Slate has been used for thousands of years from old school blackboards, roofing, flooring and construction in the 19th century. Slate is a popular material to use in these builds due to its attractive and decorative appearance as well as its durability.
Hand made slate decor products are becoming increasingly popular in our homes but what exactly is slate? Slate is a foliated and fine grained metamorphic rock that has been exposed to immense pressure and heat over millions of years. Slate is mostly grey in colour and ranges from a light grey to darker shade although other colours can be found.The colour of the slate is determined by the amount of organic material that sits within the rock.
Slate has been mined around the world for centuries and this was recently confirmed by a discovery of a 16th century wooden ship that was found to be carrying finished slates on board.
There are many slate mines and slate quarries found all across the world. In the United Kingdom, our mining region is Wales who produce a vast range of fine slate as well as Cornwall that provides slate quarries and the Lake District that has quarries and mines. Slate can be reached by tunneling in a mine or can be quarried from a slate quarry.
In the early mining days, work started on the surface pits but soon proved to the miners that the work needed to be carried on down, underground. Ever since then, mining for slate had to be underground. Miners would then make chambers of work areas underground and eventually start connecting other chambers to make a underground work area which included floors and rooms big enough to escort mining carts and trucks.
Slate would be freed from the rock by blasting in shot holes then later drilled into the rock. Miners would return to the surface with large slabs of rocks where the work force on the surface would split and cut it into standard sized roofing tiles. These underground mines were closed off by the early 1960’s due to the danger of miners and the public entering them. Today most of the mines have collapsed and left nothing to show the hard work and times when these were a big part of our slate industry. However Wales have left an open and reinforced mine as a tourist attraction that has been seen by thousands of people to this day.
Examples of how we use slate stone in the real world
- Slate House Signs
- Slate Pet Memorials
- Slate Headstones
- Slate Gifts (Cheeseboards, cutting boards, coasters etc)
Did you know these facts about Slate?
- During 1800’s school children would use pieces of slate to practice their writing.
- Due to slates foliation, it can easily be broken down into neat, thin pieces.
- Slate is produced from all over the world but the best slate is produced in United Kingdom and Brazil.
- Chalkboards are made from slate and chalk is made from another type of rock – Limestone.
- Slate should not be confused with Shale. Slate and Shale are both metamorphic rocks but both contain different materials.