Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Cotswold Stone Tiles - An Introduction

Since Roman times, natural stone has been used as a roof covering and today many areas of England use local stone for this purpose. The Cotswold stone tile is a particularly recognizable material, seen throughout the picturesque villages of the area. Small villages of Cotswold stone builidngs nestle within the landscape and the use of the same stone on the roofs enforces the vernacular style.
Laid in diminishing courses, these tiles add texture and, being exposed to the elements more so than the building itself, weather to a darker colour; naturally picking up lichens and moss.

Originally used on all buildings from Manor houses to pigsties, these limestone slates or 'slats' as they were locally known, were produced throughout the Cotswolds. From the collywestons found up in Northamptonshire to the thinner Oxfordshire Stonesfield slates, the production of stone roof tiles was prolific from as early as the Sixteenth century.
The main difference amongst these tiles, apart from slight regional variants in the stone itself, is the way in which they are produced. A Stonesfield slate is made by letting the newly quarried stone tiles or 'presents' frost and naturally split creating a generally thinner, flatter tile whereas the Forest Marble Slates would be split by hand giving a heavier, rougher trimmed tile such as those found in the Tetbury area. Over time 'Stonesfield slates' has become a generic term used to refer to all thinner stone tiles and 'Tetbury Tile' is commonly used to describe those of a heavier nature.

Cotswold stone slates are laid in diminishing courses, decreasing in size towards the ridge of the roof. Timber laths / battens are fixed along the roof and the tiles would be hung from these; traditionally using handmade oak pegs. Slates were originally sorted by their size against a 'slatters rule' or 'whippet stick'- a handmade timber rule with notches cut out of it to show both tile lengths and thickness of stone. All sizes of stone slates had their own colloquial names such as 'cussoms', 'long becks', 'short becks' and 'short cocks'.
The larger tiles ('Cussoms') are thos found at the eaves of the roof and their overhang was ideal for throwing water clear from the building - an effective method before the introduction  of guttering. 'Short cocks' were the smallest sized tiles, available in large numbers and used at the highest point of the roof elevation.
Some of our 'older' customers may still occassionally refer to Cotswold slates using such names but today Cotswold stone tiles are generally measured in inches from the peg hole (found around 1" from the top of the tile) to the base.

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