I went for a cycle ride with MyMateJohn the other day. He needed to visit the town of Herne Bay on the north Kent coast in order to establish a route for a ride that he would be leading in a few weeks time.
He got lost before he had left the town.
He had the map and he still got lost.
I was loathe to help him from my point of ignorance so I just photographed the Victorian stench pipes.
Aren't they charming? The Victorians always seemed to over-engineer their constructions. Think of the solidity of their houses and compare them with the cardboard rabbit hutches that are built today. And when they designed something to perform a simple function they just could not resist adding some whimsical decoration.
So what is the function of a stench pipe? It is one big safety valve for the sewer beneath your feet. When the noxious gases build up they are automatically vented through these chimneys, high above your nostrils and the upper floors of the Victorian houses in the street.
Look around you. There will be one near you. It might not be so ornate but it will be there.
These splendid examples in Herne Bay were manufactured by Walter Macfarlane & Co of Glasgow in the late nineteenth century. Macfarlane's foundry was Scotland's largest supplier of ornamental ironwork, famous for its fountains and bandstands. The stench pipes in their catalogue were rather tweely called, 'ventilation pipes'.
Next time you take afternoon tea at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, have a look at the verandas - they were made in the same foundry as these stench pipes.