18 Annotations

Phil  •  Link

Flat space on roof top, sometimes boarded over and leaded.

Bullus Hutton  •  Link

As post grads in London we all shared a flat in a grand old house in Holland Park, and it didn't take us long to discover an egress to the leads via a hidey-hole in the attic. Many long summer days we lay there up there on the roof on the hot slates, sloping in to a tiny private area that was ours all ours, drinking wine, smoking, reorganizing world affairs, shedding our preconceived ideas along with the odd piece (sometimes all) of our clothing, high above the hurly burly of nearby Notting Hill Gate.
I can well imagine how Sam would have protected this privilege, for to him it was probably much what it was to us. The leads may not have belonged to us (nor to him), but we worried constantly about retaining our treasure (as did he, Oct 29 - 31/1660) and we guarded it fiercely, well.. to the extent of major charm and minor bribery toward the building manager.
I sometimes wonder these days if others enjoy those leads as much as we did, though the way things are in London nowadays, it probably takes a major corporate card to access them!

jjgregory  •  Link

Curious to learn more about the word "leads" in this context, and why it is different from a rooftop, and why it would concern a building manager, if the part of the roof was "private" and unnoticeable by others.
Is the word itself referring merely to the way, or access--it "leads" somewhere?

dirk  •  Link


It seems to me that the word refers to the lead (metal) plating that's commonly used to protect this area of the roof.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Lead be plumbum not plumbeus[worthless], easy material to work, i.e malleable so that it could be used to seal the joints and spaces to prevent water seepage, otherwise roofs would be rotting away. Readily available, used on Churches , popular with thieves for a quick buck. Lead used in the 20th century, to keep copper telephone cables dry.

Pauline  •  Link

Bullus replies to two questions about his London days on the leads: did they call them the leads and was any lead/metal involved.

The answer to both your questions is Yes:
"the leads" is still in common usage (at least it was then) and I recollect we used it to describe our precious outdoor area - I guess the word "patio" didn't creep into the language until much later, introduced perhaps by some enterprising Italian? (As in the Pizza Patio restaurant chain)
There was a bunch of metal lead around in the form of "flashing" (is that a Brit word? it is commonly used in N America to describe rain-protective metalwork) and gutter troughs between abutting slates, but I don't remember thinking if there was any connection between metal lead and leads. It was so hot and soporific sprawled on those sun-baked stones that I don't think much of anything entered our self-absorbed little noodles ha ha ha !

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Is it pronounced "leds" (my guess) or "leeds" (my wife's guess)?

Pauline  •  Link

Is it pronounced...
Well, although I always read it as "leeds" I assume it is "leds". Bullus?

Grahamt  •  Link

Pronounced "led" as in the metal lead (Pb) which covered the roof. I got this wrong when I first read it.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Pauline, "patio" is a Spanish word from "patio de recreo" = "playground." The OED sez "patio" was used by Kipling in 1891, but then entered general use in English in the 1940's and 1950's: it was part of the vernacular then in Southern California where I was reared. So the "Pizza Patio" is, ah, bi-lingual (tho I hope one will suffice for its fare).

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

in 1550 they used lead pipes to take water from the roof:

The [said] parties ought of right at their equal costs and charges to make a lead party gutter . . . their said houses from the E end of def.'s house now new [built to] the jetty. And the parties at their equal costs and charges ought to make a lead pipe [to convey] the rain water falling into the gutters to the ground

From: 'Misc. MSS Box 91 [C]: 1550-51 (nos 267-316)', London viewers and their certificates, 1508-1558: Certificates of the sworn viewers of the City of London (1989), pp. 104-18. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?com.... Date accessed: 11 August 2005.

Ian  •  Link

Sam talks frequently about "walking upon the leads", often with his wife or with a friend. The discussion here has been of an area where one might sit, but not walk. Was Sam's house in a terrace where he might enjoy shared access to a whole row of roofs? I don't really see that either, given that he has just had his roof raised.

Robert de Montfermeil  •  Link

If you have read 'The Launching of Roger Brook' by Dennis Wheatley, a fair part of the 'action' (between Roger and his girl-friend!) takes place on the leads of her fathers mansion in France.

cgs  •  Link

lead the metal,
reduces one's eye queue.

lead n1 see #7

a1877 KNIGHT Dict. Mech. II. 1270/1 *Lead-flat, a level roof consisting of sheet-lead laid on boarding and joists.

1907 W. DE MORGAN Alice-for-Short xxv. 259 Charles remembers the lead-flat sunk in the roof.

1940 Chambers's Techn. Dict. 491/2 Lead-flat, a flat roof formed of sheet-lead laid on boarding and joists.

1466 in Willis & Clark Cambridge (1886) III. 93 The said Roofe shal haue sufficient *leedlathis of herty ooke sufficiently dried.
lead, n.1
I. 1. a. The heaviest of the base metals, of a dull pale bluish-gray colour, fusible at a low temperature, and very useful from its softness and malleability.

Chemical symbol Pb. Rarely pl. = kinds of lead. to lie, be wrapt in lead: to be buried in a lead coffin. So to lay, lap in lead: see LAP v.2 3. Obs.
c900 tr.
3: c. With allusion to its qualities; e.g. its weight, colour, want of elasticity, low value, etc., in both lit. and fig. expressions.
1300....1656 BP. HALL Breathings Devout Soul (1851) 200 Pull this lead out of my bosom.

1725 YOUNG Love Fame II. 158 How just his grief? one carrys in his head A less proportion of the father's lead.

4. a. The metal regarded as fashioned into some object, e.g.a seal, the plummet of a plumb-line, a pipe or conduit, a leaden coffin, a bullet, the leaden part of anything. (cold) lead, bullets.

b. A plate of lead. Obs.

7. pl. a. The sheets or strips of lead used to cover a roof; often collect. for a lead flat, a lead roof, occas. construed as sing.

b. The lead frames of the panes in lattice or stained glass windows.

a. 1578-9 in Willis & Clark Cambridge (1886) I. 538 Mending the leddes over the librarie chambers.

1588 BP. ANDREWES Serm. Spittle (1641) 5 He looketh downe on his brethren, as if he stood on the top of a Leads.
1625 BACON Ess., Building (Arb.) 550 A Goodly Leads upon the Top, railed with Statua's interposed.

a1635 CORBET Iter Bor. (1647) 133 Gardens cover howses there like leades.

lead-nail (mostly pl.), a nail used to fasten a sheet of lead on a roof;

as a verb 2 :
2. To cover with lead. Also with over.
c1440 Promp. Parv. 292/2 Leedyn wythe leed, plumbo.

1479 Bury Wills (Camden) 53 A new rooff to the churche of Euston and ledyd.
1530 PALSGR. 604/2, I leede, I cover a thing, or a rofe of a house, with leede.
1552 Inventories (Surtees) 10 And the quier all leadid.

Bill  •  Link

LEADS a flat roof covered with lead to walk on.
---A new complete English dictionary. J. Marchant, 1760.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A shout-out to Pepys Diary and information about leads, consolidated from

Willoughby House is a magnificent house in Nottingham built by the Hon. Rothwell Willoughby between 1730 and 1740.

When it was built, the view from the roof was regarded as a great asset and walkways covered with lead were made around the edge, easy access to which was arranged by means of internal stairways. To prevent accidents, parapets were set up and the good folk of the 18th century -- and even earlier -- used to spend a good deal of their leisure on these "leads" as they called them. Readers of Pepys Diary will find references to evenings spent upon the leads engaged in singing and talking.

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