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Traditional art of thatching revitalising Cosmeston medieval village

 

Published Monday 27 January 2014

 

Repair work has begun to the thatch on buildings at one of the Vale of Glamorgan's leading tourist attractions, Cosmeston medieval village.

 

Cosmeston Medieval VillageCosmeston Medieval Village, sited within the boundaries of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, is owned and operated by the Vale of Glamorgan Council as a living history attraction with costumed guides, and living history events and re-enactments.

 

Cllr Gwyn John, who came to see how the thatching work was progressing, said: “I am very proud that the project is going from strength to strength. It’s great to see these buildings are being maintained for future visitors and that traditional crafts like thatching still survive today, as it is essential that skills like this should never be lost as its part of our cultural heritage.”

 

Thatch roofing is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as wheat, straw or water reed, layering the vegetation to protect the inner roof from water damage.

 

The work, which is part of the on-going upkeep of the seven buildings at the site, involves the stripping out of the old ridge on both the Reeves and Tithe barn and re-ridging and dressing with wheat.  The Byre will be re-ridged and re-dressed using traditional rick-patch repair to prolong the life expectancy of the roof structure. 

 

James Davies, Master Thatcher, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in wheat and water reed thatching and is carrying out the work at Cosmeston said: “The use of thatch for roofing began in the Bronze Age. Thatched cottages and farm buildings became common throughout rural Britain for many hundreds of years after. Thatched roofs were practical as they were warm in winter and cool in summer and the materials were easily sourced locally; this meant materials as varied as sedge, flax, water reed, grass and straw were commonly used.  Many of the thatching techniques used in the medieval period are still used today.”

 

Cosmeston is the biggest reconstruction of a village in Britain and is set in the year 1350, with the reconstructed buildings on the actual foundations of the original structures. It is one of the few places you can visit to learn how the ordinary people in the countryside lived in medieval times. 

 

Steve Latham, Country Parks and Commons Manager, said: “We have been very fortunate to generate income from various external sources to help secure the maintenance and longevity of these buildings and thanks to staff and volunteers the site is looking great. If people are in the area it is well worth a visit to discover more about our Welsh life during the medieval period.”

 

The medieval village seen today is fully accessible to visitors and set in the year 1350. It was a fascinating time in history as the village had been given a new boost of life by the de Caversham family.

 

There were plenty of exciting things happening - King Edward III ruled a land at war with the conflict with France (the Hundred Years War) in its twelfth year and Britain was slowly recovering from the Black Death of 1348, which killed almost half the population.

 

The remains of the community were discovered and excavated during the 1980's by a team of archaeologists, and the local authority decided that this was a unique opportunity to bring to life part of the history of Wales.

 

A programme of reconstruction allows visitors to see excavated buildings and gardens recreated, while livestock of the middle ages are cared for by "villagers" in authentic costume.

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