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Dean

Dean COX

Year of Award: 2005 Award State: Victoria Trades > Construction And Building Materials
To investigate the roof slate industry through direct contact with companies that produce and export natural slate - Spain, UK, USA
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Dean Cox travelled on his Churchill Fellowship to Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States to explore the roof slate industry through direct contact with companies that produce and export natural slate. He discovered that Wales, Spain and the United States all extract slate in very different ways.

A Churchill Fellowship like this helps to increase the awareness and appreciation of a traditional craft. Dean begins his report with an idiosyncratic take on something most of us take for granted: ‘As you stand in a quarry and gaze at the natural grain in these slate blocks it is like opening a large storybook as it has so much to tell; such is the beauty of this natural material.’

Slate originally arrived in Australia as ballast for convict ships in the early 1800s. This is why many of our early buildings have slate roofs. Dean tells us that no quarries in Australia produce high quality slate. Slate originated as mud, deposited in the sea during the Cambrian era of the Lower Paleozoic Age. High quality slate is the result of the purity of the mud, which has had sufficient pressure and heat. Slate is non-combustible, waterproof and resists pollution, as well as having the character of subtle, varied and beautiful colours.

A highlight of Dean’s trip was seeing 500 million year old Welsh slate being extracted from a quarry, and processed and delivered as roofing slate. He also visited the Delabote Quarry in Cornwall, where the slate has been continuously worked since the late Middle Ages, and several Slate Museums in Wales and the United States. He loved watching roof slaters at work on British building sites.

Dean suggests that some of the British standards be adopted in Australia’s roofing industry, and with our changing weather patterns, the amount of slate overlap could be adjusted to prevent leaking. Dean was particularly impressed with the Leeds College of Building, so much so that he would like to implement the knowledge he learned there into the roofing programs at training colleges throughout Australia.

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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