The cutting of slates for use in roofing, and the associated skills of fixing the slates to the roof.
|Craft category||Stone; Building crafts|
|Historic area of significance||UK|
|Area currently practised||UK|
|Origin in the UK|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||See ‘other information’|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
Vernacular slating is found on a great number of buildings in the UK with many regional variations relating to the local available materials and building styles. Slates are made of various different stones and vary in size, as they were cut in the quarry to the sizes of available stone.
Modern slates are regular in size and nailed to battens, whereas vernacular slates are usually of random sizes and are fixed by a peg to the top of battens where they are held under their own weight.
Slate making is now mostly mechanised with quarries producing slates in various regular sizes and shapes. Random sized slates are not being produced in great numbers and are therefore not readily available for vernacular roofs.
Slating is divided into two areas, which are generally practised by different craftspeople:
- Cutting/riving slate: the craft of cutting slates, usually in the quarry, for use in roofing
- Fixing slate: the skills associated with fixing slates to the roof. A particularly skilled area is the fixing of receding courses where large slates are fixed to the bottom of the roof and smaller slates fixed to the top
Vernacular slating techniques are highly regionalised, depending on the local stone.
The Stone Roofing Association and the technical advice notes produced by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) provide details on regional variations.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
- Market issues: Vernacular slates are more expensive than modern slates and are often not readily available for vernacular roofing projects.
- Supply issues: Quarries often can’t respond quickly to demand and so lead times can make using the vernacular tiles less viable.
- Lack of skills and knowledge of regional slating types: Vernacular slating techniques are highly regionalised, and the viability of the craft varies depending on the slate or stone type, and hence depends on the region.
- Conservation of buildings: The protection/conservation for vernacular slating styles and techniques vary across the country, and in some places they are discarded and substituted with modern slating.
- Whilst there may be an intention to replace vernacular roofs, a lack of availability of slates and budget constraints have meant that many historic roofs have been lost.
- Competition with large companies: smaller slating companies and craftspeople are out competed by bigger building companies
- Stone Roofing Association
- Historic England – for Grade I and II* listed buildings where grants are involved
- Cadw – for Grade I and II* listed buildings where grants are involved
- Historic Scotland – for Grade I and II* listed buildings where grants are involved
- Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)
Craftspeople currently known
- Richard Jordan
- Terry Hughes
Status: The endangeredness of slating depends on the region. Vernacular slating techniques are highly regionalised, and the viability of the craft varies depending on the slate or stone type, and hence depends on the region. In Wales and southwest England, for example, vernacular slating is critically endangered because vernacular techniques are not understood and are simply discarded and substituted with modern slating. In the Cotswolds, by contrast, there are many roofers who can produce authentic limestone slating because it isn’t possible to substitute other slating methods.
SPAB Technical Advice Notes – https://www.spab.org.uk/advice/technical-advice-notes