Thatched Cottages

Category:   Cottage Rentals
Those delightful thatched cottages dotted around the beautiful villages of southern England really are as cosy as they look. Cool in summer and warm in winter.

They do indeed grow from the ground, for the walls are made from local materials. On the rolling green downs they are made of the chalk that also lies beneath their foundations.

In many other areas the walls are of cob, a material that has been used since prehistoric times. It consists also of local materials, clay, earth, sand, and straw mixed together with water. Brilliant stuff as ecological and green as it can possibly be and as futuristic as tomorrow. One of the world's sustainable materials. Becoming popular again as realisation has set in of its survivability over time and its malleability of form. It could even be used in areas of grumbling ground shakes.

Then there is flint and brick. Used too for centuries, but for all types of building from castles and churches to cottages in southern England. It consists of the local knapped flintstone, mixed with stone and brick rubble mortared together. Beautiful ornamental patterns abound among these buildings using different designs with the varied materials. Very creative. What skilled craftsman.

Timbers, black with age, upright and across, support the building material. The timbers from local long gone old forests still proudly adorn the cottages hundreds of years on.

Walls are eighteen inches thick, solid and have stood the test of time. Their builders knew a thing or two. Many of these lovely old places have stood for five hundred years and have seen many a family through their lifetimes. What tales those walls could tell.

Thatch these days is quite often Norfolk reed. In past times it would have been stalks of the wheat crop, a material that is still also used but usually now specially grown for modern wheat crops have a shorter stem. These roofs can last for nearly 50 years if laid properly. Another material from prehistoric times from all over the world that is still in use today. It is the same system that was used to top the old hay ricks on the farms.

Thatch keeps out the water and the weather. It is a system of layering bundles of thatch about two feet in diameter with the base of the bundle fixed to the beams of the roof and fastened in place by wooden pegs. Further layers are placed on top of each other, the last ones fixed firmly to the ridge.

That wire netting seen on some thatched roofs was to keep the birds and little animals out who tried to make their homes among the cosy thatch.

Thatchers are very skilled men. Not so many around these days. Most are in business for themselves. In centuries gone by an estate would always have a thatcher amongst its staff, although that person probably had other skills as well.

Inside these attractive places some still have the ingle nook fireplace. Doors and windows were not tight and draughts in the winter were cold. The ingle nook made a haven from those draughts.

Large fireplaces were normal. Logs had to be brought in from the woods, cut and chopped there or chopped at home and stored in the woodhouse that stood alongside the cottage. Large logs -- less work chopping and they made grand warm fires. Large fireplaces were used too for cooking.

Most of those old fireplaces have been replaced by modern convenient and efficient solid fuel stoves.

Windows are not large, but the window sills are nearly as deep as the thickness of the wall, charming holders of the pretty vase of flowers or an exquisite ornament. Upstairs there are frequently appealing dormer windows.

Pretty curtains flutter at the open window in the soft breeze of the summer afternoon, or cozily close out the world of a winter's evening.

Ceilings and doors are not high, people were smaller five hundred years ago. Many folk now must stoop to pass through a doorway.

The cottage garden for the villager fed the family. There might be flowers in the front but the back garden was cultivated with vegetables and herbs. Herbs for cooking and medicine. Nowadays flower gardens and lawns adorn the cottages making attractive picture postcard, chocolate box scenarios.

Village history can be seen in the juxtaposition of these old houses. Two or three houses around a mill, probably now just a raceway with or without its water wheel, were very likely the cottages of the mill owner, his family or his employees. Several round an estate or farm were the tied cottages of the farm laborers.

Most cottages were built as two rooms upstairs and two down. Rows of two or three have now been converted to one dwelling. A cottage on its own has quite likely had an extension. Scarce are the originals.

Nowadays these thatched cottages have been modernized and are lived in by folk who do not work in the village but commute to the town or city. Many are only weekend cottages. The old villager is an endangered species, but the thatched cottage lives on.

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