Stilt-wearing Chippenhan stonemason stands head and shoulders above the rest

This Is Wiltshire: Phill Windley from Howlett-Neal Masonry on stilts with, from left, Alex Kelman from Cafe Munro, Stephen Howlett-Neal from the conservation firm and Bella Whittle from Munro’s Phill Windley from Howlett-Neal Masonry on stilts with, from left, Alex Kelman from Cafe Munro, Stephen Howlett-Neal from the conservation firm and Bella Whittle from Munro’s

Stilt-walking stonemasons have been using circus skills to carry out repairs to a café.

Curious passers-by in Borough Parade have been stopping to stare at Phill Windley, who came up with the innovative alternative to scaffolding.

He works for Chippenham firm Howlett-Neal Masonry and Conservation, which has been using stilts to carry out work to fix cracks on the outside of Café Munro over the past couple of weeks.

Already over six foot tall, Mr Windley was lifted to more than nine feet while at work.

“I did have to reach down a bit of a way to get my coffee,” he said.

“It’s practical, your work platform is attached to your feet.”

The 37-year-old said it did not take him long at all to master the stilts, which came from America.

“I’m fairly agile anyway and am used to balance-related things like surfing, slacklining and rock climbing, so it didn’t take long. I felt comfortable on them within 24 hours,” he said.

He said he had not fallen off them so far.

It was not the first time Howlett-Neal has put them to use in building work.

Mr Windley also wore them for work on Grittleton School, and on a house in Castle Combe that featured in the 1967 Doctor Dolittle film.

“I think people found it quite amusing, they’d often stop to watch and ask questions because of the novelty of it. It was really nice they were interested in what we were doing,” said Mr Windley.

“I used them originally about 10 years ago to carry out specialist lime plaster work.

“I have now diversified into architectural stonemasonry, conservation and sculpture and, due to the delicate nature of some conservation work and space restrictions, it seemed a good idea to use them for this as well.”

Howlett-Neal Masonry and Conservation has worked on a range of conversation and restoration projects, including Corsham Court and Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury.

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