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Updated: Jun 25


Robert Dodds at The Wool House site

Back in the mid-sixties, Richard ‘Dicky’ Dodds, was working on the rooftop of the old Henry Bell’s Wool Warehouse, later to become the swimming pool on Hexham’s Gilesgate.

He was undertaking urgent repairs to the roof and had returned from lunch, making his way up to the top in a makeshift lift, which would certainly not comply with any of today’s ‘working at height’ regulations.

The 47-year-old brickie, only five feet three inches tall, was keen to be back at work, even though he was five minutes early from his lunchbreak. Then he had an unfortunate accident. He fell from the highest part of the roof, breaking his back in the process and was never able to work again.

Today, some sixty years later, his grandson, Robert Dodds, is working at the same site, putting the finishing touches to the public right of way staircase that runs alongside the luxury apartment development known as The Wool House - the swimming pool long since closed and demolished with only the original façade remaining.

He has been on site since mid-September and is now well underway with his current contract which should take a further 15-20 weeks by which time his handiwork should have resulted in brickwork reaching roof level.

At six feet five inches in height, Robert could not be more different in stature to his grandfather, but still shares the same passion for the job, along with another passion – he is a season ticket holder and dedicated supporter of Newcastle United, never missing a game – at home or away.

Speaking about his grandfather, he said: “Yes, I suppose you could say it is a bit of a family tradition working on this site, and as I live in East Hexham, I am pleased to be working on the doorstep for a change, instead of all over the region, which is often the case.

“I never met my grandfather, but the story goes, that because he came back early from lunch, he could not claim any compensation because he should not have been on site at that time, and he was never able to work again.

“That kind of thing would just not happen today, thank goodness. There was no money coming in and it put a lot of strain on my grandparents’ marriage. I certainly don’t intend to follow his example in that respect!

“For me, it is great to be working here, because it is an interesting and challenging site, with good working conditions and I am enjoying working with the onsite team.”

Contract manager, Darren Hall, added: “The first pour of the ground floor slab, which is a major step forward took place last week, and the next pour will take place this coming week. This will provide a stronger base for us to work on, making construction easier as we lift materials up to each floor and it allows us to build the external brickwork and cladding going up the building, floor by floor.

“We are also concentrating on getting the building weathertight before the winter weather really sets in and then we will begin work on the internal finishes so that we can get the electricians, plumbing trades and plasterers hard at work in the new year.”

There continues to be strong interest from the market in The Wool House, which will provide 45 one and two-bedroom apartments with balconies as well as duplex and penthouse styles.

Four apartments are already reserved – two penthouse apartments, a duplex and a standard two-bedroom apartment.

The Hexham office of YoungsRPS is the agent and completion of the scheme is scheduled for 2024.


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