Cathedral finds offer glimpse into past

ITEMS found by workmen restoring the roof of Suffolk's mother church have provided a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the men who last repaired it.

Will Clarke

ITEMS found by workmen restoring the roof of Suffolk's mother church have provided a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the men who last repaired it.

They were discovered during a £500,000 scheme to renovate the roof of St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds.

A wage slip and two cigarette packets were found under the slates of the nave roof and Sarah Friswell, visitor officer at the cathedral, said they were left there by workmen during the late 1940s.


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“The items are a fascinating snapshot of the life of builders in that period, the name on the wage slip is just about visible as a Mr Ellis and it would be great to trace him.

“The wages slip, from the contractor Rattee and Kett Limited, a firm still in existence and operating from Cambridgeshire, details the owner's wages as being £2, 7s and 2p for the week ending April 10, 1949.

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“The cigarette packets are from two companies, Ipswich-based Churchman's Tenner and WD and HO Wills' Wild Woodbine.”

Andrew Brown, the current director of Rattee and Kett, said: “Unfortunately we do not have any records of the works being carried out on the cathedral in 1949, or a Mr Ellis.

“Needless to say £2, 7 and 2 was a fair wage then and we do pay slightly more now.”

The current high pitched roof, which is being restored, is the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott and was installed originally in the 1860s, replacing the lower pitched Tudor roof. And the new slates for the scheme are expected to arrive early in the New Year.

Tony Redman, cathedral surveyor, said it was a privilege to be working on a building where so many generations of craftsmen had worked.

However, he said his workmen were not planning on leaving their mark: “We have managed to source English Cumberland slates from the same area the originals were from. It will be like a new roof but the colours will be exactly the same.

“When we have finished hopefully people won't be able to see we have been there.”

The current work on the roof has been made possible by the grant from English Heritage and generous benefactors and is due for completion in March 2009.

The cathedral office would be interested to hear from anyone with information about the finds. Go to visitor.officer@stedscathedral.co.uk

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