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A Right Royal Roof

About 450 million years ago, the beautiful English Lake District was in the midst of violent volcanic activity. Billions of tons of ash were spewed up and rained down, while molten rivers of red-hot lava flowed across the land. Over millions of years, the volcanic layers became buried deep in the Earth's crust and were subjected to extreme pressure and heat. This caused the rock to 'metamorphose', or 'change', into the tough and durable material that we know as slate, ideal for covering our roofs - even Royal ones!

The film shows the amazing and imaginative techniques, using gunpowder and diamond tipped saws, that modern miners employ to blast and cut the tough slate from the heart of a mountain.

Great slate 'clogs' are carried out of the mine to be split. Splitting, or riving, relies on the fact that there are billions of tiny flattened crystals in the slate, all lined up in the same way. With chisel and chopper, the slate worker creates hundreds of identically shaped tiles, all the same width and cropped to the same size. Hard as rock (for rock is what it is), waterproof, and thin - these are the qualities that make slate the ideal material for traditional roofing.

The film ends at Buckingham Palace, the Queen's London residence. Upon the roof, our cameras spy a slate that has been blasted, cut, rived, and cropped just like any other... but this one has also been engraved! It carries the initials HRH, for His Royal Highness. The roof, it seems, was a gift to the Queen from her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. He was obviously keen to keep the rain off Her Majesty's head to prevent her crown from becoming rusty!

Duration: 7:02

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This film is also available on the DVD:
'The Magic of Making - Volume 1'.