Why Should We Preserve Cast Iron Gutters?
You probably don’t think gutters have any historical or architectural importance. It’s easy to see why when the majority of gutter systems we’re likely to encounter daily are made of sagging, greying PVC. Actually, gutters were historically of great architectural importance. Clearly it’s not the PVC gutters people are referring to when talking about historical gutters, it’s the cast iron gutters.
Believe it or not, gutters have played a huge role in our architectural history. You might not believe it but architectural history has been shaped greatly by gutters. Although records suggest the Romans were using gutters as early as the first century AD, they first became commonplace following the Norman invasion of 1066 which prompted major rebuilding of UK churches and towns. Water was thrown away from the foundations of large and important buildings by decorative stone gargoyles hanging over their edges. If the first ever gutter and drainage systems were decorative gargoyles, it’s easier to see how gutters can possibly have historical and architectural importance.
The sort of gutter we’re familiar with came into use in the Middle Ages. Originally, gutters were made from lead, and their production remained high following the dissolution of the monasteries which provided recycled lead. In the early eighteenth century, cast iron became cheap and easy to produce and so cast iron gutters were introduced.
Cast iron gutters became increasingly commonplace and decorative. Lots of gutters were marked with a family’s coat of arms or a date of building. Unlike with the PVC monstrosities we see today, aesthetics was a consideration. Certainly, until the early twentieth century, guttering was as important as brickwork in the design of a building. The design of guttering was greatly important to any building design until the early twentieth century.
By the end of World War Two, however, plastic had been developed and became a cheap alternative for gutters. Modernisation and consumerism drove demand for PVC gutters and cast iron gutters lost their popularity. We are lucky that, if it is well maintained, cast iron gutters are durable so many examples of decorative guttering still exist today.
it is our duty to preserve cast iron gutters and the history behind them. Fortunately, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, or SPAB has taken on the fight to protect cast iron gutters. It issues advice and guidelines to those people responsible for old or listed buildings. A week dedicated to the maintenance of cast iron gutters was organised recently.
This campaign has had a strong effect. Cast iron gutters are still widely available and many people are choosing them for their own properties. For their money they get a piece of a historical tradition and longevity. And they’re escaping a life of looking at saggy plastic guttering.
Lodge cast iron Manufacturing