Just as every period brought in new developments in architecture, art and lifestyle, roof designs have also undergone constant changes. Innovations in manufacturing methods and architectural trends are at the heart of these changes. While traditional roofing techniques remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years – with thatched, slate and stone roofs (made from local materials) common indicators of rural living – industrial Britain saw an influx of innovative roofing advances, and each period has distinctive styles that are easy to identify.
The Industrial Revolution of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in the UK introduced materials, manufacturing techniques and building styles that changed the face of roofing forever. The desire for hand-crafted, expensive and unique roofing tiles became associated with the upper classes, and innovations in transport meant that slate and stone could be shipped around the UK to growing industrial cities. Developments in manufacturing enabled tiles to be mass produced at an affordable rate, giving us the range of choice we have today. Here are some of the most notable period roofing styles, and how to recognise them.
Tudor properties have come to be known by their exposed timber beams that give them their iconic black and white facade. But you can also recognise a Tudor home by its steep, pitched roof, and tall, thin chimney. Many Tudor properties were traditionally roofed using handmade clay or stone tiles, depending on what was locally available, though the majority of older styles of Tudor home were thatched, as straw was a more affordable roofing material than slate or stone. The brick chimneys were typically embellished with symmetrical designs, reflecting the introduction of the enclosed fireplace.
The Georgian period favoured classical and formal aesthetics, and this is seen in the roofing styles of Georgian houses. Unlike in the Victorian period, where homes were embellished with ornate designs, Georgian roof lines are typically more clean in terms of design, though you might spot some sort of adornment, such as balustrades, pediments or cornices. From the street, you might get the impression of a flat roof, but this is because the roof is often hidden behind a parapet. You can also recognise Georgian houses from the two chimneys – one on each side of the roof – which reflect the fireplaces indoors.
Victorian housing embodies the wave of industry that had embraced Britain by Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837: commonly using slate and encompassing terracotta ridge tiles for an ornate finish. Many roofs of the time also featured decorative finials on the gables. By the late Victorian period, most properties were using plain tiles, either in a rectangular shape or an ornate arrowhead or fishtail design, and a lot of properties were re-clad with concrete tiles in the 1980s.