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Team work makes the dream work in Tyldesly

The Highlife rope access team was recently tasked with splinting the spire at St George's church in Tyldesly, Manchester. This tall and slender spire already had some sort of splint present, installed by an unknown team some years previously, but even from the ground it was easy to see that the top of the spire was in poor condition. From inside the spire light was clearly visible shining in through big holes where the masonry had moved, and it seemed like there was no cross and no tie down rod holding the top of the spire down, meaning that the failing masonry was highly exposed to strong winds.

The old splint composed of decking boards and ratchet straps, and the new tie down system providing some tension.

Conservation engineer David Wiggins asked us if we would be able to replace the old splint with something more robust, install some sort of tie down system, and take him up inside the spire for a closer look. Having already done a similar job for David on Christ's Church in Bethesda (North Wales), we were happy to oblige. Its always a pleasure to work on site with someone as knowledgeable as David, not to mention as enthusiastic, and we always come out of such jobs feeling like we've grown both as a team and a company.

When the team arrived at Tyldesly, we immediately realized that we'd underestimated the spire slightly. The spire at Christ's church in Bethesda was short and quite broad, meaning that it was quick to climb and easy to drill holes in the soffit to install a tie down system. By contrast, the spire at St George's was tall and slender, meaning it took much longer to get to the top, and once we'd sent ropes down the inside and climbed up it became clear that we weren't going to get anywhere near the soffit, meaning our tie down system wasn't going to work.

The old splint removed and ready to install the boards

By the time all this had unraveled the first of our two days in Tyldesly was well underway, so we brought David up the inside for a look. There was evidence of a cross having been there once but it had long gone, and there was an old rusted rod of sorts hanging from the soffit, but it was of no use to us. We recorded our findings and the team reconvened downstairs to come up with a new plan. Eventually, with the help of some calculations from David, we settled on an external system to tension the top of the spire down. Happy with the new plan, David left us to it as we cracked on with the evening shift to try and make up some lost time.

By organizing ourselves like a team climbing a big wall, we were able to work highly efficiently, with a team just below the top hauling up planks and scaffold tubes, and a lead team installing the new system, filling the holes with mortar, and stripping away the old haggard tat. We finished the day by headtorch with two scaffold tubes holding the top of the spire down, contented that we had completed the most important step in stabilizing the spire, and ensuring that the next day things would run a lot smoother.

The finished product looking a lot more reassuring

All the same, there was plenty to do the following day, so we were back up the spire bright and early to haul up the rest of the 16 scaffolding planks that we were strapping around the spire to stop the masonry from moving. Once these were in place we connected them with metal straps, ensuring that the whole lot was a single unit and protected against any rotational forces. Between all this and the smaller details that needed tidying it wound up being another fairly huge day and we got down by torchlight again, glad the spire was now safe for a few more years until enough money has been raised to repair it properly. David was happy with the finished product, so we were happy, and we went home pleased to have finished what was a hugely enjoyable job with lots of problem solving, on a fantastic spire for a lovely and welcoming parish. Another job well done!

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