The History of Guttering

Guttering is considered commonplace these days. Every building you see will be sporting some sort of guttering or rainwater system, especially in the UK.

From residential to commercial properties, guttering is required to manage heavy downpours and to avoid damage to the buildings or surrounding areas.

But, the gutters we see today have not always been as they are now. So where did guttering begin, how were downpours dealt with previously and will gutters change again?

This blog will discuss the history of guttering and discover how much it has changed in recent years.

The Beginning of Guttering

Rainwater systems like gutters are by no means a new development. It might shock you to discover that rainwater management systems could actually be almost 2000 years old.

Many consider the beginning of guttering to be around 43AD to 410AD during the Roman occupation of Great Britain. With them came the knowledge of water collectors to direct rain flow, not only to protect buildings but to recycle rain into drinkable or usable water.

Through the use of cisterns this water would be stored during rainy weather, to be used later in cooking and washing.

The Romans understood the importance of guttering so well that they even named the goddess Cloacina, the Goddess of Cloaca Maxima (The main guttering system of Rome).

Unfortunately, this knowledge was mostly lost and ignored when the Roman invasion ended and would continued to be disregarded for nearly 600 years until the Norman invasion in 1066.

Evolution of Gutters

With the Norman invasion, Britain began to see advanced building skills once again. It was during this time that guttering systems were once again introduced.

Perhaps the most influential first use of guttering was within the Tower of London where they were prominently used to manage rain flow. During this time, gutters were made using lead and were quite expensive to create – therefore they were mostly seen in grander buildings.

The importance of the Tower of London in the guttering world didn’t end there either. In 1240, the first recorded use of a downpipe was implemented on the tower, in order to protect the newly whitewashed walls.

 Following the Dissolution of Monasteries around 1539 by Henry VIII, lead became a much more accessible material. Sought after for its weather and water proof qualities, lead began to spread into the general populace’s homes and smaller buildings.

Around this time many houses began to include their family crest on their rainwater systems, and lead gargoyles were added not only as an aesthetic choice but as a means to split and direct the flow of water.

Industrial Revolution and the introduction of iron guttering

As the industrial revolution began to take shape, the way in which things were manufactured began to change rapidly. Coke was now available as a smokeless, solid fuel source and allowed cast iron to be produced in huge quantities at a much cheaper cost than lead.

By the time the 19th century came about, cast iron gutters were commonplace and far more popular than their lead-based predecessors.

Controlling rainwater on such a mass level no doubt had a huge effect on the health of the general public. Damp conditions in cramped spaces were often causing asthma, bronchitis and in some cases even pneumonia.

The invasion of plastic gutters

As the Second World War raged on, shortages in materials were all too common. In an attempt to combat this, plastic production saw it’s biggest development in history, being massed produced and highly sought after.

After the way, these shortages had created a need for plastic guttering systems and by the mid-20th Century, plastic began to supersede cast iron gutters due to the ease of attaining them and low costs.

Aluminium gutters – the future of guttering

Sometime in 1960, seamless aluminium guttering was first produced in the US and Canada. Innovative machines able to cut a single, seamless roll of aluminium for guttering were created.

This allowed the guttering to be cut for any length or fit, without any breaks or leaks. This created the strongest form of guttering seen in history as well as the most lightweight due to the sturdy-yet-light qualities of aluminium.

Since them, aluminium has been at the forefront of metal guttering systems, so much so that about 70% of guttering systems are now made this way.

Through continual innovation, these aluminium gutters are now also incredibly customisable for specifiers. From traditional factory finishes to RAL colour, customers are able to obtain their desired aesthetic whilst getting incredibly high-quality guttering with little-to-no maintenance.


Guttering has clearly come a long way over the last 2000 years, and is the way it is today as the result of centuries of innovation and reimagining.

There are more types of guttering available than ever before, however, the prominence of aluminium is due to it’s extremely high quality and reasonable cost.

About Us

For any of your rainwater and guttering systems needs; we can provide trusted help and advice along the way – especially with design and material choices. The key benefit to using HJA for your roofing and guttering needs is that we can provide a complete system from bespoke fabrications to soffits and louvres.

We pride ourselves on our unrivalled technical experience in the aluminium trade and the understanding and care we provide for our customers. Our business principles are the foundation of our company – reliability, consistency and quality.

We understand the quality and efficiency that is required by our customers and we deliver every time. Get in touch with an expert today.

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