Master builder John Taylor of Diss retires
A master builder who established a go-to firm for specialist restorations has retired.
John Taylor Builders at Diss was the first choice for many churches and owners of period properties when his firm’s skills were in demand.
The cupola-like oak structure on top of St Mary’s Church in Diss is an example of his firm’s craftsmanship. Made at his yard, it was clamped together in the churchyard and, on a Sunday morning in 2003, lifted by crane up to the tower.
“It was difficult because nothing was square but it slotted right in to the main timbers of the tower,” said Mr Taylor, who admitted to being apprehensive up until that final moment.
He has twice rebuilt parts of the famous crinkle-crankle wall at the Eye home of the late ballet dancer and choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, when it was hit by cars, as well as building the swimming pool there.
However, now approaching 76, he has decided to retire and the firm which he set up in 1970 has closed. “The day of the family building business with the master employing a staff has gone,” he said. “The building industry has become fragmented and is now full of people in white vans.”
Mr Taylor followed generations of his family into the building trade when he began work with a local firm in 1958. He is a carpenter and joiner by trade, but was familiar with most building skills by the time he set up his own firm in 1970. As it grew, he eventually bought a former builder’s yard in Shelfanger Road, Diss, where it has been located since 1986.
He doubts that he has built more than five houses since he began working for himself, focusing instead on the maintenance of listed buildings. “I have enjoyed it and it has been a privilege to have so many delightful customers,” he added.
In retirement, there is a big garden to keep up ... and his memoirs to complete.