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Chain mail


I was surprised to read that Peter Anderson started as a 'chainman' (NCE 29 July).When I was articled 67 years ago, surveys were made using theodolite, 100 foot steel engineering chain and a linen tape. I had assumed that more modern surveying methods had made the chain, and the man, redundant.

The senior pupil in 1937 was courting a girl 12 miles away and he left much of the survey for a council housing estate to his experienced chainman.

Unfortunately in the process a one hundred foot length of survey became omitted and the mistake was concealed in the plotting.

The error was not discovered until construction started when, to the consternation and embarrassment of the borough engineer, it became necessary to omit a four-house terrace block.

The expert chainman used to gather up the chain carefully so that when next required it could be thrown into the air, the two brass handles jerked at the right moment, so that it fell cleanly in a fifty foot narrow ellipse; happy memories! Is the steel chain still used?

John Constable, 14 Church Street, Pershore, WR10 1DT

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