A Plain English Guide to Cumbrian Slate roofing tiles
Honister Mine: tourist attraction and working mine. Image by Mirza Ahmed (via Shutterstock).
Before transport links improved across the UK, each corner of the British Isles sourced their building materials locally. Stonework came from nearby quarries. Brickworks serviced their immediate locality. Slate and other raw materials came from nearby mines. In North Wales, Westmorland, and Cumberland, slate mining was king. We at Cumbria Roofing work with the finest heritage building materials, like Cumbrian Slate.
Today, 90% of European slate is sourced from Spain. Cumbrian slate has been mined and quarried since Roman times.
Cumbria has a considerable number of slate mine workings. Within the present-day post-1974 boundaries, Westmorland green slate coexists with the greys of Cumbrian slate (mined at Skiddaw for example).
Honister: England’s last working slate mine
Mined since 1728, the Honister slate mine is the last remaining slate mine in England. The rest of Britain’s slate is sourced from quarries instead of mines. With Westmorland and Cumbrian slate being so durable, their Honister Green Slate is guaranteed for 300 years.
As well as being an active mine, it is also a tourist attraction which includes a visitor centre and underground tours of the mines. Furthermore, it has England’s first via Ferrata, where participants use a safety wire to scale its clifftops. It is a good starting point for learning about Westmorland and Cumbrian slate mining through the ages.
The mine was in continuous production till 1987. In the late 1990s, Honister slate mine was reopened by the late Mark Weir. Not only as a working mine, but also as a tourist attraction. Mr. Weir died in 2011 after a helicopter crash, 200 metres southeast of his mine.
Where Cumbrian slate comes into its own
As well as roofing, Cumbrian slate is used for decorative signage, paving, and worktops. Its hard wearing nature is a winner for most kitchens and driveways as well as traditional slate roofing.
Without Cumbrian slate, we’d be stuck for writing materials. Close to Honister Mine is the Seathwaite Plumbago Mines. This was the birthplace of the pencil industry thanks to the excavation of graphite.