Whilst today’s standard of pruning trees is one that revolves around safety (in this case, by not ‘free-climbing’), this was not always the case. In fact, it was not until the 1930s that the first ‘safety belt’ was accepted by arborists in the UK (courtesy of Denis Le Sueur). Before this time, despite the fact safety equipment existed (originally created by the Parisian arborists) and was used in both France and the USA, the UK’s industry saw the use of a belt as the mark of cowardice.
Le Sueur, who remarked that “such belts need to be used at all times… no workman should have an idea that the use of such a belt is a confession of cowardice… the use of a safety belt is a question of common sense”, first pushed for the Corporation of the City of London’s arborists to use the safety belt during the 1930s, who acted upon his request and ended up becoming likely the first authority to use safety equipment during climbing operations.
…and the rest, they say, is history.
Source: Johnston, M. (2015) Trees in Towns and Cities – A History of British Urban Arboriculture. UK: Windgather Press.