All About Cotswold Stone Tiles

Updated: May 5

Since Roman times, natural stone has been used as a roof covering and today many areas of England continue to use local stone for this purpose. The Cotswold stone tile is a particularly recognizable material, seen throughout the picturesque villages of the area. Small villages of Cotswold stone buildings nestle within the landscape and the use of stone on the roofs enforces the vernacular style. Laid in diminishing courses, these tiles add texture and, being exposed to the elements more so than the building itself, weather to a darker colour; naturally picking up lichens and moss.

Originally used on all buildings from manor houses to pigsties, these limestone slates or 'slats' as they were locally known, were produced throughout the Cotswolds. From the Collywestons found in Northamptonshire, to the thinner Oxfordshire Stonesfield slates, the production of stone roof tiles was prolific from as early as the sixteenth century. The main difference amongst these tiles, apart from slight regional variants in the stone itself, is the way in which they are produced. A Stonesfield slate is made by letting the newly quarried stone tiles or 'presents' frost and naturally split creating a generally thinner, flatter tile whereas the Forest Marble slates would be split by hand giving a heavier, rougher trimmed tile such as those found in the Tetbury area. Over time 'Stonesfield slates' has become a generic term used to refer to all thinner stone tiles and 'Tetbury tile' is commonly used to describe those of a heavier nature.

Cotswold stone slates are laid in diminishing courses, decreasing in size towards the ridge of the roof. Timber laths / battens are fixed along the roof and the tiles are hung from these; traditionally using handmade oak pegs. Slates were originally sorted by their size against a 'slatters rule' or 'whippet stick' - a handmade timber rule with notches cut out of it to show tile lengths and thickness of stone. All sizes of stone slates had their own colloquial names such as 'cussoms', 'long becks', 'short becks', and 'short cocks'. The larger tiles ('Cussoms') are those found at the eaves of the roof and their overhang was ideal for throwing water clear of the building - an effective method before the introduction of guttering. 'Short Cocks' were the smallest sized tile, available in large numbers and used at the highest point of the roof elevation.

Some of our older customers may still refer to Cotswold slates using such names but today stone tiles are generally measured in inches from the peg hole (found around 1" from the top of the tile) to the base.

As owners of traditional Cotswold properties will know, the maintenance and repair of a stone roof can be costly and where the slates are badly laminated or decayed, the issue of replacement arises. Quite often as much as 40 - 50% of the roof tiles will be unusable so there are two main options available; Either find suitable reclaimed tile to match and make good the roof, or re-roof with new materials. Commonly the decision comes down to cost and, unless restricted by planning, the stone tiles are sold with the money going towards new, mass produced materials such as concrete tiles or imported slates.

At Winchcombe Reclamation, we try our upmost to conserve this traditional material; redressing those secondhand tiles that come in to us to make them usable once more. However, original stone tiles are getting increasingly hard to find. There are a handful of quarries throughout the Cotswolds producing new Cotswold stone tiles but the quality of the 'presents' tends to vary. There is also now a flood of imported alternatives on the market too.

Winchcombe Reclamation are specialist suppliers of reclaimed Cotswold stone slates with a knowledge of both the product and its application. We stock various stone tile in large quantities and also stock good runs of reclaimed stone ridge to match. Our approach may be different to that of other suppliers. Rather than selling the reclaimed stone slates as they come off the roof (mixed sizes, varied quality) our stock is hand sorted, measured, re-drilled if needed and re-dressed. This means that we work on very little or no waste and generate less labour for the roofer; preventing them from having to spend time sorting through a mixed cage to measure out what tiles they have on site. We can supply just the tiles that you need for your project whether it is for repair works of complete re-roofs. Initially, a free site visit and consultation will enable us to provide a full quote and a schedule can be provided for your roofer.

We also purchase Cotswold stone tiles that are due to be removed, stripping the tile ourselves if required.

As we supply large volumes of this material, it is advisable to contact us with your requirements at the earliest opportunity as, particularly at busy times, it is necessary for us to have a substantial lead-in time to fulfill orders.

Please call for more details 01242 609564

Cotswold Tiles in the yard, cleaned, dressed and sized


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