Look Up and Wonder
enhancement of individual roofs and the creation of exciting roofscapes
has been part of the builder’s art throughout history, whether to add
style and character to buildings or for functional reasons, such as
hiding unsightly features. An industry has arisen to serve this market,
and builders and designers can choose from a host of different products
ridge tiles are perhaps the most traditional Anglo-Saxon roofing
embellishment and are currently enjoying a significant resurgence in
popularity. More and more tile manufacturers have a standard range of
designs and many also offer a bespoke service, which can prove
particularly useful for replacing damaged original fittings. Clay and
concrete are the two main materials used in ridge tile manufacture and
designs can be as varied as the imagination can conceive. As would be
expected, terracotta is the most specified colour, but slate grey and
browns and greens are becoming increasingly more popular. Another
current fashion in ridge embellishment is the addition of crestings,
which are usually in cast iron or aluminium and hark back to Victorian
and Georgian styles.
are often the subject of a designer’s wildest flights of fancy, taking
the form of anything from geometric designs to animals and mythical
beasts. Several companies market a range or will design to order and the
materials used in the making include clay, concrete, wood, iron, copper,
brass and plastic. They were originally developed to weigh down the end
ridge tile, which is, of course, the most vulnerable to the elements and
were often an integral part of this tile. With modern roofing methods,
this practical application is no longer relevant, but for aesthetic uses
the final is a popular and often a surprisingly low cost option.
and turrets constitute the royal family of roof ornaments, manufactured
as domes, bell towers, spires, hexagons, octagons and in many other
variations. Aesthetic appeal is often not the only aim: while adding
character and style to a roof, these products readily act as clock
towers or to support weathervanes or even to direct natural light into a
gloomy interior. Information of all kinds may be displayed in an
eye-catching manner, while screen-printing or signwriting will
effectively “brand” a public or corporate building or a retail park
and can be visible from a considerable distance.
Cupolas are perfect disguises for unsightly ventilation ducting, boiler flues or foul air pipes. Louvres can be incorporated as inlet and outlet ventilation terminals for balanced flue boiler systems or for extracting gases and fumes from kitchens. Some manufacturers offer free-flowing natural exhaustion utilising external pressure differences, while others rely on electric fans, usually thermostatically controlled.
good rule of thumb for choosing the correct size of cupola is to
restrict the maximum base width to one twelfth of the width of the roof,
measured at eaves level. This avoids the danger of “over-dressing”.
cupolas are being constructed from maintenance-free glass-fibre
reinforced plastic (GRP) and often to customers’ own designs. A
reputable manufacturer will be able to ensure that not only the original
style and colour but also the effects of ageing or weathering are
maintained. Slate, lead and tile effect roofs are simulated by working
from moulds or patterns made from the original material. The addition of
copper powder to the plastic moulding followed by etching and other
special treatments will bring out a natural verdigris appearance.
manufacturers will undertake replacement of decayed or destroyed
structures working only from an old photograph or drawing. The example
shown here is a replica of a cupola 22 feet in height, complete with an
eagle weathervane boasting a 36-inch wingspan. It was recreated for a
public building in Lerwick, Shetland Isles, using an old museum
photograph and measurements from the surviving wooden base.
Turrets not only add aesthetic appeal to a roof but can also serve as clock towers or support weathervanes.
perfect finishing touch for many roof designers is the addition of a
weathervane, Judging by the bewildering array of vanes on display
throughout the country, it seems that if you can think of it, somebody
will make it. Sailing ships, cars, bicycles and sporting figures abound
and, of course, every bird and animal living, extinct or mythical is
manufacturers agree that when large three-dimensional figures are
required, GRP is by far the best material. As with most areas of roof
ornamentation, one-off design and manufacture is a welcome challenge for
some companies, often with spectacular results.
a purpose-built mould was created working from an embossed shield. This
was hand-crafted to produce the three-dimensional griffin figure from
GRP, which was then mounted on a stainless steel weathervane to take
pride of place on the new building.
should always take the time to consult the relevant local authority in
the early stages of a roof decoration project. Assistance is available
from numerous building and roofing advisory services, many of which are
sponsored, as would be expected, by the various manufacturers of roofing
products. Overloading the roof from a visual aspect is a danger to be
considered, especially where shallow pitches are involved. A plethora of
fancy chimneypots, fleur-de-lys crests, soaring eagle finials and the
odd weathervane or two will appeal to traditional English eccentricity
but can look totally out of place, especially on a cottage or bungalow!
The flourishing British architectural features industry clearly believes that a roof is not just for the practical purpose of keeping the rain out, but is also a canvas upon which a skilled designer can work a particular kind of magic, causing us all to look up and wonder.