Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Shepperdine, Gloucestershire


I’ve always admired the rippling effect of a traditional pantile roof. The ripple comes from the S-shaped profile of the pantiles, which sets them apart from the conventional flat tile. Another difference is that whereas flat tiles are laid so that each tile overlaps two others (a triple overlap), pantiles are designed to overlap with just one course of tiles below; this makes a pantile roof relatively light. A lighter covering needs a less substantial timber. framework to hold it up, so pantiles are useful in places where wood is hard to come by.

Traditionally, pantiles are most common in the parts of England that traded with the Netherlands, which is where this kind of tile originated. So you see a lot of them in East Anglia. One western town, Bridgwater in Somerset, developed its own pantile-making industry, so this type of roof is not unusual in Somerset. I should think the tiles in my photograph, which are rippling away in a remote farmyard near the River Severn in Gloucestershire, may well have come from Bridgwater on a boat that journeyed from that town on the River Parrett, along the Bristol Channel, and up the Severn towards Gloucester.

They look good on this collection of stone farm buildings, where they sit alongside bits of corrugated iron, galvanised steel gates, and a little brickwork. Some of them look as if they have been here for a very long time, but there are different phases of building (in the distance, the change of colour of tiles where a building has been built on to another is visible). Such changes are a reminder that this is still a working place, one that has been evolving to suit changing needs, as virtually any farm must if it is to survive. In an area where I noticed quite a few empty houses and repurposed barns, I hope these both survive and thrive.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Pantiled farm buildings as you emerge on the English side of the Severn Tunnel - you know you've arrived Somewhere Else. Why almost only (I think) on the Gloucestershire side of the (quite narrow) water? Surely there must be some tradition in building methods. Since large timbers of selected types would be needed for a roof anyway, they would have to be brought from a distance and the availability of local wood wouldn't matter, surely? In medieval Iceland, every substantial stick of wood was imported. Why not in parts of England? Medieval windmills in Holland used timber imported from the Baltic. Perhaps people just liked curvy tiles - or had always used them. Difficult to change from one style of tile to the other, unless you re-make the entire roof?