The recent All Our Yesterdays feature about Colnebridge’s vanished past brought memories flooding back for one local steeplejack who was part of a team involved in the demolition of Haigh’s mills.
While shying away from the thought of seeing his name in the newspaper he was more than happy to share with Examiner readers a spectacular photograph of himself and his mate perched precariously on top of a 50ft Colnebridge mill chimney.
The snapshot from the early 70s was taken by then Bradley resident Dawn Bailey, who captured the dynamic duo during the demolition of what in fact was the oldest mill in Colnebridge.
The structure, dating back to the early 1820s, was built virtually on the site of the former Atkinson mill which burned down in the tragedy of 1818.
Originally powered by a water wheel, it was eventually converted to steam power and came into the ownership of the Haigh family.
When the industry ended the old buildings became redundant and it was given to building contractor Eric Hine, of Kirkheaton, to raze the site to the ground.
The two steeplejacks in the picture set about the task of dismantling the old smokestack by erecting platforms inside the chimney using scaffolding poles and planks at various levels until they reached the top.
The worst part — not to mention the long drop to the ground — was the swirling black dust by which they had to mask their faces as they pushed away the blocks of stone.
Starting on a Saturday morning, they managed to complete the task over the weekend.
Unfortunately they nearly came a cropper at the end of work on the first day when they discovered that some of the fallen rubble and soot had piled high at the bottom of the chimney, blocking the small entrance hole.
Luckily however they were able to shovel their way through and on seeing daylight once again were able to make good their escape.
After that they made a bee-line to the White Cross Inn, Bradley, for a few refreshing pints of bitter.
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