His mother later worked as a charwoman at a gas works. As a child, Dibnah was fascinated by the sights and sounds of industry and the dozens of chimney stacks visible around Burnden Park ,  and paid particular attention to the steeplejacks he saw on his way to school. An inventive child, Dibnah and some friends designed a makeshift diving suit from a crisp tin, a car inner tube and some piping. After being told to remove it from the local swimming baths , they tested it in one of the lodges, but were unsuccessful. Dibnah and his friend Alan Heap built a canoe from old bicycle wheels cut in half to make the ribs , slate laths and a canvas sheet from the back of a lorry.
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His mother later worked as a charwoman at a gas works. As a child, Dibnah was fascinated by the sights and sounds of industry and the dozens of chimney stacks visible around Burnden Park ,  and paid particular attention to the steeplejacks he saw on his way to school. An inventive child, Dibnah and some friends designed a makeshift diving suit from a crisp tin, a car inner tube and some piping.
After being told to remove it from the local swimming baths , they tested it in one of the lodges, but were unsuccessful.
Dibnah and his friend Alan Heap built a canoe from old bicycle wheels cut in half to make the ribs , slate laths and a canvas sheet from the back of a lorry. Much to the consternation of his mother, Dibnah sailed the boat along the nearby River Croal. I came home one day from work and there it was, sticking up in the sky.
The photographer came from the Evening News. People drove here on Sunday afternoons to stare at it. Everyone said our Fred was a lunatic. The steeplejacks first removed the top of the chimney and then created a hole in its base, propped with blocks of wood.
They then lit a fire, destroying the supports and causing the chimney to collapse. He used several short ladders, lashed together with rope and hardboard.
This gave Dibnah valuable experience and his employer expanded the business to include property repairs. During the night he took two Union flags to the top and secured each to the lightning conductors there. After the death of his mother, the house was sold and the council placed a preservation order on the chimney, which remains to this day.
He spent six weeks training at Aldershot , before being sent to Catterick to learn the basics of army catering. He impressed his commanding officers by making a weathercock from army kitchen trays, but was also chastised when he was found with a Luger P08 pistol he had bought from a fellow soldier. He struggled, however, to get any more meaningful work, until he met Lonsdale Bonner, one of his teachers from art college. The two agreed a deal whereby Bonner would be paid a commission for each job he got for Dibnah.
His first job was dismantling a chimney alongside the Manchester and Bolton Railway , a difficult proposition, as a mistake could force the temporary closure of the railway. The church was the tallest building in Bolton and once Dibnah had repaired the weathervane the vicar asked him to gild it. Dibnah appeared in the local newspaper and the publicity and his friendship with the vicar enabled him to gain more work from the local clergy. The top of the chimney contained a length of railway line, which had been used for lifting materials during construction.
Dibnah hacksawed the line into pieces, letting each piece fall to the ground, while his assistant below kept the area clear. He then spent the next six months removing each brick by hand while the chimney was still in use, as the factory could not afford to halt production.
Now the closed Fred Dibnah Heritage Centre In , following disagreements over who should be invited to their wedding, Dibnah and year-old hairdresser Alison Mary Foster eloped to Gretna Green , to get married. They had initially planned to stay at the house of a friend but as he had returned to Bolton for his holidays, they stayed instead at a local farmhouse.
The house was a listed building and so he had to source appropriately aged bricks for the extension. A vicar offered him some of the old gravestones from the church graveyard, which Dibnah then used to create the stone lintels and mullions , though he later expressed his fear that his property would now be haunted. She organised his accounts and even collected debts.
She also helped him demolish some of the chimneys that he worked on, by lighting the fire to burn away the temporary supports he had put in place. He offered to remove them without using explosives , by cutting an ingress at the base of the chimney—supporting the brickwork with wooden props—and then burning away the props so that the chimney fell, hopefully in the intended direction. Although this was a tried and tested method, it was not without its opponents.
On one occasion he was contracted by the local council to fell two chimneys. The contract obliged him to dismantle each by hand, but he decided to fell them by cutting away the base.
The first chimney collapsed as planned, but the council terminated his contract and refused to pay. Dibnah contacted the borough engineer and offered to fell the second chimney for no charge, to prove the effectiveness of his technique. He even offered to let the engineer light the fire, but the wind blew so hard that the chimney did not draw the flames and once the props had been burnt through, it remained standing. Dibnah resorted to using a hydraulic jack to apply extra pressure to the intact side of the base and the chimney eventually fell.
As the team ran from the chimney, Dibnah tripped and fell and was greeted by the sight of 2, tonnes of concrete leaning toward him, but fortunately the chimney righted itself and then fell in the opposite direction.
I found there was this beautiful British racing green steam engine under there with all the brasses left on. The boilers were still there and there was plenty of grease on everything, all ready and waiting for the next job. It was a bit sad really to see it standing there idle like that. Back then in the days of gas lamps it were quite exciting. As a teenager he met a driver who invited him onto the footplate of his locomotive and who asked him to keep the boiler supplied with fuel.
He learnt of a steamroller kept in a barn near Warrington and which the owners had bought from Flintshire County Council. After he married and bought his own property on Radcliffe New Road, he cut an access road to the garden of his new house and moved the steamroller there. Restoring the engine took many years, as Dibnah had to create his own replacement parts, using Victorian engineering techniques and equipment he built in his garden.
The boiler was in poor condition and needed serious work, but Dibnah fell back on local knowledge and was eventually able to build a new boiler. He built a steam-driven workshop in his garden, salvaging parts from various mills, including line shaft gear and a stationary engine from a mill in Oldham. The two sourced a replacement boiler from a local pork pie factory and re-installed the engine in Wales.
Dibnah later won a prize for the quality of the restoration work. He bought new stone, built a lathe in his workshop and created the replacement pillars. He was given the job of repairing the clock tower and he also gilded the golden sphere at the top of the building. The following week, the film crew arrived and Alistair MacDonald conducted the interview from the top of the building, with Dibnah perched outside on his scaffolding.
Sporadic filming took place over an month period and captured Dibnah with assistant Donald Paiton working on a range of buildings, spending time with his family and enjoying his hobbies. Standing only yards away from the base of the chimney as it began to collapse, his retreat to safety and subsequent boyish outburst of "Did you like that?
Visitors would arrive at his house, to see his garden. He began to receive fan mail; one individual wrote to offer Dibnah a steam-powered machine he no longer wanted. Cameraman Martin Lightening would climb with Dibnah to the top of a chimney—with a 16mm film camera —and film him at work, often hundreds of feet above the ground. Fred Dibnah  Several years later, Dibnah and his family went on holiday, to Blackpool.
He did however manage to undertake the removal of a small chimney stack from a business in the town, under a distinctly grey sky and aided by his wife, Alison. His payment for the job was a new front plate for the boiler of his traction engine. Dibnah remained at home and was surprised when, upon her return, she asked for a divorce. Upon his return he discovered that Alison had left the house, taking with her their three children, the dog and some items of furniture.
It was just that all the pressure got too much for her. In The Fred Dibnah Story she recalled their first meeting: "He looked sad and miserable, quite a pathetic sort of figure really, none of the bounce that people knew him for. He travelled to the Yorkshire Dales to install a lightning conductor on the parish church in Kirkby Malham. While digging the hole for the conductor, they uncovered human bones, for which a reinterment ceremony was held.
Dibnah offered to make a weathercock, provided that his son was christened in the same church. He was also asked to install a peregrine falcon nest at the top. Me for 90 per cent of the housework and Fred for Competition from Manchester had reduced his income from steeplejacking and filming for the BBC had dried up completely. Dibnah had had little contact with his daughters in the years since his divorce from Alison. Hall had been raised in the Bradford district of Manchester and the two swapped tales of growing up in the latter half of the 20th century.
Hall suggested that Dibnah would be unlikely to have any further television work commissioned on his life and that he should consider becoming a television presenter. The first location was near Bolton, at the Wet Earth Colliery and the crew then moved on to various locations around the country, continuing to film through the summer and autumn of A complementary book was also published and was one of the top five best-selling history books of the year.
With filming for television now taking up much of his time, however, he was unable to complete the job. He left the ladders at the church for several years and donated them to the tradesman who eventually took the job.
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