25 tons of pigeon poop cleaned out of 14th c. tower

In the Middle Ages, Rye was one of the towns of the Cinque Ports Confederation providing ships to the crown for coastal defense. Located at the tip of an embayment of the English Channel, Rye was an important shipping center for the iron bloomeries (smelting furnaces) of the Weald and other trade goods. Its tactical importance and close links to the monarchy made Rye a target for French attacks during the Hundred Years’ War. One of those attacks in 1339 during the reign of King Edward III saw French troops burn down 52 houses and one mill. In response, the city began to build permanent defenses, among them the Landgate Arch, a fortified entrance into the medieval city center over the only road that connected Rye to the mainland at high tide.

Landgate was a masonry structure with two towers on either side of an arched gateway. One of four fortified entrance gates to the city, it is the only one still standing today. Today it is still the only through-way for light vehicular traffic to reach the medieval city, but the tower itself is not open to the public. The floors and roofs of the towers are long gone leaving them open to the elements. Said elements include the excrement of pigeons and lots of it.

The fact that pigeons were converting the Landgate Arch towers into massive poop silos was noticed last month by members of the Rother District Council. Since guano is acidic and can eat through stone over time, the council contracted CountyClean Environmental Services to clean out the monument. CountyClean used a combination tanker truck that provides a high pressure jet while vacuuming up the sludge.

Mike Walker, Managing Director for CountyClean Environmental Services said: “Whilst we’ve removed other massive blockages such as giant fatbergs in sewers, we have never seen such a monumental mass of festering faeces before.”

“The build up of pigeon poo behind the doors was so big we had to force the them open. Once inside, it was like walking on a giant chocolate cake and the smell was awful – even through a facemask.”

“The floors of the towers and the steps leading to the top were swamped with 25 tonnes of pigeon poo. We filled our tanker several times over.”

The bird crap was almost three feet deep.

11 thoughts on “25 tons of pigeon poop cleaned out of 14th c. tower

  1. How did they manage to enter a space that had 25 tons of pigeon crap in it, I hear you ask. Well, they just dove in. Thank you, I’m here all week, try the garum…

  2. A high pressure jet ? ..Metric tons, I suppose ? ..In the latter case, this would result in an impressive 55115.57 lbs (vs. 50K).

    Gosh, there might be a song coming on ..Roughly the ‘Guanosong’ by Scheffel from 1854:

    Rapt in pious contemplation,
    They labour right faithfully,
    For blessed is their digestion,
    And flowing like good poetry.

    The awareness historically polished,
    To medieval precept inclined;
    If the body is properly nourished,
    Then all will go well with the mind.

    And the children pursue more enlightened
    What their fathers in silence begun.
    While to a mountain it rises and whitened
    By warming rays of an Anglican sun.

    In the rosiest light of these sages,
    Look down at the future and say,
    In the course of historical ages
    We shall fill up the ocean some day.

  3. As someone who grew up on a farm, I wonder what they ended up doing with what was essentially 25 tonnes of fertilizer. I think guano is still big business in some countries.

  4. Darn, all the other smart mouths beat me to the good ones. Oh, well. I loved this piece, thanks, livius. Would love to have some of that nicely finished bird poop for my garden. Having helped clean out underneath the chicken barn on my grandparents’ farm (they had fantastic gardens), I don’t even have to guess what it smelled like. I think I’d insist on an air tank.

  5. What I find extraordinary is the fact that the 25 tonnes of pigeon poop was only noticed last month. I would have thought that a historical construction such as this should have been occasionally inspected.

  6. Phase 2 of the Project: Pushing the Historical Society hard in order to get authorization to install modern pigeon defense systems. After which there will be a noticeable increase in pigeon poo on public monuments in the immediate Landgate vicinities. :chicken:

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