Using “quality” and “proven” Welsh Slate has “transformed” the roof of a Grade 1 listed church in Cheshire.
Some 558m2 of the roof of the nave of the landmark St Peter’s Church, which overlooks the hillside town of Congleton, was re-roofed in more than 9,000 500mm x 300mm County-grade Penrhyn Heather Blue slates from Welsh Slate by Mather & Ellis stonemasons.
The four-month, £160,000 project in a Conservation Area had substantial English Heritage funding through the organisation’s scheme for repairs to listed places of worship.
Specialist conservation architects the Bernard Taylor Partnership specified Welsh Slate, which is guaranteed for 100 years but more frequently lasts substantially longer than that, to replace concrete roof tiles which had been on the roof for 60 years.
Associate Rob Harrington said: “The grant had a two-stage process, the roof being the first, and achieving a pass at each stage was a key stage within the project programme. The reroofing also had to be programmed around bats which were found to be occasionally using the roof space.”
The programme on the roof of the church, which was built in brickwork in the 1740s on the site of a medieval church, included stone repairs, new timber rafters and rainwater goods, and scaffold. The work was identified in Bernard Taylor’s quinquennial survey as being most urgent.
The church arranged to have approximately 200 slates signed on the back by townspeople who had helped fund the project.
“The client is delighted with the slate and the quality of the workmanship of the completed project,” said Rob Harrington.
Mather & Ellis had to level out the undulating roof with new rafters.
Director John Russell said: “Once we had resolved this issue, the fixing of the slate was straight forward and the County-grade slates are performing well.”
Notes: The medieval church was demolished with the exception of the lower levels of the stone tower which was then raised in 1786 to its current height with a parapet and crocketed pinnacles. The church was further extended in 1839-40 by one bay on the west end either side of the tower with a porch facing the street.
The church is rectangular in plan form, seven bays long with two tiers of windows, round-headed above and segment arch-headed below. The Venetian east window is set in a pediment brick projection with niches either side. The porch is in a Greek revival form with two pairs of Doric columns set at an angle which gives access by central and side steps to the street.
The interior has galleries on three sides with Roman Doric columns to the gallery and square piers below. The ceilings are curved longitudinal to both the galleries and the nave. Two staircases either side of the organ give access to the upper levels.
The interior retains many original features dating from the 1740 period which include finely carved reredos with a broken pediment on pairs of Corinthian columns, a painting of Peter and St Paul either side of the Venetian window, sanctuary rails, chandelier and box pews to the nave, aisles and galleries.
“Approval of the slate material was the key issue in getting the planning and faculty consents but the scheme was strongly supported by the local authority as the slate replaced concrete tiles.
“Slate is the most appropriate material in conservation terms because it is used on a number of the surrounding buildings. The colour choice of Heather Blue and County grade was important in terms of satisfying English Heritage and the planning department as well as addressing the loading criteria on the existing roof timbers.
“The slate represents 90% of the visual impact of the project. The church stands high above the town and is a significant landmark in the surrounding area. The roof has been transformed by the use of slate. The rooflines are more strongly defined and the colour enhances the adjacent brick and stone materials on the church.
“We needed to specify a product which achieved the highest standards. Using a material of known provenance is important because it is consistent with a conservation approach of using the most appropriate material for its location. This is a critical element.
“We have known of Welsh Slate for many years in practice as it is well known within the industry as a quality material, and we have carried out many reroofing projects where it has been used, primarily on churches through the North West.”
Rob Harrington, Associate, the Bernard Taylor Partnership