Traditional building materials:
stone slate roofs
Peter Munnelly describes current English Heritage initiatives.
In Context 52 (December 1996, pp.23 25) Robin Kent discussed the re-emergence of the Scottish stone slate industry and slating practices north of the border, reporting the issues to be covered by Historic Scotland’s continuing research commissions. The general thrust of the article was the fundamental importance of stone slate roofs to the character of historic buildings and conservation areas. Conservation Officers may not be aware that a similar project exists in England and has been running officially for over two years.
In 1995, English Heritage together with Derbyshire County Council and the Peak District National Park Joint Planning Board (with assistance from the Department of the Environment) set out to find ways in which the production of stone slates could be resumed to meet the roofing needs of the local community at an affordable price. The study was prompted by concern that the shortage of new stone slates was eroding the vernacular roofing tradition, fuelling the market in second-hand slates and encouraging the use of ‘imported’ natural and non- natural materials. The project aimed to investigate the size of the stone slate market, the impact of current heritage grants and planning policies, training and educational needs and included the preparation of a regional database of possible sites for small scale, minimal impact, extraction of stone. The study was intended to be used as a model which could be applied to other regions facing similar problems with indigenous building materials.
The project led to the launch in November 1996 of English Heritage’s Roofs of England Campaign. Speaking at the launch, at the National Stone Centre, Wirksworth, Derbyshire, English Heritage’s Chairman, Sir Jocelyn Stevens challenged planners, developers, owners and architects to revive England’s great stone roofing tradition, resisting the use of inferior substitutes for traditional English stone slates and a ‘laissez faire’ attitude towards architectural salvage. The re
sponse to the campaign has been extremely positive, not least from the industry itself. A general guidance leaflet on the principles of stone slate roofing is in preparation and will be available shortly. Derbyshire County
Council have already published detailed regional guidance and it is hoped that local authorities in other stone slate areas will follow suit. English Heritage is also developing a training module for conservation professionals and discussing craft training requirements with interested bodies.
To accompany the campaign, English Heritage has published a free colour brochure which discusses various aspects of England’s stone slate roofing traditions including geology, production and sustainability issues. The brochure complements and mirrors in content and style, two travelling exhibitions which are available, on loan, from English Heritage free of charge.

Peter Munnelly, Architectural conservation Team, English Heritage.

Enquiries about of the exhibitions (one a fully free-standing, illuminated display, the other, a velcro-poster version) should be made to Peter Munnelly, English Heritage, Architectural Conservation Team, 23, Savile Row, London, W1X lAB. Tel: 0171-973 3314, Fax: 0171-973 3249. Requests for the brochure can be made on 0171-973 4390 quoting the product code reference number XH20046 or by writing to English Heritage Customer Services, Room 305, Keysign House, Oxford Street, London, W1R 2HD.
The Old Post Office, Tintagel, Cornwall.
Clencoyn Farm, Ullswater, Cumbria.
Context 55 September 1997