A steeplejack is a person who climbs steeples and chimneys to repair them. The late Fred Dibnah was England's most famous steeplejack. In 1978, the BBC followed him around to make a documentary about his work. The video clip below shows how Dibnah toppled a tall chimney without using explosives. He started by removing a few bricks at the bottom of the chimney with a hammer and chisel. Then, he used a jackhammer to remove some more material. Finally, he lit a bonfire next to the opening he had made. Within a few minutes, the chimney came crashing down.
In 1978, while making repairs to Bolton Town Hall, Dibnah was filmed by a regional BBC news crew. The BBC then commissioned a documentary, which followed the rough-hewn steeplejack as he worked on chimneys, interacted with his family and talked about his favourite hobby — steam. His Lanky manner and gentle, self-taught philosophical outlook proved popular with viewers and he featured in a number of television programmes. Towards the end of his life, the decline of Britain's industry was mirrored by a decline in his steeplejacking business and Dibnah increasingly came to rely on public appearances and after-dinner speaking to support his income. In 1998, he presented a programme on Britain's industrial history and went on to present a number of series, largely concerned with the Industrial Revolution and its mechanical and architectural legacy.
He died from bladder cancer in November 2004, aged 66.
[Via The Browser]