Fears of fire put paid to plans to rethatch ancient farmhouse

Anthony Dale, a volunteer with the Buildings at Risk Trust, outside the rear of the Victorian Cottage in Lowgate, Sutton CARROTT
Anthony Dale, a volunteer with the Buildings at Risk Trust, outside the rear of the Victorian Cottage in Lowgate, Sutton CARROTT
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An ancient building won’t get its thatched roof back because of fears children will set fire to it.

For a year and a half restorers have been at work on Victoria Cottage in Sutton, thought to be Hull’s second oldest domestic dwelling.

Re-thatching the early 17th century building would have made it the only one in the city and surrounding area with a thatched roof.

But now months away from the completion of work, the Buildings At Risk Trust says they believe the risk of it being torched is too high.

Antony Dale, from the trust, said: “Since we got onto the front everybody who has gone past has said: ‘You are not really going to thatch it are you, because the kids are going to set light to it’.

“The thatch has to overhang the wall by 30cm so water drips onto the floor. It would be around 5ft 10ins off the floor and most people could reach up with a cigarette lighter and set fire to it. Even with fire retardant spray it would still present quite a fire hazard.”

Instead they are now applying to put back pantiles, modelled on those that came off the roof a few years back. Mr Dale said: “When we looked at the roof form in 2009 we said it had never been built for tiles. We went to huge efforts to prove that cottages in the village were thatched and get consent to thatch it.

“Having fought to get it the conservation officer agrees with the trust and local stakeholders who have all said the same thing - that thatching isn’t the right thing to do.

“It will still look fantastic.”

The trust acquired the building in 2009 - water dripping through the sagging roof and the back wall on the verge of collapse - when it had been on the council’s at risk register for a decade.

The building had been home to 22 dogs and the attic was full of pigeons and sackloads of their mess. Its latest reincarnation will see it become two cottages - the smaller will be rented out and the larger sold to help pay for the £270,000 cost of restoration.

The back wall had to be taken down brick by brick, then underpinned with a massive amount of concrete before being rebuilt with lime mortar, a job that started last January and finished only a few weeks ago.

Mr Dale said: “It’s a travesty that people talk about a housing shortage and need all these new houses when there’s 7,500 in the East Midlands alone that are at risk.

“You have to ask yourself wouldn’t it be a good idea to put funding on the table, because some of them could find a new use.”

Ward councillor Terry Keal said: “People can’t wait to see it refurbished and bought back to its former glory.”