Rainy day solutions: gargoyles for downspouts

The gargoyles that adorn many of the churches are not so scary as they used to be, at least during heavy rain. Their goal was to be the home of a hose connected to the gutters. The water shoots out of their mouth, the plan to throw it as far out of the walls as possible, to avoid moisture damage to the structure of the building.

Passers-by would need to keep a weather eye to avoid this waterspout, which flows to a great height.

There is some debate on when the descents made gargoyles redundant. The problem was not technical know-how, but the cost.

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Lead was used for pipes and it was very expensive. Henry VIII, by inadvertence, has solved this problem with the dissolution of the monasteries, releasing large amounts of lead, demolition abbeys, in order to provide parish churches with the material to fit most gutters and downspouts.

This also led to a true revolution in the architecture of churches. Many have sloped roofs with large overhangs to ensure that the rain water has been thrown a long way out of the walls to keep them to the sec cheap of lead for the gutters and downspouts meant the slope of the roof could be lowered and a new line windows inserts in the walls to allow light to flood the interior.

Many church towers still bear the marks of the original nave roof as an inverted V-shape in their stone work, and those who could afford it have an extra row of 16th-century windows both an indirect consequence of Henry VIII’s marital problems. Paul Brown