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My labour of love is ending after 25 years

PUBLISHED: 15:25 22 February 2011

Cathedral Close foreman Peter Grant

Cathedral Close foreman Peter Grant

Archant Norfolk 2010

Norwich Cathedral works foreman Peter Grant is moving on to pastures new after a quarter of a century. DEREK JAMES reports.

From the tip of the cathedral spire down to cellars beneath historic houses in the Close – it has all been part of Peter Grant’s empire for the past 25 years.

Peter is in charge of the team of craftsmen who look after the maintenance of the cathedral and its 44-acre estate. There are 120 buildings including flats, family homes and offices as well as the great cathedral itself to care for.

Peter is one of the few people who can regularly climb the 96-metre spire. A system of staircases and ladders takes him first to the base of the tower and views across the city and then up the spire itself and, on a clear day, he gets a distant glimpse of the sea.

“It’s lovely, going up there,” said Cathedral works foreman, Peter. It’s one of the many parts of the job he will miss when he leaves to join his son in a renewable energy business.

For a quarter of a century he has been in charge of everything, from replacing washers on taps to making altar tables.

He began as a carpenter and is now in charge of a team including two carpenters, a bricklayer and a labourer.

A host of specialist courses has helped them all hone their knowledge of working with historic buildings. Decades ago repairs might have been made with the wrong materials and actually damaged the building they were supposed to preserve.

Today, Peter and his team are all trained in the highly specialised work of conserving historic buildings.

And as he looks around the Cathedral Close he knows that he has played a part in preserving its beauty for future generations.

As well as the visible jobs, from vast staircases to tiny mortar repairs, there have been big structural challenges too. The solutions Peter and his team found for these mean he is leaving the iconic cathedral, in its lovely setting of homes and other historic buildings, in fine condition.

“I have enjoyed being part of the community too,” said Peter. “It’s like a village here. There are families, retired people and business people. I will miss the people and miss working in such lovely buildings, and miss the challenges they bring too.”

As well as the inevitable problems of old buildings, there are also challenges unique to working in a busy cathedral.

“Quite often we have to down tools as a service starts!” said Peter. “But there are always other jobs, somewhere else in the Close, that we can be doing.”

Phil Thomas, estates manager for Norwich Cathedral, said: “Peter has worked on nearly all of the cathedral’s properties and got to know dozens of the tenants. His experience and eye for detail have been invaluable and he will be greatly missed, not only by the works team but also, we believe, by the Close residents.”

Peter, 52, of Denton, near Bungay, will be joining his youngest son’s business, it’s called feedin (www.feed-in.co.uk), installing solar panels and wind turbines. It brings his career full circle, as his first job was working in his own father’s business.

And while he hopes to return to the Close to visit friends, he will certainly not be helping his successor – now being advertised for in the Evening News – add a wind turbine to the top of the spire.

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