• Nash Peake Works,Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 5BT England

Royal Stoke University Hospital

Earlier in the year Rafferty Steeplejacks were awarded a contract by the NHS to dismantle the 52m high redundant multi flue steel chimney at Royal Stoke University Hospital.  Throughout our history the company has been responsible for drastically changing the local skyline and the successful completion of this contract saw the skyline of Stoke-on-Trent transformed once again.

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Nick Rafferty Achieves 40 Years Service

The year 2015 sees Nick Rafferty, second generation of the Rafferty family of steeplejacks, achieve 40 years service with the company.

At the young age of 16, Nick started work for the Company on 1 April 1975 as an apprentice steeplejack which, coincidently, just so happened to be April fools day!  On his first day on the job he was tasked with laddering a 250ft brick chimney on Holditch Colliery in Stoke-on-Trent… At this point he began to wonder whether the date was really just an unfortunate coincidence!

Before the days of Health & Safety where ‘free climbing’ i.e. climbing without fall arrest equipment was the norm, Nick’s on-site training consisted of a word of advice from his father, Sam Rafferty, who pulled him to one side and said “Nicky… always keep a hand for yourself!” That was it, that was his training for the day. Thankfully, Nick never forgot those wise words of advice and worked as steeplejack for 6 years learning the trade up until a turn in his father’s health meant that he was brought in to the office to carry out more of a managerial role.

When Nick began his management career in the early 80’s the company was trying to grow and establish itself on a National basis.  Before the days of internet marketing this was no easy task and could only be done one way… by knocking on doors.  Nick travelled the length and breadth of the country in search of new customers and business and his efforts paid off.  His natural determination, enthusiasm and entrepreneurship culminated in Rafferty’s establishing itself as one of, if not, the most well known steeplejack company in the UK.

After firmly establishing the company as a major player in the UK market, Nick then set his sights oversees.  From the early 90’s through to the present day Rafferty’s have completed contracts all over the World in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.

Throughout his career Nick has taken the company to unprecedented heights… please excuse the pun!  Now with four grandchildren giving him the run around he is enjoying semi retirement and now only comes in to work when he needs a rest!  That being said Nick was, and still is, the most treasured and valuable asset of the business and we would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his decades of hard work which will always be appreciated.

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Rafferty Steeplejacks Attract Royal Interest

The Prince’s Trust is currently undertaking a £7.5 million capital project to regenerate the Grade II listed factory at Middleport Pottery in Burslem, Stoke-On-Trent. The site, which was described as “a national treasure” by the English Heritage has been in continuous operation since 1888 and is now the last working Victorian Pottery factory in the UK.

With the Middleport Pottery site being located only a stone’s throw away from our head office Tunstall, Stoke-On-Trent, Rafferty’s were delighted to be awarded with the contract to carry out a detailed inspection survey and full refurbishment of the 30m high Grade II listed industrial brick chimney located on the site.

Our initial inspection survey of the chimney was carried out using a mobile crane and man basket to enable safe access to all elevations of the stack. Our inspection revealed that the brick chimney was found to be in a structurally unsafe condition and in need of extensive refurbishment works.

The chimney head and blocking brickwork at the termination point of the chimney was found to contain deep, open and perished mortar joints along with severe fractures, bed-lifts and loose brickwork. The remainder of the chimney shaft brickwork below was found to contain shrinkage of mortar and perished mortar joints. Finally, the retaining band steelwork was also found to be in a very poor and deteriorated condition, with sections of the steelwork found to be loose and in danger of falling to ground level.

Rafferty’s promptly compiled a comprehensive inspection report and highlighted the defects evident on the chimney. Due to the unsafe condition of the retaining band steelwork and chimney brickwork at the termination point, Rafferty’s were quickly instructed to undertake the works and make the chimney safe.

As the chimney is a Grade II listed structure the refurbishment works had to be carried out under a strict specification provided by the English Heritage and conservation architects. The chimney head and blocking brickwork had to be carefully deconstructed and re-built using the existing brickwork to exactly match its original appearance. At the request of the architects, the only alteration would be the installation of two weathering courses at the top of the chimney head which were laid on creasing tiles to create a water-shed chamfer profile. All brickwork re-pointing works had to be carried out with precision from initial preparation of the mortar joints to the application of a English Heritage approved lime mortar. The re-pointed mortar joints were slightly recessed to reveal brick arris and following the application of the repair mortar all newly pointed joints were lightly sprayed with fresh water and then wrapped in hessian which was dampened down and left in position for a period of 3 days to keep the mortar joints moist.

The quality of Rafferty’s workmanship was independently inspected by architects on a weekly basis to which we achieved complete satisfaction. A brief outline of the chimney refurbishment works is detailed as follows;

  • Installation of specialised multi lift steeplejack scaffolding within the top 12m of the chimney.
  • Man riding cradle access was also installed to enable safe access to all elevations of the chimney below the scaffold area.
  • Careful piecemeal deconstruction of the termination point chimney head and blocking brickwork.
  • Complete re-build of the chimney head and blocking brickwork to exactly match its original appearance, incorporating two weathering courses of new engineering blue brickwork.
  • Raking out and re-pointing the full height of the chimney brickwork above roof level on all elevations using English Heritage approved lime mortar all as per the consveration architects specification.
  • Replacement of steel retaining bands and corner angle irons to match the existing manufactured from stainless steel.
  • Renewal of the lightning protection system to comply with BS EN 62305.

As the head of the Princes Trust, Prince Charles is regularly kept up to date with the progress of the regeneration works at Middleport Pottery and we were told that he took particular interest in the chimney refurbishment work being carried out by Rafferty’s. We sincerely hope that Prince Charles will be pleased with the work that we have carried out on this grand old chimney structure.

The following photographs show various stages of the work from the condition of the chimney before repairs to the final completion of all refurbishment works undertaken.




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Moorcroft Bottle Oven Restoration

Rafferty Steeplejacks are undertaking a complete restoration project of a brick bottle oven chimney in of the heart of the Potteries (Stoke-On-Trent). The structure, which belongs to Moorcroft Pottery, is over 90 years old and the restoration works have attracted the interest of the local Sentinal newspaper – please click on the following link to read artical. http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/news/Bottle-oven-restoration-coming-nicely/article-2987652-detail/article.html

Rafferty’s are very privileged to be involved in a project that helps preserve the heritage of their home city. The following photograph shows the second and third generation of the Rafferty steeplejack family, Nick Rafferty (right) and Matt Rafferty (Left), taking the opportunity to stand at the top of this now very rare structure.


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