THE washery at Bearpark came down in 1960 – Robin Chapman remembers because he was involved in “an act of gross stupidity which even after 58 years gives me the shudders”.

The two chimneys were about 150ft high with a decorative feature of coping stones right at the top. To demolish them, a ladder was attached to the top, and the chimneys were lowered, brick by brick…

“I was an apprentice electrician at the coke works, and one of the Scottish steeplejacks dared me to climb to the top of the chimney before demolition began,” says Robin. “I accepted the dare and followed the steeplejack to the top.

“What I didn’t realise until I got up there was that the ladder actually hung out backwards to get over the large coping stones and on to the very top.

“Anyway, I made it, and walked around the top which was about 2ft wide and about 8ft across. I then had the problem of getting down again, clinging to the ladder around the overhang where I had to feel for the rungs as they were out of sight.

“Bearing in mind that I had no need to climb the chimney which was about 150ft high and by then in a dangerous condition, this was simply an act of gross stupidity which even after 58 years gives me the shudders.

“When the foreman Bill Fields found out, he simply shook his head in disbelief and gave the journeymen electricians (George Eales and Johnny Murray) a rollicking for not keeping me under closer supervision – health and safety had not been invented then.”