Many of the thatched properties in Norfolk and Suffolk are over 400 years old. The material used in their initial construction, was usually what was readily available locally. Hence, the majority of properties in Norfolk were thatched in Norfolk (Water) Reed, from the Broads area and those in Suffolk and South Norfolk were thatched in long Straw, being a more agricultural area.
Due to the changes in farming practice over the years, the quality of the straw being produced was not sufficient to provide a long lasting roof. For this reason, many Long Straw roofs have been replaced with Reed.
Norfolk (Water) Reed is a tough material and should last 70 - 80 years. Long Straw thatch is not as strong. However, with good quality material, thatched well, it should still last 40 - 50 years.
The main difference between the two materials is that Norfolk (Water) Reed is fixed directly to the rafters, whereas Long Straw is usually fixed into an underlying base coat. This creates a noticeably thicker, more rounded, roof, as opposed to the thinner Reed roof, which has sharper, squarer edges.
Here are a couple of examples of Norfolk (Water) Reed thatching :-
Here are a couple of examples of Long Straw thatching :-
It can be seen that Long Straw roofs have additional woodwork decoration to the eaves and gables :-
The current national conservation policy is to retain Long Straw roofs, wherever practicable, and to require Listed Building Consent from the District Council, should the material wish to be changed.
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