Climbing the spire

Amusement for a King

The following story appeared in the Nottingham Guardian and was reproduced in the Grantham Journal, July 21st, 1883:

'Charles II witnessed the ascent of a posture-master up the steeple of Grantham Church, who stood upon his head upon the weathercock. The facetious monarch told him forthwith that he might forthwith have a patent that none other should do the like but himself. We have not heard whether the performer accepted the proffered "patent" or not.'

What we do know is that a few other people have successfully climbed the spire.

Fun at the Mid Lent Fair

The following is written in the Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials for St Wulfram's Church:

John Johnson Farmer Servant from Corby climd Grantham Spire and sat upon the top stone March 21st 1774, being Mid Lent Fair.

Not once but three times: William Moore

A man named William Moore climbed the spire three times. He was a native of Grantham and was born in Church Lane. The first time he climbed the spire was during an election in Grantham. In order to escape a mob, he climbed the spire by the crockets. The next time he climbed up, the spire was under repair and again he climbed by the crockets and his sweetheart went up by the ladders and they met and kissed each other over the top of the spire.

The third and final time he went up was to bid goodbye to his home and native land. He tied a handkerchief to the top and while the handkerchief blew away bit by bit, he was laid in his grave in France. He died in 1821. (From an account given by a relative of William Moore)

He is believed to have scratched his name on the weather vane, as it was reported that the name 'Moor' was seen on the vane in 1860 when it was taken down to be re-gilded.

The tallest man climbs a tall steeple: Harry Henderson

In October 1883, the tower and spire were under repair, and a ladder and small stage had been erected for this purpose. Three young choirmen, with the consent of the man in charge of the repairs, attempted to climb to the top of the steeple. All went well until they reached the apex of the highest window, where the ladder ended and the stage had to be negotiated. Two of the men gave up at this point, but 20 year old Harry Henderson, at 6ft 4ins the tallest man in Grantham at the time, continued and made his way up the final twenty feet via the crockets.

Once at the top he sat on the stone where the weathervane had been (it had been removed for cleaning) and admired the stunning view. He said that the crockets were quite easy to climb, as alternate crockets had flat surfaces, providing an adequate foothold.

Harry lived to the age of 91 years, and in his 80's told friends he would like to climb the steeple again! (information provided by relatives of Harry Henderson, and his own account of the adventure)

The Vicar said "certainly not!" but he went ahead: James Ingram

In December 1893 a man named James Ingram, of Wellingborough, Northants, went to the Vicarage and said that he was a steeplejack out of work and asked if he could climb the church spire. The vicar, Revd Canon Glaister, gave an emphatic refusal and gave James Ingram some money and the man appeared to leave.

However, James Ingram was not put off. He went to the home of the parish clerk, Mr Wilkinson, and asked if he could ascend as far as the olliers (the pathway at the top of the tower). The parish clerk was out, so his wife took Ingram to the belfry, leaving him to ascend the staircase by himself.

Of course, once at the base of the spire he took off his boots, and climbed upwards by the crockets, apparently with coolness and ease, watched by a crowd which had gathered below in anticipation of the event.

Once he had reached the weathervane, he waved his hat at the spectators, and then tied a coloured handkerchief to the top, after which he descended calmly. His arrival back on the ground was greeted by a cheer, and a collection was taken on his behalf. After that he was carried shoulder high down Swinegate.

James Ingram was known in Rutland and Northamptonshire as 'the prince of the air' and 'parachute Jim,' and had climbed several other church spires. He was in fact a bricklayer, and had constructed a house without the aid of scaffolding. He was originally from Oakham, Rutland. He died in Northampton Poor Law Institution, aged 72.

Worth a gallon of beer

Between the two World Wars, within living memory, a man who was unemployed and had no money went into a Grantham pub and asked for a pint of beer. The landlord replied that if the man could climb to the top of St Wulfram's spire, he would be rewarded with not just a pint, but a gallon of beer.

The man, who was a steeplejack, easily climbed to the top of the spire and to prove it tied his handkerchief to the weather vane. The landlord awarded him the promised gallon of beer. History does not record how long he took to drink it!

A Good Place for an Advertisement

The Grantham Journal of April 19th 1962 referred to a sidesman at St Wulfram's, Mr Warren, who was due to leave Grantham to move to Foston. His claim to fame was that he climbed the spire in 1954 to fix huge illuminated letters to make the Bible Exhibition known to all passers-by.

Climbing the Spire in 2011

In the Autumn of 2011, as part of the inspection of the spire our intrepid Church Architect Graham Cook climbed the spire, and we have a photograph to prove it!

Right to the Top in 2014

In 2014, in order to repair the damaged section of the spire, scaffolding was erected from ground level right to the top of the spire. At 10.45am on the morning of Friday 13th June, Mike Gaffney and Roger Graves from the Rotary Club of Grantham, Graham Cook, church architect, Fr Stuart Cradduck, Rector of St Wulfram's, together with two bell-ringers, David Braunton and Mr Fletcher from Barrowby, ascended via the scaffolding to the very top of the spire. Mike Gaffney stood on top of the weathervane.

The weathervane was later removed, and was displayed for several weeks in the West Porch of St Wulfram's Church.