The Thatcher

1969

A documentary about Norfolk thatchers and reed cutters.

This documentary made for Anglia Television begins with a man picking up a bundle of reeds and climbing a ladder with them over his shoulder. Dick Joice then introduces the programme, explaining that phragmite reed is common in Norfolk and is particularly good material for roofing. In the first segment of the programme we see reeds growing around the Norfolk Broads, and shots of the landscape including a windmill and some wildlife. Then the film focuses on Russell Sewell, a reed cutter, at work with Russell’s commentary played over the image explaining his role. Russell cuts the reed with a scythe, arranges them in bundles and ties them together. He carries the bundle on his back to be collected by men on wherries. A mechanical reed cutter is shown being used and an automatic reed preparing machine. Men arrive on a wherry to collect the reeds, they throw the bales to one another in a chain and load them on the vessel. The wherry arrives in Reedham where the bundles are then transported by lorry to the thatcher’s yard. The bundles are shown drying on roofs. There is a shot of surplus reeds being fired. The second part of the programme focuses on the role of the thatcher. The first subject is the thatcher’s tools. Dick Joice holds up various equipment and explains its use. Joice’s voiceover introduces Eric Cutter, a master thatcher, as we see him climbing a ladder with several bundles of reed on his back on to the roof of a building. He takes a bundle and attaches it to the roof with long nails and a hammer. Eric provides audio commentary which explains his job and different tools as we see him at work. There is a close up of Eric taking bales of reed on his back, climbing a ladder. Eric explains that he has worked all over the country and some thatchers in his firm have even travelled to America. Close up of boots and knee pads. A shot shows the roof almost completed, with sedge ridging then Eric arranging and cutting the sedge. He explains its purpose and how it is achieved. The camera shows the completed roof and then examples of thatching on other roofs.

Keywords

Rural crafts; House building; Architecture; Reed cutting; Thatching; Roofing

Other Places

Broadland, Norfolk; Reedham, Norfolk

  • Production company : Anglia Television

  • Presenter : Dick Joice

  • Director : Harry Aldous

  • Editor : Jon Inglis

  • Sound : Charles Earl (Dubbing Mixer)

  • Sound : Dennis Arundell (Sound Recordist)

  • Sound : Ernest Cousin (Sound Recordist)

  • Camera : Ian Craig

  • Other : Jean Burns (Research)

  • Other : Geoffrey Weaver (Research)

  • Other : W.R. Farman (Acknowledgements)

  • Other : Russell Sewell (Acknowledgements)

  • Producer : An Anglia Features Production

Manifestations

The Thatcher

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