Kresen Kernow slate roof

SSQ’s Technical Director Richard Cook makes the case for the versatility of natural materials.

Wherever you go in the world, people love natural materials. They love them for their looks, their authenticity, their history – but often, despite all that, they have a very rigid idea of when and where those materials can be used.

There’s a common perception that wood, stone, slate and so on can only be installed on the sorts of buildings where they would’ve been used in the first place.

In other words, today, many believe they can only be used to renovate distinguished properties that are hundreds of years old.

There’s no question that natural materials are the obvious choice in situations like these – if your lovingly-maintained heritage property has always had a wooden floor or a slate roof, why would you replace it with anything else?

But at SSQ, we firmly believe that one of the greatest strengths of natural materials – particularly the stunning natural slate and phyllite that we specialise in – is their versatility.

Restoring a Cornish landmark

Over the last forty years, we’ve had the privilege of helping rejuvenate hundreds of stunning heritage properties with our internationally renowned Del Carmen slate and Riverstone phyllite.

For instance, in just the last few years, we’ve been involved in the restoration of national landmark Bodmin Jail – the famous Cornish prison, originally built in the late 1700s, and now a luxury boutique hotel with 100 beds, as well as a major Cornish tourist attraction.

The project’s managers wanted a roofing product that could emulate the aesthetics of the 600 x 300 dry-laid Cornish slate that made up the original roof, but that was more readily available.

That led them to consider SSQ’s Riverstone Ultra phyllite – both for its similarity to Cornish slate in terms of its strength, colour and geological profile, and its long track record of being approved by Cornwall Council’s Historic Environment and Planning Team.

The finished result was a roof that had been seamlessly integrated with the modern design of the renovated buildings’ roof structure, in a way that protected the centuries-old building underneath, and honoured its historic aesthetics.

Excelling in a UNESCO World Heritage site
Kresen Kernow slate roof

But Bodmin Jail isn’t the only outstanding heritage project that Riverstone has helped bring to life in Cornwall.

The owners of the Barn Complex, a series of beautiful Grade II-listed buildings in St Austell, were struggling to find material to replace their aging Cornish slate roofs.

Again, Riverstone provided a solution. Visually similar to Cornish slate, but harder, denser and longer-lasting, Riverstone Ultra phyllite offered the perfect alternative.

Riverstone’s long track record of roofing excellence saw it accepted for use in a region that’s both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

During the installation, much care was taken to choose slate sizes to replicate the look of traditional Cornish slate.

In particular, the installers had to strive to match the colour and character of existing slate on the complex’s Grade II*-listed clock tower, by far the most prominent feature on the site.

Preserving Cornwall’s heritage

Kresen Kernow slate roof

However, Riverstone is also used extensively on stunning new-build projects, too.

Some are prominent public buildings – like Kresen Kernow, the state-of-the-art facility that houses the world’s largest collection of Cornish documents, books, maps, and photographs, dating from 1150 to the present day.

For the roof, the building’s designers wanted the closest match possible to Delabole – the indigenous Cornish slate that’s now extremely difficult to source.

That made SSQ’s Riverstone Ultra Phyllite the obvious choice – aesthetically and geologically similar, and available without the years-long lead times associated with much indigenous slate.

SSQ were also able to assist the project’s architects with gaining planning approval, providing local authorities with slate samples, full technical specifications, and an NBSH62 planning statement.

But Riverstone can excel on residential projects, too.

John Turner, who embarked on an ambitious new build in Stalbridge, Dorset, wanted a material with character to roof the elegant and gently curved new-build, blending equally well with the property’s sleek lines and its leafy West Country surroundings.

Like an increasing number of high-end self-build projects, John’s sought to combine elements of modern design with more traditional materials, to create something that was characterful and unique, without clashing with other properties in the area.

He loved Riverstone’s colour and texture, and also thought it would partner extremely well with the building’s oak framing. He opted for small format slates to add to the aesthetics – and few would deny that the finished results look stunning.

Speak to the experts

In short – there aren’t many scenarios in which a stunning, long-lasting Riverstone roof can’t excel.

If you’d like to learn more about specifying it on a project, beginning to install it, or using it on a self-build, don’t hesitate to get in touch – you can call us on 020 8961 7735, or email

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