The History of Gutters

March 29, 2021 10:33 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Most people haven’t considered the history of their rain gutters—although they’re a necessary tool to divert water away from walls and foundations, we often take them for granted. Modern rain gutters are the result of centuries of innovation. The next time a big storm hits the area, you’ll be extra thankful for your gutters. (Of course, that’s only if you’ve performed your regular gutter cleaning in Pensacola, FL—blocked gutters defeat the purpose.)

Here’s a brief history of rain gutters.

Ancient civilizations and drainage systems

Drainage systems have been around for at least 5,000 years, and perhaps longer. Even ancient civilizations understood the need to divert water—although most of these ancient systems focused on transporting water from one location to another, rather than the way our gutters work today. By 100 BCE, the Romans had created drainage systems that moved water away from streets.

Many ancient buildings had water spouts on the roof, often in the form of stone lions’ heads. These were popular throughout ancient Greek, Rome and Egypt.

Enter the gargoyles

If you’ve ever admired the gargoyles on cathedrals like Notre Dame, you might be surprised at their origin. In the 7th century CE, a bishop named Romanus was said to have slain a fire-breathing dragon named La Gargouille. Romanus was canonized, and the Catholic church celebrated him by pardoning one condemned person each year from each parish. This story is likely where the term “gargoyle” came from.

The gargoyles you see on medieval cathedrals are like the ancient stone lions: they’re designed to collect water and send it away from the building. The European medieval era was heavily influenced by Catholicism, so artisans created gargoyles—imaginary, fantastic creatures—to divert the rainwater, rather than the lions, which were considered pagan. They began to go out of fashion around the 12th century.

The modern gutter

The 13th century was the start of modern rain gutter systems—in fact, the Tower of London may be the earliest building to ditch gargoyles and add downspouts as well as gutters. By the 1500s, lead gutters were emblazoned with heraldic designs, and by the 18th century, homes were built with gutters already installed.

The World War II era saw rain gutters in a variety of new materials, including aluminum, plastic, galvanized steel and more. In the 1960s, the seamless gutter was invented. A machine was designed that could form and cut gutters on-site so every home could have custom-fit gutters made from aluminum.

Today, rain gutters are an architectural feature we take for granted. The next time you visit a historic building, take a look at its rain gutters. They might have been updated for modern life, but chances are you can still spot the remnants of an older drainage system.

If you’re looking for gutter installation or need to schedule gutter cleaning in Pensacola, FL this spring, call Gutter Master today. We offer seamless gutters and related services, so your rain gutters are always equipped to handle the next big storm.

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