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Church House, South Tawton, Devon, UK





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Archive 2 - November 2004

Investigation work starts on thatch   Pete Kilgannon, 27th November2004

The first stage of the investigation into Church House's thatch commenced with a visit, on Thursday 25th November 2004, from John Letts, the authority on smoke blackened thatch. Selecting what appeared to be the oldest section of the ceiling, John extracted a good sample of rye (not to mention a heavy cloud of medieval soot) to be taken back to the laboratory for analysis. From a preliminary investigation, John was able to estimate that the field of rye that grew to provide this thatch was over six feet tall. He was also fortunate to find some seed in the sample he extracted which may yield more information from DNA testing.

John next turned his attention to the partition at the east end of the building. There was already a small exploratory hole at the roof edge, made during a preliminary survey. No one knew what lay behind the partition and John widened the hole just enough so that he could climb through. The thatch blackening also occurred behind the partition but appeared to be more localised towards the western end. More samples and notes were taken to be studied off site.


close up of smoke blackened thatch showing corn ear
John Letts up ladder with torch finding suitable sample site
John Letts taking measurements and recording to memo tape
about 30 rye stalks on floor taken from roof as samples
John Letts holding samples to estimate height when grown
John's soot blackened hands with rye ears
John Letts up ladder peering into hole in partition with torch
interior view of chimney stack and thatch inside partition
John clambering out of small hole at top of partition

Further information

Please contact David Youle

Phone               01837 840418