Roof Repairs 1993

A summary of repairs to the roof
of the chancel – Winter 1993
given to P E Guilbert
Thomas Dutton Esq. 1999


Further to your request for information regarding St Matthews church, I have detailed below my involvement with renewing the roof of the chancellery. I hope this helps to build your web site information, whilst remaining understandable.

In the winter of 1993 whilst I was employed by R.G.Phillips & Son, I was given the opportunity to renew the slates on the chancellery roof. I knew from past experience that this would be no easy task but little did I realise it would take three of us ( my son Paul and work mate Peter Carre) some three months to complete.

It was first thought possible to batten and counter batten the roof, to lift the slates and allow a free passage of air to circulate, which is normal practice with a close boarded roof. However, it was not possible in this instance, as at the point where the bell tower meets the chancellery roof there is a granite ledge. Under which, lead soakers (*1) needed to be inserted and by raising the roof, I would not have had the required 3 inch upstand of lead. There was no other option but to nail the slates directly onto the boarded roof.

This created a further problem, as having no battens to stand upon meant all work had to be completed by ladder, reaching from the scaffolding at the base of the roof. There was of course also the added danger of damaging the slates with this particular approach, so each ladder needed a bag of sawdust attached to the end leaning upon the slates.

The biggest complication during the completion of this work was the weather. As most people are aware in Guernsey, Cobo is open to the elements and having to work in the wind and rain whilst balanced precariously upon ladders can often become dangerous, safety was paramount.

The roof itself contains some 5,500 – 7 inch by 14 inch Welsh Blue slates and every one on the turn had to be cut twice in a taper to form the conical referred to as the ‘upturned boat’. There was no room for error at this point as any deviance in the cut would result in the slates climbing up and therefore the exact cover would not be maintained, resulting in an imbalance of courses from one side to the other.

There is an uncanny element to this job. According to what was written on the old felt of the roof, the church was last re-slated in 1948, which just so happens to be the year in which I was born.

Thomas. R. Dutton
*1 : The lead soakers stop rainwater squeezing in-between the joints in the granite work.