Here at East End Tours, we’ve learnt that technically speaking, gargoyles used purely for decorative purposes are called grotesques. Actual gargoyles are carved grotesques, designed with a spout which carries the water on the roof away from the building. The gargoyles help to keep the masonry from eroding, and they are used on many gothic inspired buildings all over the world.

As well as being a practical addition to buildings of all shapes and sizes, gargoyles are also an architectural feature and the stuff of folklore. They have their roots in ancient Egyptian and Greek architecture, though these ‘gargoyles’ were usually in the form of lions or other animals. The gargoyles and grotesques as we know them came about in medieval times. Some of the most famous examples of medieval architecture feature these interesting embellishments, notably cathedrals like Notre Dame de Paris and Westminster Abbey.

In the early 18th century, grotesques and gargoyles were replaced by drainpipes which caused less damage if they fell, and less fright amongst the public. Since then, all gargoyles and grotesques have been used for decorative purposes, predominantly on older pieces of architecture.

London’s rich mix of architecture, much of which is inspired by gothic design, offers a wonderful look at the varied and impressive artistry involved with these carvings. Don’t be fooled by their eerie beauty though; gargoyles and grotesques can be terrifying in the right kind of spooky light or the dead of night. In fact, with Halloween coming up, it may just be the perfect time to appreciate the spooky effect of these gothic sculptures. Visit our website

Just imagine wandering the streets of the city on one of our late night London tours. You’re surrounded by tall, yet magnificent buildings and your only way of seeing what lurks in the shadows and alleyways is the eerie moonlight. As you’re making your way round, learning about London’s deepest, darkest secrets, you are being watched by the menacing eyes of grotesques and gargoyles. Visit our website for Londons best walking tours!

Scared yet?

Of course, if you would rather keep your chosen tour of London light-hearted, you can visit some of the city’s ghastly grotesques of your own accord. Check out the list below for three stunningly grotesque hotspots in London.

Natural History Museum, London

The Natural History Museum is one of London’s crowning jewels. Its famous terracotta facade is an ornate example of Victorian architecture, and its gothic inspired design is only enhanced by the addition of gargoyles and grotesques. Considering these grotesques have been keeping a watchful eye on London for more than a century, they are still in pristine condition and definitely worth a visit.

Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey is another one of London’s most famous and most attractive landmarks. The gargoyles here are functioning waterspouts, with characteristically creepy faces. What makes these gargoyles all the more (un)appealing is that they are accompanied by angelic statues of saints. With the exception of some weathering and the usual film of urban smog, Westminster Abbey’s architecture is in stunning condition and the gargoyles are just as disturbing to look at now as they ever were; especially on a cold, dark winter’s night.

St. Pancras, Midland Grand Hotel, Central London

Usually associated with the impressive red brick architecture of Victorian London, the St. Pancras station (or more specifically, the Midland Grand Hotel) is an impressive piece of construction work. Its vibrant red masonry, decorative carvings and stunning gothic features are a sight to behold and seem almost in a world of their own amidst the rest of Central London. The building’s gargoyles are particularly impressive, guarding every room and entrance of the hotel.  They are fairly high up but their menacing, demonic faces still make quite the impression.

These three hotspots are just a few of the many, many gothic buildings in London. When engrossed in a Jack the Ripper tour you may be surprised to see the grotesques of Whitechapel cemetery following your every move, or you could be wary of the gargoyles watching you wander past the Tower of London and down the city’s Victorian streets. In fact, whether you’re dashing between tube trains or heading off on a tour of London, you will no doubt be surprised just how many gargoyles and grotesques have their beady little eyes on you! Oh yes, London is most definitely the city of the grotesque.