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  Inside Out - South West of England: Monday January 12, 2004

Thatching terminology for the beginner

Thatched cottages
Impress your friends with a unique vocabulary

The ancient craft of thatching has a wealth of terminology that almost forms a language.

Brush up your thatch-speak here.


Apron: Single sided section of ridge to protect thatch under chimney or window
Arris: Rail - see 'Tilt'
Baby: (Long Straw) - see 'Roller'
Back Filling: Laid above battens and under main thatch, used to adjust the tilt of reed or straw
Band / Bond: Twist of straw, reed withy or bramble used to tie a bundle of thatch to roof
Barge: See 'Gable'
Barge Board: Solid board used as an alternative to turned gable
Batting / Bolting: Bundle of tied, threshed straw
Biddle: Working platform hooked into thatch
Binder: See 'Rod' and 'Sway'
Binder: Reaper for cutting standing corn
Bolder Reed: Norfolk Reed bundle containing mostly bulrush
Bottle: Tied yelm of straw for setting eave of gable
Box Gutter: Leaded gutter formed behind chimney
Brotch / Broach: See 'Spar'
Brow: The course after the eaves course
Bunch: Bundle of water reed 2' circumference, 1' above butt, usually at the tie
Butt: Thicker end of a bundle of reed or straw
Butting: Arranging the ends of the reed by dropping bundles or nitches onto board
Cheek: Side of window
Chimney Block: See 'Apron'
Coat: Layer of entire thatch
Cock Up / Cockscomb: Topmost bundle of straw turned to shed water back onto the ridge
Continental Bundle: Imported bundle of water reed 1m around circumference or butt, usually tied twice
Compty: Substandard materials or thatch
Combed Wheat Reed: Straw which has had the corn leaf and weed removed - varieties include Aquilla, Marris Wiggen and Marris Huntsman
Course: Layer of reed or straw laid across the roof
Crook: See 'Iron'
Dolly: See 'Roller' and 'Bottle'
Dressing: Pushing reed into final position
Drift: See 'Legget'
Dutchman: Type of Legget originating from the Netherlands
Eave: First course of thatch
Fathom: Six bundles of water reed
Flue: See 'Gable'
Fargle: A goodly handful of steel sways
Feather: Seed head on water reed
Flag: Leaf on straw
Fleaking: A weave of water reed laid over the rafters instead of timber battens
Gable End: The overhang of thatch at a gable of the roof
Gadd: Cut length of hazel between 1" and 3" in diameter
Gaddule: Bundle of gadds
Hazel: Corylus Aveliana (L) - used for spars, sways and rods - said to be hardier than withy
Hook: See 'Iron'
Iron: Thatching nail used to fix sway to rafter, trapping thatch
Knuckle: Handful of straw, bent double
Ladder: types Pole. Push-up and Hanger
Legget: Tool that grips the ends of the reeds and pushes them into position
Ligger: See 'Rod'
Long Straw: Straw thrashed but not combed. Varieties of wheat : Little Josh, Red Standard, Square Headed Master
Net: A ¾" galvanised wire or ¾" polythene used to protect thatch from bird damage
Needle: Used to stich on the thatch
Nitch: Bundle of combed reed of weight 28lb or 14lb
Northampton Roll: Rolled and rodded gable end
Peg: See 'Spar'
Pinacle: Topmost bundle of ridging material used to shed water back onto the ridge
Pricker: Length of gadd about a yard long, used to fix sways on rick thatches
Ridge: Covering of supple straw or sedge grass, laid along apex of roof to bind and protect the main thatch. Types include wrap-over, butt up, flush, straight cut and patterned. Patterns include dragons' teeth, diamond, scalloped, clubbed, herring-bone and crossed.
Reeding Pin: See 'Spragger'
Roller: Continuous parallel bundle of thatch used to build up ridge
Rod: Hazel or withy, used to hold down thatch on the surface. Types include split, unsplit, apex, kettle and muff.
Rutland Cap: Peaked end at gable
Rye: Type of soft straw used for thatching
Sedge: Marsh Grass (Cladius Mariscus) used for ridging
Server: Skilled labourer
Set: See 'Tilt'
Sheaf: Bundle of unthrashed straw - 8 sheaves make a stook, 16 make a stock
Slapping: First course of ridge
Skirt: See 'Slapping'
Spar: A split length of hazel or withy, pointed and twisted to form a staple
Spit: See 'Spar'
Spot Board: Board for 'butting up' of reed bundles
Spragger: Pointed length of steel used to temporarily hold materials
Springing: See ' Tilt'
Stalch: A strip of thatch worked from eave to ridge
Standing Crop: The thatching materials whilst growing
Stool: Clump of Hazel
Straw: All types of straw which may be used to thatch - wheat straw is considered most suitable
Sway: Steel or hazel rod used with irons to secure thatch
Thrashing: Method of removing grain from straw
Tilt: The angle formed by tightening the sway between the top and the butt of the reed
Tilting Fillet: A 'V' section of timber fixed to the rafter to set the tilt
Twisle: A crank for twisting straw for grass bonds
Verge: See 'Barge'
Wadd: See 'Bottle'
Wand: Length of unsplit willow or hazel, less than 1" diam
Water Reed: Phragmites Communis obtained traditionally from East Anglia now additionally from European countries
Wimble: See 'Twisle'
Withy: Willow used for rods and sways - it is said to be less prone to woodworm - varieties include Black bar, Dicky Medoes, Swallow tail and Whissender
Yelm: Drawn and wet straw ready for laying

Return to the thatch story

See also ...

Inside Out: South West
More great stories

BBC Nature and the Environment

On the rest of the web
The National Society of Master Thatchers
Thatching in the 21st Century
Living with thatch
The Arboricultural Association
The National Trust

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