Flying the flag...pole! Helicopter used to install flagpole at Belvoir Castle

The replacement flagpole being carefully lowered into place today. Picture by Antony Thompson - Thousand Word Media.

The replacement flagpole being carefully lowered into place today. Picture by Antony Thompson - Thousand Word Media.

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Flying the flag has long been a tradition at Belvoir Castle, but today a specialist heritage insurance company was responsible for flying a flagpole to the top of the historic Leicestershire venue.

Using a chartered helicopter, a team working for Ecclesiastical flew in a new 11-metre-long pole and secured it to the roof of the castle’s south-east turret.

The replacement flagpole being carefully lowered into place today. Picture by Antony Thompson - Thousand Word Media.

The replacement flagpole being carefully lowered into place today. Picture by Antony Thompson - Thousand Word Media.

After months of waiting for the right conditions, today’s operation went ahead and saw the new pole replace the first 250-year-old pole which was broken by high winds in February last year.

A helicopter had to be used because the presence of cellars and voids underground meant that a crane could not be positioned close to the castle to hoist a new pole into place.

Scaffolding was also ruled out due to the potential for damage to the building’s roof. The potential for downdraft from the helicopter to damage the roof was also a serious consideration in the operation.

At 11am today, the helicopter, a 1975 Bell Huey, lifted the flagpole vertically from a spot close to the castle and flew it over the roof, from where a specialist team were able to reach the bottom of the new pole and secure it to the undamaged lower half of the pole. The entire operation took 45 minutes.

Architect Peter McFarlane with the new flagpole. Picture by Antony Thompson - Thousand Word Media. TWM_EIG_020415_0002

Architect Peter McFarlane with the new flagpole. Picture by Antony Thompson - Thousand Word Media. TWM_EIG_020415_0002

Andrew Brown, church and heritage claims director from Ecclesiastical, said: “This was a unique challenge for us. As a specialist heritage insurer, we’ve been called upon to repair many of Britain’s finest buildings, but this is the first time we’ve needed to fly the flag quite so literally.

“It was always going to be touch and go whether we’d get the green light for the operation. Carrying such a large, heavy flagpole vertically would have been dangerous if the wind speed had exceeded 10 knots.”

The replacement flagpole was made for Ecclesiastical in Bristol by Bristol Wooden Flagpoles, and then transported by road to the Vale of Belvoir. It is made of the finest marine grade Sitka spruce and took a month to shape by hand. The company also oversaw the production of a stainless steel bracket 1.8 metres high and weighing 120kg to secure the new pole to the base of the old pole.