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Father and son return weather vane to cathedral's towering spire

Norwich Cathedral has the country's second tallest spire.

A golden weathercock that has perched atop a cathedral’s spire since the 18th century has been returned to its lofty position after it was brought down to be re-gilded.

Conservationists Chris Milford, 72, and his 31-year-old son Sam scaled the 315ft-tall spire of Norwich Cathedral with a system of ropes to reach the cockerel-shaped wind vane last month.

They returned it to the cathedral’s highest point on Thursday, after it was covered with a thin coating of gold.

The spire is the second tallest in the country after Salisbury Cathedral.

The current project is thought to be the first time since 1963 that the weathercock has been brought down to ground level.

Norwich Cathedral spire restoration
Chris Milford, 72, and son Sam, from historic building conservation specialists WallWalkers, reinstall the weathercock at the top of Norwich Cathedral spire (Joe Giddens/PA)

Chris Milford, describing working on the spire, said: “You go into a bubble and you don’t even know that you’re that high because it becomes so focused with the challenges that you could be just two metres off the ground.

“You don’t notice anything around you.

“I love the challenge, the fact that I can still do it at 70-plus, the physicality of it, the views, just being able to keep going is one of the things I love.”

Norwich Cathedral spire restoration
Chris Milford, 72, said he has no plans to retire. (Joe Giddens/ PA)

Mr Milford, of Bristol-based WallWalkers, said he had no plans to retire, adding: “I love the steeples and I love the positions you get into and bolting up and looking after old places.

“It’s a real joy to be on natural stone.

“You get into all the places that the hoi polloi, the public, can’t go, and you get to see things which the public can’t see.

“I marvel at the sense of history.

“I love the sense of connection to history.

“Sometimes we just chat together and look at the views and go ‘wow, this is a great way to share time’.”

Norwich Cathedral spire restoration
The weathercock has crowned the cathedral spire since at least 1756. (Joe Giddens/ PA)

His son said: “It’s a passion and the passion hasn’t burned out so it’s still very much fuelling him.”

The 2ft 9ins (83cm) weathercock has crowned the cathedral spire since at least 1756 when the top part of the spire was rebuilt.

It is the cathedral’s third documented spire.

The first known spire was completed in 1297 but was later blown down in a storm of 1361-2.

Chris Milford and son Sam, from historic building conservation specialists WallWalkers
Chris Milford and son Sam (Joe Giddens/PA)

The next spire was burnt in a fire in 1463 caused by lightning.

The current spire, constructed of a brick cone with stone facing, was thought to have been designed by Robert Everard and built later in the 15th century.

Records suggest it may have been completed in 1485.

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