Welsh Slate Steals the Spotlight

Project Information

Cottages on a historic council-owned country estate have had a familiar facelift that could make them film stars, thanks to Welsh Slate.

More than 250m2 of Welsh Slate’s Penrhyn Heather Blue slates, in random widths and lengths between 20” and 40”, have been used to help reroof tenants’ cottages and former stables at Croxteth Park near Liverpool, the former ancestral home of the Molyneux family, the Earls of Sefton.

As the buildings were Grade 2 and 2* Listed, the project was closely monitored by English Heritage who demanded a like-for-like replacement. Welsh Slate confirmed it was their original slates on the 300-year-old roof and the match was approved by Liverpool City Council’s Conservation Officer.

The project was also monitored by Natural England due to the presence of three species of protected bats in some of the stables. Specialist sub-contractors MAC Roofing were restricted by the terms of the Bat Licence to working only at certain times – from the end of hibernation (March) to the beginning of the breeding season (May) and in reverse (August to November).

Despite these challenges, the six-month £400,000 facelift is now attracting interest from film production companies.

Although the reroof and renewal of rainwater goods was the main focus of the project, the city council also used the opportunity to refurbish a clock tower and improve the external fabrics of the 10 properties by repointing walls and repainting first-floor windows.

And because the work had to take place with the residents in-situ, a framed tent was lifted into place by an 80-tonne crane to protect their homes while the slates were removed, battens, rafters and membrane replaced, and new and reclaimed slates replaced.

As well as a site of Myerscough [agricultural] College, the Home Farm complex gives underprivileged children the chance to experience a working farm, while the stables house the Lord Mayor’s coach and possibly the first Black Maria police car, both of which are meticulously maintained by the city council.

Welsh Slate technical manager Colin Falconer worked closely with the city council and architects 2020 Liverpool, providing technical advice and support. This included a site survey to confirm the type of slate, a roofing programme that identified the areas where new slate was required but otherwise maximised the use of reclaimed slate, and frequent site visits.

Some 97% of the slate was re-laid or taken off-site and stored for later use and all of the new slate was sourced from Welsh Slate who also supplied bat access units designed to allow the entry of bats into the batten cavity/roof space.

MAC Roofing brought the same attention to detail to the physical reroof.

Senior construction manager Charles Attard said: “Matching both the new and reclaimed slate was challenging as age and exposure after 300 years is expected to cause some degree of colour change.

“We completely reroofed some areas with new slate while mixing, blending and acquiring reclaimed slate so it appeared the works had not in fact been carried out, such was the match.”

He added: “Traditional random slate roofing is very difficult to reproduce but we pride ourselves on maintaining this craft alive in-house and indeed currently have four apprentices under training by a master craftsman. The technical department at Welsh Slate periodically visited site and monitored standards and practices.”

The 600-acre Croxteth Park estate, which was once visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, passed to Liverpool City Council on the death in 1972 of the last Earl of Sefton and a worldwide search for an heir proved unsuccessful. In October 2013, a £400,000 programme to restore the Queen Anne wing, which was gutted by fire in 1952, was completed.

Testimonial

Liverpool City Council buildings maintenance manager Stephen Smith said: “We specified Welsh Slate because the existing slates were identified as being Penrhyn Heather Blue by a slating expert but where possible existing good-quality reclaimed slates were used on some of the roofs.

“The Welsh Slate maintains the aesthetic country look of the former 17th Century stableyard. Its like-for-like match was also approved by the Conservation