Memories of man who ‘had the city at heart’

June 01 2019
Memories of man who ‘had the city at heart’

THE family of one of the best known figures in the Wells area, Jack Paul, have paid tribute to him after his death at the age of 97.

A former captain of Wells City football and cricket teams, and president of the chamber of commerce, he was apprenticed to the family firm of W&H Paul at the age of 14.

He spent the rest of his working life with the renowned firm of builders and decorators, apart from his time in the Army during the Second World War, when he rose to the rank of Sergeant Major.

“He was so intertwined with the history of the city,” said Hazel Switzer, one of his two daughters. “He was a Wellensian above all.”

There was a large gathering for Jack’s funeral at Coxley Church on May 20, followed by his burial in the churchyard.

He had lived in Coxley for 71 years, moving to a cottage there with his wife Meg in 1948, two years after they met at a Wells Town Hall ladies’ choice dance.

Having learned the trades of W&H Paul, he went on to manage the business – based for most of its existence at 2 St Cuthbert Street – with his brother George and sister Madeline until the firm stopped trading in 1990.

Among the projects it took on was renovating the Wells Cathedral Clock quarter-jacks, redecorating the St Cuthbert’s Church coat of arms, and other work for a prestigious list of clients including the Swan Hotel, the White Hart, Wells Museum, Mendip Hospital and the Ancient Gatehouse Hotel.

He put his building knowledge to good use renovating his own cottage, and making garden sheds.

“The house is the house that Jack built,” said Hazel. She added: “He loved people, he loved talking, he loved jokes – usually quite bad ones.”

His other daughter, Elizabeth Anderton, said: “He built himself 14 sheds, with help from family members – he could never sit still. He straightened nails and screws to reuse. He had pots of them. He was a recycler before it used to happen.”

A keen sportsman, Jack played football for Wells at a time when visiting supporters would sometimes arrive with homing pigeons to relay the scoreline at half-time and the final whistle to family and friends back home.

He enjoyed swimming, and even qualified as a lifeguard at the age of 75 to help at his grandchildren’s swimming club.

He also loved carnival, helping to make, and appearing on, the W&H Paul cart, and in later years he enjoyed the veterans’ breakfasts that he used to attend, and twice-weekly cribbage games with neighbours.

Researching local history became another hobby, and he wrote two memoirs on the history of W&H Paul.

His nephew Jim Paul, who runs the db+Paul chartered surveyors firm from what were once W&H Paul offices, across the road from their main premises in St Cuthbert Street, said that with Jack’s death “it’s the end of a generation of families that had firms in Wells”.

“He had the city at heart,” he added. “He had very strong opinions about what happened in Wells.”

For several years, the family had been holding a party on Jack’s birthday in June, which sometimes had more than 100 guests, and they had already begun planning this year’s event.

“His grandmother and his aunt both lived to 100,” said Elizabeth. “We thought he was going to make it to 100.”