Ulverston Hoad Monument keeper retires after 20 years

Image caption Ken Barrett is the longest-serving keeper in the monument's history

Standing 100ft (30m) above Hoad Hill, it is an unmissable landmark on the Ulverston skyline.

The Sir John Barrow Monument, or Hoad Monument, has stood proudly above the Cumbrian town since the middle of the 19th Century.

Now its longest-serving keeper has been honoured by the town for his service, as he passes on the mantle.

After a record 20 years' stewardship of the attraction, Ken Barrett is stepping down.

Mr Barrett took over in 1992 after the monument had been closed for three years while being renovated.

But when he first became keeper, the tower still had a serious problem with water damage.

"There was moss on the walls, rusty metalwork. Since then it's been transformed," he said.

In 2004 Mr Barrett began working with the Friends of the Sir John Barrow Monument group, now known as the Monument Keepers, to apply for lottery funding to have the tower properly restored.

He said: "I was passionate about keeping it open. It's the icon of Ulverston."

The lottery funding was granted and major restoration work was completed in 2010.

"It's a big decision to stand down," Mr Barrett said.

"I'd seen the alterations being done and we'd reopened again. I'd done a couple more years and I thought it's time for me to go."

After the latest renovation, the landmark had been "inundated" with visitors, said Mr Barrett, but numbers had since returned to normal.

In the early days, Mr Barrett worked mainly by himself. "It was a one-man job then. Nobody else really got involved.

"But since we've been renovated and reopened, we've got 12 assistant keepers and we always have to have two on duty."

Arctic exploration

Image caption The Sir John Barrow Monument commemorates the Ulverston-born naval exlporer

A replica of the Eddystone Lighthouse in Cornwall, the monument features a spiral staircase leading to a lantern chamber at the top.

Since its renovation, it also has a second floor with "interpretation panels" displaying information about Sir John Barrow.

It was built in 1850 in memory of the seaman, who had died two years earlier after an illustrious career.

He was born in Ulverston in 1764 and went on to develop an interest in mathematics and astronomy, which would serve him well when it came to navigating the seas.

He first went to sea at the age of 16, joining a Greenland whaling expedition.

His career reached its peak when he became Second Secretary to the Admiralty in 1804, a post he held until 1845.

Through that time he promoted exploration, particularly in West Africa and the North Polar Region, where he tried to find an east-to-west passage through the Canadian Arctic.

He also wrote an autobiography and biographies of other seamen, as well a history of Arctic voyages.

He died three years after his retirement at the age of 84.

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