Welsh Thatcher Seeks Apprentice To Carry On The Trade

Categories: Education

"One of Wales’ last remaining thatchers is hoping to recruit an apprentice to help preserve his dying trade.

Watch the video at this link:  http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/welsh-roof-thatcher-who-looking-11421064

Alan Jones, 62, from Newport, Pembrokeshire , could retire in four years and wants the option of handing over his work to a newly qualified thatcher.

Mr Jones is also keen to preserve the Welsh tradition of thatching and ensure his “old school” method of using straw rather than Chinese water reed survives.

Originally a carpenter he became a thatcher after getting involved in a project in 1982 to build a reconstructed iron age village in Newport, Pembrokeshire."  according to Walesonline.  

Andrew James
Roof Thatcher Alan Jones working on a house in Bassaleg Newport


Mr Jones, who runs Pembrokeshire Thatch & Carpentry Services, employs colleague Dafydd Driver, 28, to work alongside him.

Mr Driver also began with Mr Jones as an apprentice.

Mr Jones says they represent two of only three remaining thatchers in Wales – the third being Ian Jones, who is based in Bridgend.

He said: “If you like I’m old school. I was taught in the old fashioned way.

“A lot of thatching today is put on extremely quickly with imported materials and some kind of very ornate ridge.”

Andrew James
Roof Thatcher Alan Jones working on a house in Bassaleg Newport


A traditional Welsh thatch is very clean and simple, with a “roly-poly” shape, says Mr Jones.

Though down to just three in Wales he maintains UK-wide the trade is enjoying a renaissance.

'Stick to traditional materials'

He added: “It demised to a certain point and now I would say in Wales it’s having a bit of a comeback.

“And so my interest is if we’re going to have a comeback in Wales use the styles and materials that used to be used.”

He will try to recruit his new apprentice through the Tywi Centre – a traditional skills centre based in Carmarthenshire.

Andrew James
Roof Thatcher Alan Jones working on a house in Bassaleg Newport

He is also looking for help with his search from the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community and Ty Mawr Lime, in Brecon , which specializes in environmentally-friendly building materials.

He has not yet had any applications, though has only just begun to publicise his search.

Mr Jones said his successful apprentice will have an interest in “heritage crafts”.

He says his job can take him “anywhere in the UK”, though he “predominantly” tries to stay in Wales.

"Robust and motivated"

Mr Jones added: “They need to be fairly robust, fairly motivated and don’t mind working outdoors and spending a lot of time away from home.

“Spending a lot of time away from home is quite important because thatching is not that common today in Wales so there’s a lot of staying on site during the week.”

Thatchers work through the winter - as well as his work on roofs Mr Jones helps to harvest Welsh reed in the winter and straw from Builth Wells in the summer.

They also attend shows and demonstration workshops throughout the year.

“I tend to get the apprentices involved in everything. If we buy straw from somewhere I want them to go, to meet the growers. I want them to see the processes.

“I want them to understand that with good quality materials you can’t just buy them, you’ve got to almost make it happen,” he said.

The salary will depend on the age of the apprentice.

He said a younger person will be paid the minimum wage, but he would be willing to pay a little more to an older apprentice.

“It’s not brilliantly paid to begin with as is traditional with an apprentice, but what they will gain then is a skill and a career which will see them through the rest of their life should they wish to continue with it,” he added.

If you are interested in this opportunity, go to his web site:   www.thatchingwales.co.uk or to his Facebook page

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