Thatchers use Norfolk sedge for roof repairs

Thatched roofs of two South Norfolk churches have been repaired in a £25,000 conservation project.

The Churches Conservation Trust raised the funds for re-ridging the thatched roof at Hales and nearby Heckingham.

Kate Roma, who is the CCT’s local community officer, and lives in Norwich, said that work was completed at the grade I listed St Margaret, Hales, by Gary Stokes, of Rockland St Mary, before Christmas.

He used Norfolk sedge grown at Hickling and Barton. A thatcher with 35 years’ experience, he likes using locally-grown sedge and reed. The quality has improved over the past four decades, he said. “The sedge is a tough material which sometimes can be challenging to use partly because of its serrated edges. But it is ideal.

“Sedge is traditionally used in Norfolk and Suffolk because it is stronger but other parts of the country typically use straw which is much easier to work but not so long-lasting,” said Mr Stokes.

The ridge at Hales, which has a unique and traditional Norfolk design, should now last for about 20 years. “Normally, the ridge may need some attention after about 15 years. We removed moss and other growth from the south side of the roof too,” he added.

Norwich City fan Mr Stokes – hence his scarf on the front cover – worked with his brother-in-law Alan Wotherspoon and Luke Mason, of Rockland St Mary.

At St Gregory’s, Heckingham, the ridge was repaired. A family connection came to the fore with an unplanned repair task. “We were going to replace the ridge on the porch with sedge. The thatched roof was in such a poor state that it needed replacement,” said Mr Stokes.

Fortunately, funds were available. The replacement reed has been grown by the Mason family, who cut it from Haddiscoe Island just a couple of miles away. “It was a family affair as Luke helped to re-thatch the porch using reed grown and cut by his family,” he said.

Donations were received from individuals and the All Churches Trust, Bacon Charitable Trust, Jill Franklin Charitable Trust and Geoffrey Watling Charity.

Photograph: Churches Conservation Trust, October 2020. Note the thatcher’s Norwich City scarf at the bottom of the picture.

View the video: conservationTrust/430356408355476