Film ID:
YFA 6078



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William Tegetmeier was the only traditional thatcher left in Yorkshire, in fact the only the only working Thatcher between Humberside and the Scottish borders.  Tegetmeire talks about his craft and the traditional methods he uses as he works on repairing a roof in the village of Pockley, near Helmsley in the North Yorkshire Moors.

The film opens with a shot of a man riding a binder pulled by two horses.  It’s a sunny day, and the field of rye is in the process of being harvested.  It’s explained that traditional methods are still used to harvest the straw needed for thatching, including using this binder which was developed in the 1880s.  

Tegetmeire is on the hop of a roof where he brushes the newly laid straw, and there is footage of other cottages with thatched roofs.  Following this, Gregory Morton is interviewed at his farm in Humberside.  It is the only producer of thatching straw in the region.  Morton speaks about the working horses needed for the farm and describes the harvesting process, binding the cut grains and forming a stook for the grains to dry out.  Many stooks can be seen in the field.  Morton also comments he wouldn’t give up his horses for a better mechanical method of harvesting the grain.  

As Yorkshire’s only thatcher, Tegetmeire is booked up to a year in advance.  He helps the farm workers while they harvest the crop and inspects the quality of the rye.  It’s noted that last summer’s crop wasn’t very good.  

At a cottage in Pockley, Tegetmeire fits a new roof.  He climbs up the ladder, a bunch of straw in hand, and begins his work.  He explains parts of the process and also demonstrates how to staple the straw together by hammering in a bent piece of hazel.  The reporter asks if any technology is involved, and Tegetmeire notes the straw has been cut with a taper, but acknowledges it’s not very modern technology.  

On another cottage roof in need of restoration, Tegetmeire points out that the layers of thatching go back as far as 90 years.  It was common to put less on more often because materials and labour used to be cheaper and more abundant.  Now thicker layers of thatching are put on to last longer.  

Back at the Morton farm, there is more footage of the harvest taking place.  Morton notes that there is rarely rest for the farmer.  The news item comes to a close with music playing over different shots of the farm, harvest, thatched-roof cottages, and the thatcher at work.