By Betsy Everett
A 93-year-old Bellerby man who started work as an apprentice joiner 79 years ago has been honoured with a special award for his long service to the construction industry.
Lewis Peace, who was in charge of maintenance and supervision of all the MoD ranges at Catterick and Richmond, was made a Jubilee Member of the Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Inspectorate in a specially arranged ceremony in his own front room.
Institute President Ron Philpot paid tribute to Lewis in a citation which he delivered personally to his home, along with a framed certificate marking his 50 years’ membership of the institute.
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As clerk of works at Catterick, Lewis was responsible for the water and sewage works, all the ranges and the workshops. But when he was made redundant 33 years ago, at the age of 60, he did not rest on his laurels. After working for Darlington council for two years he then joined a private firm where, among other duties, he surveyed ancient monuments and churches, working into his seventies.
And until five years ago Lewis continued to do the fabric report and site survey for the Bellerby village church of St John the Evangelist.
He recalls that five years after a lot of grant-aided work on the building, some of the ridge tiles came loose. Then in his 89th year, he climbed the ladder, re-bedded the tiles and cleaned out the gutters.
“Only a few weeks ago he was helping repair the clacker on the church bell,” said his daughter, Jennifer Pearson. “He’s not well, he 93 years old, and I try to make sure he doesn’t overdo things, but it’s very difficult to stop him,” she says.
Lewis started work as an apprentice joiner at Ripley’s builders in Leeds in 1938, pushing bags of sand and cement uphill in a handcart.
“I was struggling up a steep hill one day when a chap came up behind me and asked ‘Do you want a hand, lad?’ He put his hand on my back and gave me a gentle push. It’s little kindnesses like that that you remember all your life,” he says.
During his years at Ripley’s they built substantial houses in Headingley, but also during the Second World War worked on government property, including gun sites, food stores and temporary Land Army hostels and Nissan huts for the gun crews.
“During the early part of the hostilities our firm built the air raid shelters in Leeds City Square and the airship Graf Zeppelin flew over several parts of the UK which hastened the preparations,” he recalls.
But perhaps his most memorable, and grisly, task was refitting the new hanging dock in Armley Jail in Leeds.
“I made the drop doors, with panels four inches thick, and on the underside were springs like on a Howitzer gun to make sure they fell apart. But the execution dock was never actually used,” he says. Capital punishment was abolished in 1965.
On a cheerier note, Lewis recalls being asked to make three replica 17th century cricket bats for a memorial day celebration at Fulneck private school near Leeds, where cricketing legend Len Hutton played for the local team before achieving international fame. He had to shape the blocks of wood, splice the handles, and glue the yards of black cord which were the full length of the workshop. He then had to stain the bats to match the original.
“We didn’t hear or see any reports of that cricket match or any activities of the ‘memorial day.’ But I was satisfied I’d done a unique job,” he says.