How gilding a weathervane made Bolton’s Fred Dibnah famous

Lead Image, Fred Dibnah in the 1970’s, The Bolton news

Fred Dibnah was perhaps one of Bolton’s best known residents. He never left the town, and left a lasting legacy of TV programmes and demolished chimneys!

Fred’s chimney

Fred’s chimney, pic Mark Evison

Even as a young man Fred had a head for heights. At the age of 17 or 18 he decided that the chimney of his Mother’s house needed some modification.

As only one fireplace was in use his design proved to be a little narrow. The top was only 4″ wide and difficult to clean. One day while cleaning the flue with a sack of bricks, the sack split open. As a result the bricks rained down, breaking several pipes. The kitchen was flooded . However the chimney survives to this day and has a preservation order on it!

Fame at last

The first publicity Fred received was in the 1960’s when a local Bolton newspaper reported on his repairs to Bolton’s Parish Church weathervane. Fred was a vintage vehicle fan and drove an AJS motorcycle. Through acquaintances Fred had met the Vicar of Bolton , Richard Grenville Norburn. The Vicar was also a vehicle fan and drove a 1929 Humber limousine. The two soon hit it off.

A 1929 Humber limousine, pic. Car & Classic

The Parish Church was a local landmark and had the tallest spire in Bolton. However the weathervanes were in disrepair and the Vicar asked Fred to repair and gild them. This was reported in the newspapers and Fred consequently got more work.

Bolton’s Parish Church, the weathervanes can be seen on the tower, Pic.The Bolton News

TV takes an interest

Bust of Fred in the Bolton Museum. pic, Geoff. Whittaker

In 1978 Fred became a TV star. In the 1970’s Bolton’s soot begrimed Town Hall was beginning to crumble. Fred repaired the clock tower while being filmed for BBC Look North. Later another documentary followed. Consequently, Fred won the 1979 BAFTA award for best documentary.

Bolton’s Town Hall frontage, pic. Geoff Whittaker

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