Monday, May 3, 2021

Cropthorne, Worcestershire



Cropthorne lies in the orchard-rich country around Evesham, an area full not just of fruit trees but also of houses built with frames of oak. Some have thatched roofs, often with attic windows peeping out under ‘eyebrows’ of thatch, like the ones on the house to the right in my photograph. Thatch lends itself to these sculptural forms, and also to the roof feature that caught my eye in the house on the left: the catslide.

A catslide is a roof that sweeps down almost to the ground over a single-storey extension. If you add a room on to the side of a building, the thatcher can continue the slope of the main roof at the same angle in one continuous run. You end up with a much lower ceiling height inside, but often this did not bother the occupants – people’s average heights were shorter in past centuries, and if you were going to use the room mainly for storage, or for a bedroom, headroom was not the main requirement. The advantage of this type of roof was mainly an economic one. If you’d built the side wall to full height, to keep the same angle of slope you’d need a higher ridge for the whole roof, meaning more money spent on roof timbers and more thatch on the other side of the house too. So many people favoured the catslide.

The name is wonderfully evocative. One can imagine a roof-climbing cat losing its footing, sliding down the slope to the eaves, and falling only a short distance to the ground before walking off with typical feline nonchalance. As satisfying for the animal as for the thatcher completing a smooth continuous slope, capping the whole roof with ornately cut reeds on the ridge, and standing back in admiration.


Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

You can't help feeling with buildings like these that's it too good to be true - more like a romantic jigsaw puzzle image than a real building to live in. As to average heights, I'm not sure if it's historically correct to say that average height was lower. A small poky lean-to is a small poky lean-to at any era. However, the proportion of young people was higher in previous ages, so fewer would have had trouble, like me,leaning down to avoid hitting the ceiling. I wouldn't like to see the bill for re-thatching, or for Listed Grade 1 repairs. You couldn't pop down the hardware shop and do a bit of DIY. This super-romantic domicile comes at a price!

Hels said...

I don't know if the thatch keeps the heat in and the rain out, nor if thatch offers efficient security against robbers and rats. But the image is so romantic, so iconic, people instantly love the total appearance.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Hels: Good questionsd: Rain – yes, thatch keeps off rain if the pitch is steep enough; robbers – they'd need more time than it would be worth; rats – can be a problem, so some people cover the roof with thin wire netting.