Go To The Fred Dibnah Heritage Centre.

fred-dibnah-heritageBook a minibus to one of the North West’s true treasures – Fred Dibnah, the engineer, steeplejack and television presenter – is fondly remembered at this heritage centre in his former home and worksite in Bolton.

The property has been lovingly restored by its new owners and contains all of the machinery collected by Fred throughout his life. Tours must be booked in advance but are well worth the effort – you will have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the grounds, his workshops, the house itself and maybe sit and relax in the garden.

Frederick “Fred” Dibnah MBE was born in Bolton and always had an interest in mechanical engineering. Born in 1938, Fred grew up in a world that relied on coal to fuel the surrounding industries of the area. Bolton in particular had many textile mills and Fred was fascinated by the steam engines that powered them.

Fred’s house was originally built in 1854 and was part of the Earl of Bradford’s estate. It was used as the park keeper’s lodge as the estate contained Bolton’s first public park. The building has a unique design and is subterranean, with one storey at street level and one below it. There are mullion windows at either side, and an English Heritage plaque on the wall, dedicated to Fred. The roof has a beautiful slate scalloped design, which was re-roofed by Fred and also a brick extension built by Fred in the 1990’s.

Although Fred started his career working as a joiner for an employer, he gradually managed to build up his own business and after completing National Service, eventually earned enough to buy his own set of ladders. Times were tough as the town was in a period of post industrial decline and many of the mills were closing. However he won various commissions to repair chimneys and mastered his trade, largely learning through on the job experience. Fred became a ‘celebrity’ by chance when in 1978 he was working on a clock tower at Bolton Town Hall. This was featured on a local BBC news programme; and when a film producer later saw the clip he wanted to know more about Fred’s work. Producer Don Howarth persuaded a reluctant Fred to let him film him at work – the resulting documentary won the 1979 BAFTA for best documentary! He was a hit because viewers found his work fascinating and his personality really endeared people to him.

So, if you were a fan of the great man, this is well worth a visit – the new owners are true enthusiasts and will regale you with little stories as well as showing you around the lovely centre.

Or Travel To Bolton.

Then why not pop in to Bolton for a spot of shopping and lunch?  Based in Swinton we are directly between Manchester and Bolton so have minibuses available in both areas all the time. a 16 seater minibus over to the Fred Dibnah heritage centre is only £50 so if you’re on a city break in Manchester then there is no excuse not to visit.