A Steeplejack's View of Life
|A Steeplejack’s View of Life, Peter Harknett, Steeplejack Publishing, 2018, 176 pages hardback, fully illustrated.|
Those who spend 50 or more years in their chosen job deserve a salute and probably have something worthwhile to pass on. Peter Harknett began his way up the ladder of success after National Service in the 1950s and he tells us he is still enjoying life at the top in his eighties. He passes on his considerable knowledge amusingly in this well-produced book, packed with valuable information in its 19 chapters.
The Federation of Master Steeplejacks was formed in 1948. The author began to learn about working at heights soon after this, when employed as a rigger on circus tents. He then began touring the country knocking on doors or ‘repping’ for work on church spires, Victorian school roofs and industrial chimneys that required repair or demolition. Little by little he became established and he has worked as far away as Israel.
Apart from the many hilarious incidents and scary adventures that he recounts with such grace, and sometimes illuminates with his own black-and-white sketches, the book is rich in tips that most readers in all aspects of our business will find of great use. Shingles are widely employed to clad church towers or spires, but Harknett takes us deep into the topic from the origins, sources, roles in woodpecker diet, and ultimate replacement of these wooden tiles. Chapter 14, ‘To shingle a spire’ is a model method statement of every aspect of such a task.
The book arrived with the mail only a couple of days after news of the disaster at Notre Dame, Paris. Despite some close scrapes, the author reports on numerous similar jobs on which he worked, but neither life nor fabric have suffered loss. Church authorities, architects and all those involved in the administration of the potentially hazardous matter of replacing or repairing roofs, bells, clocks or weathervanes are advised to read and learn from the wisdom and experience imparted.
This article originally appeared as 'Life at the top' in IHBC's Context 160 (Page 50), published by The Institute of Historic Building Conservation in July 2019. It was written by Graham Tite, conservation officer.
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
The Heritage Sector Resilience Plan, developed by the Historic Environment Forum (HEF) with the support of Historic England, has been launched.
An ‘All-Island’ commitment to Ireland’s vernacular heritage has been established with the signing of the North South Agreement on Vernacular Heritage, supporting traditional buildings etc.
Canons House, a landmark building on Bristol Harbourside, has been awarded Grade II (GII) listed status having been built as a regional headquarters for Lloyds Bank between 1988 and 1991 (Arup)
The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has announced a new project with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to improve and modernise the home energy rating scheme used to measure the energy and environmental performance of UK homes.
Sector lead the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) has recognised the IHBC’s professional accreditation and support (CPD etc.) in awarding its PQP (Professionally Qualified Person) cards.
The IHBC’s 2022 Aberdeen School Heritage MarketPlace (4.30-7.30PM, 15 June) is designed to extend the scope of a traditional IHBC School exhibition floor.
Work to repair a fire-hit medieval hotel in Gloucester is underway as crews have started work to strip back some of the modern trappings and reveal the historic framework.
Options for in-person and virtual delegates to explore ‘heritage on the edge’ across up to 4 days of IHBC engagement & learning.
The Secretariat to the European Heritage Heads Forum has has coordinated its declaration of solidarity and support for Ukraine’s cultural heritage institutions.
2022 will see the IHBC mark a quarter of a century since our incorporation as a professional body supporting and accrediting built and historic environment conservation specialists. We’re kick-starting it by inviting your ideas on how to mark this special year!