The thing about being a caveman is that you have a rock solid roof over your head. When cave dwellers moved out of their stone fortresses they soon discovered that a good roof over your head wasn't so easy to come by.
Early roofing materials included mud, bracken, foliage, heather and sods of earth. Straw crops finally became established in the Bronze Age, and as far back as 500bc there is evidence of thatching dwellings.
By the 1300’s there was the occasional grand house flaunting a thatched roof. But until the 18th century thatching was regarded purely as a resourceful and functional roofing material. It was only thanks to the romantic arts and later the Art & Crafts movements, that thatched houses became the emblem of idyllic rural life. Or as Henry James put it ‘unmitigated England’.
With the Victorian era came the railways and transportation of slate from Wales. Also the advent of the combine harvester which spoilt wheat straw for thatching purposes. It looked like thatch had seen its day.
But the allure of thatch never completely fell from favour and today there are over 40,000 thatched buildings in England alone. With the threat of global warming and the trend towards using more natural materials, maybe the ancient craft of thatching with crops will come full circle.