The vernacular slate and stone roofs of England have used a very wide variety of fissile or cleavable rocks ranging in age from Cambrian to Cretaceous. The physical and visual characteristics of these stones and the skill and ingenuity of roof slaters in adapting them to a range of weather conditions have made a major contribution to England’s built heritage and regional distinctiveness.

A review of these slates and stones was published by the English Stone Forum and can be downloaded free from the link below or the complete publication England’s Heritage in Stone can be ordered from the National Stone Centre Porter Lane, Middleton by Wirksworth, Derbyshire DE4 4LS 01629 824 833 price £8.00 plus postage.

  1. Vernacular Slate and Stone Roofs in England >

These are the slates and stone slates.  They are arranged by geological age with the oldest at the bottom.


Sandstone, limestone and slate sources


In the main, sandstones have been used for roofing in the more westerly counties of England from Bristol northwards. In the southeast, Horsham stone is an important source.


Jurassic age limestones are a major source of stone-slates to the east of the sandstone sources. Permian age Magnesian limestone has also been used in the past.


Roofing slates used in England have predominantly been sourced from the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian age rocks in the western parts of England and Wales. One other important source was at Swithland in Leicestershire.

Maps adapted from Cameron et al. Directory of Mines and Quarries, 2002. 6th Edition. British Geological Survey, HMSO, London and reproduced with permission

Late Jurassic and Cretaceous

Purbeck limestone Dorset

Horsham stone East Sussex

Jurassic: Inferior Oolite and Great Oolite groups

Collyweston ‘slates’ limestone

Stonesfield ‘slates’ limestone Lincolnshire

Early Jurassic: Lias group

Red Penrith Sandstone

Ham Hill stone Somerset

Permian and Triassic

Magnesian limestone (Cadby Formation) Nottinghamshire

Permian red sandstone Dumfriesshire


Swithland slate Leicestershire

Ingleton ‘slate’  North Yorkshire

Welsh Cambrian slates  Gwynedd

Ordovician Welsh slate

Westmorland Green slate

South Shropshire sandstone




Old Red Sandstone

Cornish random slates on the right are often inappropriately replaced with tally slates on the left

Carboniferous sandstones are usually very flat (left) but some show ripple bedding (right) Derbyshire

Carboniferous Pennant sandstone South Wales

Herefordshire sandstone

Burlington Blue slate Cumbria

Altered Hope Shale near Bishop’s Castle Shropshire

Harnage (Hoar Edge) ‘slate’ Shropshire

Harnage slate

Herefordshire sandstone on Dore Abbey

The Tilestones - Llandybi to Downton Abbey Shropshire

The geology is the vernacular. The dialect is the way the slater uses the stone.

Middle Jurassic:

Forest Marble Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire