Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
Article and photographs by Paul Wright, 2018/19
Rushden's only Thatched property

New Roof
22 High Street South with its fine new thatch April 2019

The previous time that the thatched roof was being replaced at the former shop of Florence Simpson, was within a few weeks of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey.

That was back in the late summer of 1953, and by a very skilled Odell tradesman by the name of Henry Horn. He was born in Tillbrook near Kimbolton back in March 1906. His family moved to "Hobbs Green farm" up the lane from the church in Odell.

Henry started off working at one of the numerous leather factories in Harrold, and then joined the army during the Second World War.

When he returned from the war he worked with a Mr Reg Parrott, a local thatcher, until starting up in business on his own. Reg did the 1953 thatching at number 22 High Street, Rushden, and this can be seen in a fine article that was covered by the then 'Rushden Echo and Argus' newspaper. (That was the weekly newspaper for Rushden etc, and came out every Friday; they were based down the High Street, and later became the former Evening Telegraph offices. This office sadly closed in the summer of 2012 - the year that the ET went to a weekly publication. The office unit is now in use as a nail bar etc.)

Henry Horn
Henry Horn - master thatcher
Take note of the health and safety, or lack of it back then in 1953, as work is being done off of a wooden ladder, with his mate footing it at the side of the road, and a young lad having a look at what's going on.

It was patched up in the 1960's after a vehicle collided with the building.

Henry sadly passed away in April 1988, but many thanks to his granddaughter Glynis for supplying the black and white photo seen here of Henry. (She is now Mrs John Harbour and living in Rushden, but was nee Wildman, and came from Odell in Bedfordshire.) 

And to think of all of the bonfire night celebration's in Hall Park that the previous thatch has survived over those numerous years?

I remember Julian Keats, one of the final owners getting prepared for the worst scenario by having plenty of water on hand, should a stray rocket land on the roof.

Our summer of 2018 was hot, really hot, with the mercury hitting over 30C at numerous times; it was so hot that the tarmac surface of some roads around Milton Keynes were needing to be gritted to help keep the traffic moving.

So spare a thought for 'master thatcher' Nick Surridge who was working on the roof next to the Hall Park gates, as he was plying his ancient trade in that searing heat.

Nick was being assisted on the job by Scott Mulheron from Harringworth.

Nick Scott
Nick Surridge with some reeds ....
.... assisted on the job by Scott Mulheron

Mr Surridge kindly told me that his family originated from Pavenham, but his parents moved from Bedfordshire to Ringstead, where he lives in Tithe Close.

Nick's been in the trade for about 25 years, and very often does thatching jobs that follow on from Henry Horn's previous skilled efforts.

Currently the roof has to be replaced with like for like materials, so in this particular case a high quality Norfolk reed is used, although Nick did enlighten me that materials can come from as far afield as China and the Ukraine. This depending on where the best quality can be sourced from at the time of the job.

Thatching materials do vary in their durability and effectiveness, for example a roof constructed with a straw thatch may last for 20 years, but in this case the reed job done at number 22 High street South is reckoned to have a lifespan of 50 years.

The old woodwork is revealed
and Nick pegs down some new reeds

Our weather took a bit of a contrast as we moved through September, from the previous highs of 30C, to the back end of a couple of storms that had travelled across the Atlantic. One was called storm Ali and the other was called storm Bronagh.

On our second visit in late September the work was being admired by a couple from the Netherlands looking on.

The ridge work being done near the end of the job was using 'wheat straw' for a block pattern, but then what happened? The job came to a halt, into December and nothing more was done for several months.

Once again many thanks to Nick and Scott for allowing me to go up on to the scaffolding and have numerous chats with them both, and letting me take some close up shots of their ancient skills.

The work did pick up again around springtime of 2019, and the majority of the scaffolding was removed, the completion was done at Easter 2019.

As far as I know, this is the only surviving thatched cottage in Rushden? [yes it is]

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the History index
Click here to e-mail us