St Nicholas’ Church remembered

THE recollections of a builder who helped revive the religious heart of Great Yarmouth following its devastation by German bombs have sparked an outpouring of memories.

Last month The Mercury talked to Gorleston grandfather Donald Holmes, who carved his name onto timber inside the roof of St Nicholas Church while restoring it in 1958- 16 years after it became the victim of a second world war air raid.

His tale which resonated with 79-year-old Audrey Brown, whose late husband John also played a key part in ensuring the doors of the largest parish church in England were finally re-opened to the congregation in 1961.

Audrey, of Great Yarmouth, reminisced about the pride John felt to be working on the project.

“It think he was proud because it was such an important part of Great Yarmouth, and it was important to the town that it was rebuilt” she said.

“He really did enjoy it, and I think anyone else who was involved was proud too.”

After marrying her sweetheart aged 23, Audrey recalls that she looked after their three children at their home in Caister while John went out on to the site.

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A general craftsman by trade, it was his skills as a stonemason that were put to use during the project.

“He used to work long hours, but that was just the type of work it was- it was different to building houses. He used to talk about it when he came home, too.”

Another of those with a keen eye on the progress of the rebuilding works was Colin Carvell, 78.

Having met the late Doreen George in 1955 after a career in the army which included the Royal Norfolk Regiment in the couple were engaged later that year.

However,it was at her request that their marriage was delayed until she could walk down the one aisle that was special to her- six years later.

Colin, of Bradwell, said: “She lived just across the road from St Nicholas Church and had seen it bombed.

“She and her family had always lived in Yarmouth and she didn’t want to get married until it was finished.”

With Colin working as a carpenter for Eastern Electrical, and Doreen working for the ministry of pensions and income, they were able to save up both for the big day and a bungalow in Bradwell.

And so it was that on June 24 1961 bride and groom became one of the first couples to exchange their vows on the consecrated ground that had been a scene of carnage just a few years previously.

It turned out that the weather had also waited. Their special day was the hottest in 60 years.

“It was hot but I couldn’t have wished for a better. It was fabulous” said grandfather Colin .

“I didn’t mind waiting because we were saving up to get married and it all took time and money. I’m glad we did it.”