, which I saw in the little village of West Lavington, Wiltshire are from the 17th C. They were used to tear burning straw from the thatched roofs of houses and haystacks in order to prevent the fire from spreading. They were last used in 1932 when a burning haystack became a fire hazard to nearby cottages.
The mushroom shaped stone at the entrance to the driveway is called a Staddle Stone. A Granary building would have stood on the top of several of this type of stone. The mushroom shape is to prevent the rats getting into the building.
This is an example of a Granary dated from 1800. I took this photo in Devon. The corn was stored in wooden bins ranged round the walls. 
The farm that H's family owned in Surrey had a large wooden shingle tiled barn cum granary standing on this type of stone, and it is still intact to this day.
This is a pen and ink drawing we have of their Surrey Farmhouse, which was drawn by H's cousin. I have just taken a section of the drawing so that you can see the Granary/Barn.

24 comments:

  1. These houses are simply so beautiful! Here in Norway one can still see roofs with ... I don't really know what it's called in english, it's not thatch, but it is vegetation, and a really good isolation against cold weather. They also look very beautiful and they also are now a symbol of wealth instead of poverty... well, times change!

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    1. Dear Demie - the houses are pretty. They are known here as chocolate box houses because chocolate makers used to feature them on their boxes. I have seen houses in Norway with a living grass roof, is that what you were thinking about? Hope you have got your blogger problems sorted.

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  2. I have always admired the houses with thatched roofs. Your explanations and your photos are wonderful. Thanks for joining my blog and I am pleased to enlist in yours too and to add it to my lovely blog list. I will come back! Christa

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    1. Hello Christa - thank you for your visit and for becoming a follower. I am so pleased that you enjoyed the post, thatched roof cottages do have a certain old world charm about them which people seem to like.

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  3. Hi Rosemary

    Thank you for this fascinating post. I lived in a thatched house as a child and loved it. I love your explanation of the mushroom shaped stones beneath the grain shed. As always thanks for an interesting and educational post

    To a great day

    Helen

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    1. Hello Helen - How lovely that you once lived in a thatch house, was that in Ireland? Glad you enjoy learning about the staddle stones. You see them for sale in antique sales, but sometimes people do not realise what there original use was. Thanks for your visit.

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  4. Dear Rosemary, What a wonderland of a tour you have taken us on! An exceptional post. ox Gina

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    1. You are so generous with your comments Gina - thank you. I was very happy to have you join me on the tour.

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  5. Hello Rosemary,
    very beautiful pictures! Amazing house!
    A hug

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    1. Dear Antonio - thank you for your very kind comment. I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the houses. Take care.

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  6. I am thrilled you showed and explained the thatched roofs. They are the stuff of fairy tales to this girl from the American South. Funny you said that about the rats. I just arrived at our old house (old to us at 15o plus years) and we have a squirrel between the walls some how.

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    1. Dear Olive - I am so pleased that you found the thatched cottages thrilling. You must visit England sometime and see them for yourself. Those staddle stones were a very clever design to keep the rats out, but what a problem you have with a squirrel between the walls!!!
      In the late Spring I will show you a Tudor house, aged 500 years old, so keep watching.

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  7. Beautiful photos, Rosemary. I'm so glad that thatched roofs have not disappeared because I find them to be incredibly picturesque.

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    1. Dear Rosemary - they are picturesque. In fact all of the cottages I have shown here were in one little village, so I did not have to go hunting for them. When you see them as you drive along you do tend to say “ah look at that pretty little cottage” even though we are familiar with them.

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  8. Hi, Rosemary - I've always regarded the thatched rooves as immensely charming, and I'm glad the art hasn't died off. I seem to remember that Queen Elizabeth was gifted with a miniature house with a thatched roof when she was a child. I wonder if that still exists?

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    1. Queen Elizabeth's house does still exist Mark. In fact I was reading an article about it recently. Princess Beatrice has been responsible for a full restoration job on it to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. It is now in spick and span order and is delightful. It even has a 1930's kitchen with working cooker and fridge.

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  9. Dear Rosemary,
    What delightful photos of the typical English thatched roof cottage.. I have always loved them, and like you say, a sign of wealth.. i think they are very difficult to come by today.!
    How great that you have a photo of the house and granery. Its lovely.
    Lovely blog as always Rosemary.

    val xxx

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    1. Dear Val - glad you enjoyed seeing them. It is surprising as quite a lot of builders are actually building new properties with thatch roofs, perhaps because they are environmentally friendly and also keep the house cosy.

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  10. A wonderful collection of houses, and examples of thatch. I particularly love your granary: I see those little mushrooms all over the place; I had forgotten seeing one propped up: I don't recall where, may have been the Weald and Downland museum/ I do love that place...

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    1. You are right Kate, there is a granary at the Weald and Downland museum standing on staddle stones, it is rather charming as it has a thatched roof. The one I took a photo of is at Arlington Court, near Barnstaple, Devon. They were such lovely bits of vernacular architecture it is a shame that so many have been lost and their staddle stones are left languishing in gardens.

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  11. How did I miss this post when you first did it? Being American and in love with England I adore thatched cottages, and staddle stones. They delight me whenever I see them. I did a blog post about staddle stones a few years ago, they are so enchanting. x

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    1. Strangely I am in the middle of another thatched cottage post, and you may have answered a query that I had regarding this one!

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