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Shakespeare’s Globe begins repairs to London’s only thatched roof

Thatchers this week start work repairing the roof of Shakespeare's Globe on Bankside with 800 bundles of sedge from the Norfolk Broads and 10,000 English hazel spars.

Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's Globe

In 1996 the Bankside playhouse became the first thatched building in London since the Great Fire 330 years earlier. The use of thatch was a crucial component in Sam Wanamaker's vision to strive for a faithful reconstruction of Shakespeare's theatre.

Experienced master thatchers Phil Campbell and Kit Davis – who both worked on the original thatching – have joined forces once more to undertake essential maintenance work on the ridge of the roof.

A combined workforce of ten thatchers will use 800 bundles of sedge from the Norfolk Broads, 10,000 English hazel spars, 2,500 feet of liggers and 600 litres of fire retardant fluid during the estimated four-week project.

Whilst thatched roofs remain popular in rural England it has long been regarded as a dangerous material in cities. London's first building begulation, the ordinance of 1212, banned the use of thatch to try to avoid the rapid spread of fire from one building to another.

However, with the combination of a new chemical treatment for the thatch, together with a specialist sprinkler system, Shakespeare's Globe was able to secure the necessary approval to use authentic materials in the rebuilding of the Globe theatre.

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