Centering on the long journey from Berwick-Upon-Tweed to the Isle of Man, the programme called into Burlington to explore cartographer, George Bradshaw’s reference to Kirkby ‘Roundheads’ within his Victorian guide of 1840, the Railway Companion.
In addition to it being a name given to local residents born in the Parish of Kirkby Ireleth, ‘Roundheads’ is the traditional practice of rounding off the top of roofing slates. So who better to provide a demonstration of the technique than highly-skilled rivers at Burlington? As well as being the UK’s leading producer of natural slate roofing, the company was formed at the time Bradshaw published his guide, which was the first comprehensive timetable and travel guide of the railway system in Great Britain.
Following a visit to Burlington’s blue/grey Kirkby quarry and clog bank, Michael Portillo paid a visit to Burlington’s blue-grey roofing production shed where roofing charge hand, John Earl of Broughton-in-Furness was on hand to show Michael Portillo how to create a ‘Roundhead’ through a technique known as ‘dressing.’ Undeterred by the process, and armed with whittle and brake, the tools required to dress a slate, the popular TV producer gained first hand experience of what is a time-honoured tradition within the slate industry.
As Burlington Stone’s Managing Director, Rob Irwin commented: “Despite the process being far more difficult than it looks, Michael did a brilliant job of dressing his first blue/grey slate and he appeared to be extremely engrossed not just in the subject of ‘Roundheads’, but Burlington and slate quarrying as a whole. Burlington has a long history and heritage that coincides with the period covered by the series, so it was a pleasure to welcome him and his team to the quarry at Kirkby,” he added.
If you missed this fantastic insight into Burlington Stone’s past and present or just want to watch it again, it is now available through the BBC i-Player using the link below: