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A Brief History of Slate Roofing

For hundreds of years, slate has been used as a natural roofing material and continues to this day to be popular throughout the UK. It provides a durable, attractive and relatively cheap way of protecting your home from the elements, but it hasn’t always been as widespread as it is today. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that slate became the material of choice for roofs across the country.

The Rise of Slate

Before the Industrial Revolution, most buildings would have been roofed in whatever material was available locally. In Wales, Scotland and the North West, slate was widely used. More central areas like the Cotswolds saw the use of heavy stone slate, which can still be seen on roofs in the area today. Other areas of the country used thatch, as it was much lighter and easily transported by horse-drawn wagons.

The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw an explosion of building in the North. Towns like Manchester rapidly grew into cities, with thousands of new houses built to house workers for the hundreds of new factories and mills that had sprung up in the rush of Victorian progress. All of these new buildings needed a reliable supply of building materials that were easy to work with and were available locally. To meet this demand, brickworks sprang up and local stone was used where possible. Roofs, however were nearly all made from Welsh or Cumbrian slate. It was possible to use this slate throughout the country thanks to the massive improvements in transport the Industrial Revolution brought with it.

The ever-expanding railway network meant it was now easier to move slate around to where it was needed for new building projects. New mining and manufacturing techniques saw the production of roofing slates on a massive scale. More than 80% of the slate used in Britain was mined in Wales and by the turn of the 20th century production peaked at nearly half a million tons a year. Decline Slate continued to be a popular and hard wearing choice of roofing material, but as the new century progressed other materials began to emerge. Clay tiles had been used since Roman times and they became more prevalent in the early 20th century as mass production methods improved.

Throughout the rest of the century, other materials began to gain popularity. An accommodation shortage after the Second World War saw an unprecedented demand for new houses and the roofing material of choice for these was to be concrete tiles.

Slate Roofing Today

In answer to the competition from new roofing materials and methods, the slate mining industry made great advancements in cutting the slate and hauling it to the surface. Along with this came improvements in the manufacturing of roof slates, allowing greater output and a reduction in costs, giving the ancient form of roofing a new lease of life.

Today, thanks to a constant demand, slate is imported to Britain from all around the globe but slate quarried in Wales and Cumbria is still seen as the best in the world. Even with slate roofs lasting for more than a century, replacement or repair will become necessary to keep it watertight and looking good.

Randles Roofing have been carrying out work on slate roofs for many years locally, with a range of building and roofing services offered which includes tile roofs, Slate roofs, chimney works, Leadwork, roof repairs and guttering. Contact us with any enquiries on 07717 416468 or send an email enquiry and we will get back in touch as quickly as possible.

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If you have any further queries about our roofing and building services, why not give us a call or drop as an email. Alternatively, you could fill out the enquiry form.

Whatever way you choose, we look forward to hearing from you.


12 Lumbutts Rd,
OL14 6PQ