Fancy climbing Jacob’s Ladder? You might have a bit of a journey on your hands! Located in Jamestown on the tiny island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, it is the world’s longest straight staircase with an amazing 699 steps.
Saint Helena is probably best known as the place where Napoleon spent his final days, having been exiled to the island following his capture in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo.
But Jacob’s Ladder is the island’s other, and perhaps less well-known tourist attraction. Rising 183 metres (600 feet) up to Ladder Hill Fort, the staircase has handrails on either side for most of its length, and more than 200 iron spindles, spaced five steps apart. Given the regulations regarding the spacing of spindles on buildings in the UK, if the staircase was subject to the same requirements, it would need more than 2500 spindles to comply!
The number of spindles probably was at the forefront of the Royal Engineers’ minds when they started work on constructing the staircase in 1871. The staircase began its life as a cableway in 1829, having been built by the Saint Helena Railway Company to transport supplies from Jamestown up to the fort. After its conversion to a staircase, the structure had a whole new lease of life and was instrumental in the building of a new village, Half Tree Hollow, at the top of Ladder Hill. The village has proven so popular that its population now exceeds that of Jamestown, at the bottom of the hill. There have been some safety improvements over the years, with the addition of lighting along the climb, meaning it can be used at night.
The staircase is also home to the Ladder Challenge, a run up the 699 steps, held every two years, with brave athletes coming from all over the world to see who can clock the fastest time up to the top of the hill. In January 2013, the record for the fastest ascent was broken by Graham Doig, a visiting consultant from an engineering firm. He climbed the steps in a time of 5 minutes, 16 seconds, beating the previous record by a single second. The time for the quickest descent is obviously much shorter, especially given the local children’s tendency to slide down the railings!
The ladder can be somewhat deceptive to climbers as the severity of the gradient increases as you get nearer to the top. Indeed, in its list of Ladder Facts, the St. Helena Online web site simply states: “When first-time climbers think they’re halfway up the ladder, they’re not.”
Luckily, home owners (unless residing in a mansion/castle) do not have to worry about 699 steps when it comes to refurbishment of the staircase! However, if this was the case, UK Stair Parts are confident when it comes to the provision and delivery of everything you would need for such a large job. From the average set of stairs to something more complex, we are here to offer advice and guidance. Contact the professionals today!