Sunday, 9 June 2013

Scary Monsters

The repairs to the great medieval gatehouse at Pentney are well under way.  Part of the top of the wall was dismantled for rebuilding, as it was in a precarious state.  A long stone which looked plain on the outside face was found to have a marvellous carving on the end, which was completely buried within the structure.

Scary Monster at Pentney
It represents a lion's head, complete with a lapping tongue.  The stone is carved on its end and along the base, indicating it was once set into the wall with the carved part projecting from the surface.  It was supposed to be viewed from underneath, so it was originally quite high up.  On the top there is a channel, which would once have been lined with lead with a water spout projecting over the top of the carving.  It is a gargoyle, a device for throwing rainwater from a roof well clear of the wall to prevent it from becoming wet and stained. 

It is possible this gargoyle came from one of the other buildings at Pentney during alterations to the gatehouse, or it could have come from a site nearby.  It is very common to find re-used stones within buildings as cut and dressed masonry was extremely expensive to obtain, especially in Norfolk which does not have a natural resource of good building stone of its own.  The cost of transporting stone over long distances could only be funded by the very wealthy for major building projects, but even then, reused stone can be found in the grandest of buildings.  After the dissolution of the monasteries, many abbeys were sold to landowners who used them as very lucrative quarries.  The results can be seen at places such as Castle Acre and within the cathedral close at Norwich, where the walls of many houses contain parts of the local monastic buildings.