Project Information

Welsh Slate was “the icing on the cake” for a £3.75million residential redevelopment in a Conservation Area next to a World Heritage site.

It was really the only roofing material that developer Keepmoat Homes thought was appropriate for Byland Court in Durham – a regeneration project that hinged around the refurbishment of a large Victorian villa, which was granted Heritage status by Durham County Council, and its conversion into five apartments.

Here, about one third of the original Welsh Slate was able to be retained while the rest was replaced with new – 400mm x 300mm Penrhyn Heather Blue slates from Welsh Slate’s Penrhyn Quarry in North Wales.

In addition, a single detached house, three terraced houses with separate garages, 11 terraced three-storey houses and eight terraced split-level three-storey town houses with basement garages were roofed by Wensley Roofing with a total of 40,000 Penrhyn Heather Blue County grade slates.

Keepmoat wanted to provide a residential development which would save the historic villa and provide local homes which complemented the existing Conservation Area and they achieved this with “very careful consideration of materials and attention to detail in design.”

Previously home to the now defunct Durham City Council, the site had been occupied since the early 1880s when the villa and an adjoining lodge were built. The lodge was replaced with new office accommodation when the site was bought by the council in the late 1920s and this was supplemented in the 1970s by an extension to the rear of the villa and a steel-framed office block.

Byland Lodge (the villa) was in desperate need of repair as parts of the roof structure and upper floors had collapsed. This was resolved with a mixture of steel and timber frame while the new-build houses were all timber frame.

Making its roof watertight as soon as possible was critical to protect architecturally valuable contents while damaged stonework such as ornate corbels and lintels were repaired where possible and otherwise replaced.

The site’s steep incline made for difficult ground conditions in places and extensive civil works were required to shore up the existing bank sides and provide retaining structures. Steel sheet piles more than 30m high were installed in certain locations and non-vibratory techniques employed to ensure there was no disruption or damage to neighbouring homes.

It also lies about two miles from where, on October 17th 1346, more than 1,000 soldiers were killed as the English, led by Lord Ralph Neville and Lord Henry Percy, won a decisive victory against the invading Scots.

An excavation to locate evidence of the Battle of Neville’s Cross failed to find any relating directly to the event although it did uncover Victorian bottles and evidence of medieval plough soil.

Keepmoat’s regeneration of Byland Court was in conjunction with the county council through the Durham Villages Regeneration Company which has delivered a £100million housing-led regeneration scheme, with almost 1,000 homes being built around the city.


“We looked at a range of concrete tiles and slates from other parts of the globe but it always came back to the Welsh Slate which seemed to fit into the environment better and give a more robust finish.

“It is the icing on the cake. To the east, the castle and cathedral have World Heritage status and the roofscape was considered to be within its influence. Durham has a fantastic skyline which anyone arriving into the city by train will understand. The site forms part of this view and moulds seamlessly into the landscape.

“We were in constant deliberation with Durham County Council and their conservation department regarding materials and design, both on the refurbishment and new-build dwellings. We decided to use materials and details already present in the local vernacular – Welsh Slate, timber fascias/soffits, metal rainwater goods and so on. Details such as timber dormers and hanging bay windows were adopted. We even made sure our timber sash windows were carefully sited behind brick reveals which reflect much of the historic building within the area.

“The Welsh Slate interfaces very well with the existing properties as the majority are slate, and its dark tones provide a good contrast with our chosen brick/stone and render. We started with the mindset that it was in our best interests to provide something which would complement the existing area, and aesthetically the Welsh slates are ideal as they provide clean, sharp edges which provide some relief in the stepped terraced blocks.”

Keepmoat development co-ordinator John Collins