Rethatching the Thatched House Museum, which was damaged by the 2019 storms.

Thatched House Storm Repairs 2020

Photographs from Post Office & Tourism team and others

The damage to Tristan's traditional Thatched House Museum during the storm of July 2019 was mainly to the turves sealing the roof ridge. See our report on the damage for details. The roof was temporarily repaired with tarpaulin covers, and fortunately the November storm had little additional effect.

The project to rethatch the house started in January 2020 with the removal of the old thatch. Work continued piecemeal as the weather allowed. Island men started cutting New Zealand flax for the new roof in February and rethatching itself commenced on the 30th April. The job was completed during the first week of May with the laying of new turves along the roof ridge to seal the thatch.

Damage to the rear of the Thatched House roof at the end of November 2020 Damage to the roof of the Thatched House from the front at the end of November 2020

Damaged roof patched with tarpaulins, photographed at the end of November 2019 by Peter Millington

House with the old flax removed ready for rethatching

This still from Robin Repetto's drone footage from January 2020 shows the house with the old flax removed and carted away ready for rethatching. Robin's video is available for viewing on Twitter.

Cutting New Zealand flax for thatch Cutting New Zealand flax for thatching
Cutting New Zealand flax leaves for thatching. There are flax gardens throughout the settlement, which make good windbreaks and hedges. Tussock grass was originally used for thatching, but is no longer available on the settlement plains.
Thatching Carrying bundles of flax to the thatchers
Above and below: A large flat thatching needle is used to tie overlapping bundles of flax to the rafters, starting at the eaves and working upwards to the ridge.
Thatching Men thatching at the top of the roof
Rethatching nearing completion Ridge turves laid to seal the thatch

Nearing completion. Grass turf is laid along the ridge of the roof to seal the thatch.

Finished roof, with the ridge turves laid to seal the thatch

The finished roof, with the flax trimmed at the eaves.

The men who took part in the project were: Eric Glass, Roger Glass, Jack Green, Joseph Green, Brian Rogers, Stanley Swain, Douglas Swain, Allan Swain, Graham Rogers, Ricky Swain, Dion Green, John Lavarello, Shane Green, Cliff Swain, Riaan Repetto, Nigel Lavarello, Ian Lavarello, Cedric Swain, Rodney Green, Jeffery Rogers, Albert Green, and Nathan Swain.

It is good to see the range of ages in this group, as it means the island's traditional thatching skills are being passed on to the younger generation.