We’re not singing in the rain

Many of us fondly remember the late Eric Morcambe being drenched under the downpipe in Morecambe & Wise’s Christmas rendition of Singing in the Rain. However, this moment of comic genius doesn’t seem so funny when it happens to us in real life. As such, Winchester City Council’s Historic Environment Team is encouraging local businesses and residents to help get something done about the spilling gutters and broken down-pipes in the High Street.

It’s not just passers-by who are getting drenched; the buildings are getting saturated too, and this small piece of neglect can lead to thousands of pounds worth of damage over time.

This week is National Maintenance Week – an initiative led by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).  Winchester City Council has taken the opportunity to launch its own campaign to inspire improvements on many of the district’s historic buildings.

The Council’s Historic Environment Team is focussing on some of the worst examples on the High Street and central shopping area and will be writing to building owners, many of which are large retail chains, to seek urgent repairs.

Simple actions can be carried out in the autumn and spring such as cleaning out leaf debris from gutters and hopper heads to prevent blockages, or refixing down-pipes which have come loose from the wall or are facing the wrong way. This kind of basic maintenance could prevent water discharging directly onto the walls and soaking in, resulting in damp interiors and rotting timbers.  Careful removal of vegetation from walls before they take firm hold is also easy to do and saves more costly repairs later.

The Council is keen to point out that major repairs can often damage the integrity of a historic building and, in the long-term, lead to the damage or loss of original, hand crafted timbers that could be hundreds of years old.

Councillor Patricia Stallard, Winchester City Council’s historic environment champion and Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Sport says: “The heritage of Winchester is one of its biggest assets, and it makes economic sense to maintain the condition of the buildings and streetscapes which attract thousands of visitors and shopper every   year.  At a time when we are all trying to watch our budgets, at home and at work, owners of these lovely buildings should follow the age-old principle that ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ and prevent small defects turning into long term, expensive repairs.”

Speaking about the city centre in particular, Alison Davidson, the City Council’s historic environment manager, added: “Because many of the properties in the city centre are owned or managed by large corporate firms, maintenance of anything other than the shopfront and retail space seems to be low on the priority list. At a time when we are working with the County Council on a major refurbishment of the High Street, it makes sense to give some thought to the buildings which line it and make sure they won’t be letting the side down when the new paving slabs, bins, benches and signposts are all finally in position.”

Council officers will be sending letters to the owners of the most serious cases but they are also keen to hear of other cases identified by the public. If you know of a particularly bad case, please contact the City Council’s Historic Environment Team on 01962 848 481 or

National Heritage Week began on 20th November and runs through to ‘National Gutters Day’ on Friday 27th November.

Lots of information on how to give your home or building an MOT and top tips for timely maintenance can be found on the special SPAB website