COLLYWESTON SLATE MINE RE-OPENED AFTER MORE THAN A GENERATION
In 2016, a generation or so after it closed, Claude N Smith Ltd re-opened a slate mine in the Northamptonshire village of Collyweston.
Abandoned in the 1960's as frosty mornings became sporadic and unreliable, resulting in difficulties splitting the stone, the mine is now viable once again due to advances made by Sheffield Hallam University and Historic England. Working together they have developed a method of using modern freezer technology as a reliable method for splitting to create the thin Collyweston slate sheets.
In recent years the lack of 'new' material has resulted in many historic buildings having to delay roof replacements and repairs due to the decline in availability of reclaimed Collyweston slate. It was hoped that this new mine would produce a steady supply of new Collyweston slate to meet the demand, with Kings College, Cambridge and Old Westbury Gardens in Long Island, New York being the first to benefit and showcase this beautiful new slate. As we head into 2020 Clare College and Christ College in Cambridge will also see this new slate fitted onto their roofs.
To reach the new slate source miners had to remove over 100m of rock to form an access tunnel and are now producing Collyweston slate in abundance again.
Apart from being a good news story, this venture has breathed new life into a 600 year old specialist roofing industry keeping the skills alive for generations to come.
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