Press Release

Timber! Steeplejacks to dismantle Kew Flagpole.

On the week of the 13th August a team of steeplejacks climbed and dismantled what was once the tallest flagpole in the world at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It will took a giant crane, nerves of steel and good head for heights.

The wooden pole was entered into the Guinness Book of Records in 1959 as the tallest in the world, at 225 feet (68.58 metres) in height, but since then time and weather have taken their toll, requiring it to be shortened several times. Also, metal flagpoles have for many years outstripped the height of wooden poles.

“Sadly our historic flagpole, once the tallest in the world, is no longer safe for flag-flying,” said David Holroyd, Head of Estates at Kew. “Woodpecker action and decay have made it unsafe, so we have no alternative but to dismantle it – and it will be a major operation”. The dismantling operation will require a very tall crane, and a team of experienced steeplejacks, Rupert Bellamy Ltd, plus very careful planning.  It will come down in sections.

The lifetime of a wooden pole at Kew is around 50 years. The current flag pole is the fourth to stand on this site at Kew.  It now measures 200 ft (61 metres), and is made from the trunk of a single Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), estimated at 370 years old. It weighed 37 tonnes when first cut but was reduced to 15 tonnes after shaping at Kew. The tree was presented by British Columbia to commemorate the centenary of the province in 1958, and the bicentenary of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1959. It comes from Copper Canyon, on Vancouver Island, and was erected at Kew by 23rd Field Squadron of the Royal Engineers.

The Royal Botanic Gardens will continue to fly the Union flag from a lesser flagpole to observe various state anniversaries and royal birthdays. Staff at the Gardens have decided not to replace the flagpole with another, because it would mean felling another giant tree

Notes for Editors

The Steeplejacks
The team of Steeplejacks work for Rupert Bellamy Limited. Mark Meager is climbing the flagpole and will be helped by his colleagues Mark Miller and Carl Howard.
History
A small flagpole at Kew was replaced by a taller one (159ft) in 1861, and after 58 years of preservation and patching was replaced by a new one, 55ft taller, in 1919. This too succumbed to the effects of time and the weather, and in 1959 was replaced with the current flagstaff.
Tallest Flagpole in the World
Consult Guinness World Records. There are conflicting claims from around the world, but steel poles now top 400ft.


For further Press information please contact:

Kew:

Public Relations
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond
Surrey TW9 3AB
UK

Tel: +44 (0)20 8332 5607/5619
Email:pr@kew.org

 

Wakehurst Place:

Public Relations
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Wakehurst Place
Ardingly
West Sussex RH17 6TN
UK

Tel: +44 (0)1444 894018
Email: msb@kew.org