House Beautiful (UK) - - Contents -

Thatched cot­tages

They’ve been part of our lives since the Mid­dle Ages, and are of­ten thought of as quintessen­tially Bri­tish – it’s no won­der so many of us yearn to live in a thatched cot­tage. Most com­mon in the ‘corn-grow­ing’ coun­ties of Nor­folk, Suf­folk, Kent, Devon and Dorset, thatched cot­tages can be found across the coun­try. Even for new homes in ru­ral ar­eas, thatch re­mains a pop­u­lar sus­tain­able al­ter­na­tive to tile or slate.

The thatch it­self dif­fers ac­cord­ing to lo­ca­tion – reeds are used in the marsh­lands of East Anglia, heather in Scot­land – but wher­ever the cot­tage is, there’s usu­ally a po­ten­tial buyer chas­ing it. ‘Thatched cot­tages are a peren­nial favourite,’ says es­tate agent Fenella Rus­sell-Smith of Marc­hand Pe­tit in Mod­bury, Devon. ‘They’re so at­trac­tive, with lots of his­tory and char­ac­ter.’ Thatched roofs were in­vented in the days when wat­tle and daub walls were too light­weight to sup­port a heavy roof. By the 18th cen­tury, they had be­come a cor­ner­stone of the English ‘pic­turesque’ move­ment. Artists be­gan to cre­ate paint­ings ide­al­is­ing ru­ral life – and rose-en­twined, choco­late-box cot­tages en­tered the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion. Al­though most of these cot­tages were built as mod­est homes for agri­cul­tural work­ers, by the 19th cen­tury, the aris­toc­racy were creat­ing thatched re­treats of their own. Iris Small, who’s lived in a listed thatched cot­tage near Winch­ester, Hants, for 35 years, says: ‘My fur­nish­ings are sim­ple, in keep­ing with the prop­erty. Pol­ished wood and painted white fur­ni­ture with pale, neu­tral dé­cor help re­flect the light. We love liv­ing here, and the nat­u­ral in­su­la­tion means it’s cool in sum­mer and cosy in win­ter.’

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