Plumbing and Leadwork
The title “Plumber” stems from Roman times when many dwellings had lead roofs; the Latin for lead is Plumbum, also explaining why the chemical symbol is Pb. The Romans also used lead for pipe work for their baths and a person skilled in the field of leadwork was called a Plumbarius, this eventually being shortened to Plumber.
The Cathedral has 420 tons of lead in total on its roofs, which cover 4 acres; all of which is on a routine maintenance schedule.
Our Plumber also checks the gutters of other Cathedral-owned properties in the Close and keeps the Cathedral’s heating system in check, ensuring it is running when we have late services in the winter (or sometimes into the spring too!)
He also inspects all the lead rainwater pipes from the scaffold and the lead flashing - sheets used to protect joints against the weather - and repairs/re-fixes them if necessary. The inside of the parapet (low walls at the edge of the roofs) sometimes needs to be re-fixed back into the stonework and re-pointed with lime mortar, as the fixings and mortar wear away over time.
An important winter task is clearing snow from the lead roof gutters in case it freezes - this expansion can cause damage to the fabric of the building.