Steeplejack, 86, climbs church spire in Horsted Keynes to finish final job

An 86-year-old steeplejack completed his final job at St Giles Church, Horsted Keynes, on Monday, March 29.

Peter Harknett had re-gilded the church’s weather vane in 24 carat gold and placed it on top of the steeple in front of a delighted crowd.

“All of the schoolchildren at St Giles C Of E Primary School were out watching him and cheering,” said churchwarden David Lamb.

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“On the churchyard side there were a number of parishioners, socially distanced, cheering as well.”

Peter Harknett, an 86-year-old steeplejack, completed his last job at St. Giles Church, Horsted Keynes. Picture: Friends of Horsted Keynes Church

Peter and his team reshingled half of the spire and Peter donated a portion of the value of his regilding and repair work to the church.

The work was ‘traditional steeplejacking’, said David, which starts with ladders being put up around the outside of the steeple.

The steeplejack then puts scaffolding around the top, which is known as a ‘flying deck’ because it rests on the spire itself.

“It was a marvellous day,” said David, adding that there was a great sense of community.

From left: Foreman steeplejack Andy Smith with Peter Harknett. Picture: Friends of Horsted Keynes Church

Peter, who used to live in Rogate, started to learn the steeplejack profession in 1949 at age 14.

After a brief period as a rigger for a travelling circus, he built a career repairing and maintaining towers and chimneys.

He has worked on Chichester Cathedral, Victoria Tower at the Houses of Parliament and Guildford Cathedral, as well as many church steeples across Sussex.