Septuagenarian helps us with our 18th century Coach Yard
Published: 17 August 2020
Francis Sparks is still roofing - at the age of 77!
His expertise in old techniques of slate roofing was needed when we had to repair the roof of our 18th century Coach Yard.
The Coach Yard roof uses a 'diminishing' style, which we have to preserve under the conditions of our Grade 1 listing. This is a type of roof that uses slates that get smaller in size from the eaves towards the ridge. The slates individually drilled and held in place with oak pegs, lime mortar and horsehair!
This style of roof no longer features in modern building techniques. Francis is one of the few roofers alive today who knows the older techniques. And he was able to share those techniques with younger roofers working on the project.
Francis thinks the roof used local slate from a former quarry at Diptford, near South Brent - just a few miles from Sharpham.
The new roof uses second-hand Delabole slate, "the best slate in the world" according to Francis, which will last another 100-150 years, he reckons.
The roof renovation was supported with grants from The Pilgrim Trust and the Historic Houses Foundation.
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