Slate Roof Tile History

The use of Slate Roofing dates right back to the late 12th & 13th century. Slates were used on the eight towers of Conwy Castle between 1283-87.

Up to the end of the 18th century slate was extracted on a small scale by groups of quarrymen who paid a royalty to the landlord. Penrhyn and Dinorwig became the two largest slate quarries in the world. The Oakeley mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog was the largest slate mine in the world. In 1898, a work force of 17,000 men produced half a million tons of slate. A bitter industrial dispute at the Penrhyn Quarry between 1900 and 1903 marked the beginning of its decline.

The First World War, The Great Depression and Second World War all led to the closure of many smaller quarries. Competition from other roofing materials, particularly Clay roof tiles. Resulted in the closure of most of the larger quarries in the 1960s and 1970s. Slate roof tile production continues on a much reduced scale to this day. Welsh Slate is still considered one of the best, their colour range is Heather-Red, Heather-Blue & Blue.

Burlington Slate is located near Kirkby-in-Furness in Cumbria, England. The quarries have produced a characteristic blue-grey slate for hundreds of years. Then the Cavendish family organised small-scale quarrying activities by local farmers into a larger group of quarries, which then attracted others into the area to live and work in the quarries from the 1820s onwards. Large-scale production starting in the early 19th century. Slate roof tiles are still produced there today. Burlington slate roof tiles are still considered one of the best, their colour range is Blue-grey & Westmorland Green.

In 1839 slate deposits were found near Fair Haven, Vermont. In 1850 Welsh immigrants arrived in Fair Haven. In 1852 thirty some Welsh settlers arrived in Middle Granville and several slate companies were founded. The slate quarried in Vermont and New York contains a chemical and mineral composition within the vein of slate that produces a rare variety of colors – green, gray, gray black, purple, mottled green, purple, and red. This is the only place in the world where this variety of slate roof tile colours can be found.

The slate roof tile NZ history started in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s it was used as ballast in the merchant ships due to its weight and compact form. It was then on sold, some say it was a prized bonus for the captain. 90% of this slate was Welsh and a small quantity from Vermont which was green in colour. This slate is still available today. There are many grand homes in Auckland with their original slate still surviving the test of time.

Which goes to show the importance of choosing a good quality slate roof tiles & a skilled tradesman to compliment the product.