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Meet the man who took down Norwich Cathedral’s weathercock in 1963

PUBLISHED: 11:24 26 August 2020

Bob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures:  BRITTANY WOODMAN

Bob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Archant

The historic moment Norwich Cathedral’s weathercock was gently lowered to the ground this week has brought back memories for one Norfolk man.

Bob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures:  BRITTANY WOODMANBob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Bob James, from Sprowston, was in his late 20s when he was tasked with removing the cockerel from the cathedral’s spire back in 1963.

Until Monday, he was among the last men to remove and restore the 260-year-old weathercock.

The retired engineer worked at historic restorers W.S.Lusher, joining the company as an apprentice when he was 15 and working as an engineer until his retirement at 62.

Now 86, Mr James watched the work of father and son team Chris and Sam Milford this week as they brought down the cockerel he had previously been the last to remove.

Bob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures:  BRITTANY WOODMANBob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

More: What a view - but would you dare? Experts remove weather vane from Cathedral spire

The bowls player said: “I was at the bowls club and I said ‘the cockerel is down on the ground again from the cathedral. Do you know who the last man was that took the cathedral cockerel down and put it back on the top? That was me’.”

To reach the dizzying heights of the 96-metre spire, the company used cranes and scaffolding to lift the cockerel off the spire - different to the ropes used by the WallWalkers team on Monday.

Mr James said: “We had scaffolding all the way up the spire. You do not worry too much about [the height], it’s something that has got to be done.

“You could see Yarmouth Power Plant from the top of the cathedral on a clear day. It was a good view the whole way round.”

Bob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures:  BRITTANY WOODMANBob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

“I think [WallWalkers] are very brave to go up on the outside like that.”

The 1960s team then spent around two weeks working on the cockerel at the company’s workshop in School Lane, Sprowston, where Mr James recalled finding old coins. The men added a farthing to the cockerel and covered it with gold leaf.

More: Restoration work begins on Norwich Cathedral spire for first time in decades

Mr James said: “I think most people thought it was the size of a young calf or donkey. It’s not as big as that. With the gold leaf it reflects a lot of light so it looks a lot bigger.

“It was a nice job to have to do. It was a very good experience you could say.”

Bob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures:  BRITTANY WOODMANBob James, the last person to help restore the Norwich Cathedral cockerel in 1963. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

After the work was complete, the team faced the precarious task of returning the weathercock to its location without causing damage.

With the cockerel set to be returned to the top of the spire on Thursday, Mr James added: “It will be back to its brightest.”


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