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City church finds 'lost' gargoyles

Ancient decorative gargoyles which were hidden under a layer of grime for 450 years, have been discovered on the roof of one of the City's oldest churches.

Stone restorers have been carefully cleaning the walls as part of a pounds 3m scheme funded by the Corporation of London.

The gargoyles mainly depict cattle, roses and thistles which represent nothing more than the sculptor's whim, but there is also a griffin from the City's coat of arms, other mythical beasts and demons.

Rev David Rhodes, the vicar of St Giles, is delighted with the find. 'I think they look great. We had no idea what they were at first; we thought they were just blobs of stone.

The cleaning has also increased wedding applications. Mr Rhodes usually deals with 15 marriages a year, but has had couples applying at the rate of almost one a week since the restorers began to reveal the walls.

'They see how beautiful it looks and come to ask if they can be married here. I have to say no, unless they have lived in the parish for at least three

Sundays, because the banns have to be read out.

St Giles Cripplegate dates from at least 1090 when a Norman Church existed just beyond the City walls.

The church has played an important role over the years. It houses a three-acre graveyard which has taken the bodies of many City dwellers which could not be accommodated in smaller churchyards. Milton was buried there and Shakespeare's brother Edmund was a sidesman.

The plague claimed thousands of parishioners' lives, but miraculously the church escaped the Great Fire of 1666.

(Photograph omitted)