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Chimneys, Gables and Gargoyles: A Guide to Britain's Rooftops

Chimneys, Gables and Gargoyles: A Guide to Britain's Rooftops

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Chimneys, Gables and Gargoyles: A Guide to Britain's Rooftops

5/5 (1 évaluation)
143 pages
58 minutes
Mar 1, 2018


The roof lines of our towns and cities are places seldom looked at from below. Yet they contain a world of architectural delights.

This easy-to-follow guide includes hundreds of photos and drawings of rooftops and their features from around the country and offers a fascinating glimpse into this overlooked aspect of Britain's architectural history.

Just above the shop fronts, offices, banks and public buildings lie elaborate chimneys, fancy ironwork, and terracotta mouldings of mythical beasts.

Our own homes too can have roofs decorated with intricate bargeboards, elegant parapets and patterned tiles. Each one has a specific role and their style can reveal much about the history of the building.

Mar 1, 2018

À propos de l'auteur

Trevor Yorke is a professional author and artist who has studied and written about various aspects of England's architectural and industrial heritage. He has produced many illustrated books that introduce the reader to these topics and writes articles and reviews for various magazines. He lives in the UK.

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Chimneys, Gables and Gargoyles - Trevor Yorke



While we celebrate Britain’s grand and spectacular architectural masterpieces there are many modest historic buildings in every town and city which receive less attention. Around famous city squares, along the high streets of our towns and down rustic village lanes are beautiful and interesting facades with decorative and fascinating rooftops, which are often ignored by passers-by. Part of the reason for this is that our attention is usually directed towards the ground floor from close quarters by glittering shop fronts and colourful signs. Also, many urban areas have been developed and trees have grown since they were built so the upper parts which were originally intended to be viewed as part of the whole facade are now obscured. It can therefore be an enlightening and surprising experience to look up and discover the architectural delights and historic structures which line the top of the walls and roofs of Britain’s buildings.

This book is a celebration of these varied rooftop features which can be found on everyday buildings in our cities, towns and villages. More than that it explains what they are, why they were fitted, their changing styles and how they can help date a building. The book briefly explains how roofs have developed over the centuries before exploring the features you can see upon them. This includes towers and spires, parapets and balustrades, dormer windows and skylights, gable ends and pediments and not forgetting the spectacular chimneys which can be found on the rooftops of most period properties. It even features details like weathervanes, lead guttering, clocks, datestones and carved beasts glaring down from the ridge. Although all periods are covered there is an emphasis upon the Victorian when architects incorporated the roof into their highly decorative and colourful designs. The formerly plain gable ends suddenly became encrusted with complex timber patterns, polychromatic brickwork and beautiful patterned tiles while the very covering itself was formed into startling patterns edged by intricate ironwork, decorative bargeboards and ornate terracotta features.

Britain’s rooftops are fascinating and often forgotten places waiting to be discovered. They can reveal the true historic value of buildings masked by modern facades and in many cases tell something about the ambitions of the people who erected them. Old signs, carved text and decorative motifs might show what a building was originally used for while the style of roof, form of decoration and design of chimneys can help date them. There will also be oddities which could be unique to a building and old features which have been retained while the walls below have been regularly updated and changed. So next time you walk down your high street or visit an historic place take time to look up and study the details which could turn a seemingly ordinary building into something to be treasured.

Trevor Yorke


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A view over an imaginary town showing the variety of rooftop styles and decorative details which can be found, with labels highlighting the key features.

The roof is arguably the most important part of a building. Without it rain, snow and wind would penetrate inside making it uninhabitable and quickly ruining the structure beneath. At the same time it also keeps the heat in during winter and protects the interior from the effects of the sun. In traditional construction ‘a good hat and strong boots’, the roof and foundations, were regarded as the essential elements to ensure that a building would stand the test of time. As long as these were sound the walls beneath could simply be made of mud and straw and would last decades if not centuries. In addition to this protective role the roof is a prominent visual feature which can be used by the architect for dramatic effect. Its chosen form, the angle at which it is set and the colours and shapes of the covering material are a distinctive part of the architectural style of the building. Further interest is created by the decorative trimmings, dormer windows, towers, parapets, gables, gargoyles and chimneys which help create the lively skylines of Britain’s towns and cities.

How a roof works

In our wet climate it has long been appreciated that a roof is best formed with a slope, the angle or pitch at which it is set being determined by the covering’s efficiency in shedding rainwater. A porous material like thatch had to be set at a steep pitch so that the rain ran off or evaporated before it could soak through the layers of straw or reed. Large Welsh slates on the other hand had few gaps for water to get through and could be set at a shallow pitch. The effects of the wind also had to be accounted for as it would push down on the windward side and suck up the covering on the leeward. The pitch of the roof and the way in which the tiles or slates were fixed ensured a gale would not cause damage. In addition there was the dead weight of the roof structure and covering to consider, which could be greater in winter when snow was laying on top. A heavy covering like plain clay tiles or stone slates would require thicker or more tightly packed supporting

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