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It’s taken quite a journey to get from Ancient Egyptian gargoyles to guttering, but the earliest forms of guttering can actually be dated to way before then.

Archeological findings from the Indus Valley civilization (3000 BC – 1500 BC) show that a system built from bricks and burnt clay was used as a similar water diversion set up. A turning point came when the Romans brought the technology of water dispersement to Britain in 47 AD and the concept of the drain was acknowledged.

It wasn’t until the Norman Empire when an architectural crusade of building villages and churches, adorned with stone roofs and parapets, that stone gutters and then Gargoyles made their appearance. Whilst taking their rather ominous form of a lion, monkey or a grotesque elongated animal, the Gargoyles were actually designed to eject water as far away as possible from the buildings.

It was during the 1200s that the hideous Gargoyles were replaced by wood, lead or clay-tile gutters, and leading the way forward in England was the Tower of London, which became the first building to be fitted with downpipes and gutters.

This revolutionary drainage system became so sought after, court cases and local authority records from the period show that in the cramped dwellings of towns and cities the most common disputes were about guttering. As the roofs were so intertwined it wasn’t always easy to tell who was responsible for which bit of guttering. It wasn’t until the installation of tiled roofs and legislation was introduced to limit the outbreak of fire that guttering became possible on most houses – although ironically at that time the guttering was mostly made of wood!

Following on from this era, cast iron became available and increasingly took over as the cheaper, more easily produced material for guttering. By the 18th century, architects were incorporating guttering into the initial design of public buildings and many wealthier homes, although it wasn’t until the Industrial revolution that mass production took place.

With the technological headway gained from War War II, alternative materials such as copper, galvanised steel, plastic and aluminium slowly replaced lead and iron for guttering and drain pipes.

So although there had been a steady increase in the reliance on guttering and a turnaround in the materials used, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the industry was tuned on its head. The introduction of the seamless aluminum gutter machine that could produce flexible, light, strong weather proof guttering on site, and it took the building industry by storm.  Here was a material that wouldn’t rust, wasn’t too heavy for aging brickwork and being seamless, there were no breaks, which meant no leaks. We had gone from gargoyles spewing water from their hideous mouths to elegant, painted snugly fitting pipework. But there was more to come.

It was in the 1950’s and 1960’s that tests were being carried out with PVC, a polymerization of vinyl chloride that could be heated to 130 degrees as well as below freezing without any degradation. This brought about the next stage in guttering and pipe fittings which was soon realised by European pipe manufacturers.

It’s no wonder that PVC guttering is increasingly popular today, as its composition makes it:

  • Strong
  • Flexible
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Adaptable
  • Easy to install

In our future posts we shall take a look at the differences between metal and PVC guttering, and why we recommend the latter.

Whatever type of guttering you have don’t forget to maintain it at regular intervals and as the founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings tells us: “Faulty gutters and blocked drains don’t mend themselves – the longer you ignore a problem the more costly it becomes.”

[Photo by guy_dugas]