Paul Cattermole (1941-2009)

Inspirational Norwich School teacher and authority on Norfolk's church bells

One of the most highly respected authorities on Norfolk's church bells and an inspirational teacher at Norwich School for 29 years, Paul Cattermole, has died aged 68. Norfolk-born Dr Cattermole, who was official archivist to Wymondham Abbey, was adviser to the Norwich diocese on bells.

Dr Paul CattermoleHis research was meticulous, as befits a man who gained a first degree in mathematics and then a doctorate in history. His thesis spawned many of his publications, including Church Bells and Bell-Ringing - a Norfolk Profile. When published in 1990, after he had visited 400 Norwich churches, it was the first major reference volume since 1874.

A fluent speaker of medieval Latin, he spent five years of research in a labour of love: The Church Bells of Norwich, published in 2005. It was the most comprehensive guide to bellringing and the city's rich heritage of bells for more than half a century. Listing every bell in Norwich churches, including some dating from 1350, he devoted a lengthy chapter in the 284-page book to an often-neglected subject: bell-frames in towers.

A native of New Buckenham, he learned to ring at Beccles, having been encouraged by a clerical historian, Gilbert Thurlow, precentor of the cathedral, who wrote a history of Norwich bells in 1947. Although he remained loyal to Tasburgh and Tharston, where he was a regular ringer, he also rang bells at many other churches. While an accomplished peal ringer, he was renowned for his enthusiasm, patience and devotion to teaching change-ringing to generations.

He obtained a diploma in education at Oxford, which included teaching practice at Gresham's, Holt. Then he taught at the King's School, Worcester, for 10 years from 1964, where a pupil included future South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon. He returned to Norwich as head of mathematics, where he was also co-author of a history of Norwich School, published in 1991. On his retirement in 2003, the school magazine noted: “Life was never dull when Paul was in charge of the maths department. Maths was real, maths was exciting, maths had nothing to do with textbooks.”

When Dr Cattermole's authoritative book was published to mark the 900th anniversary of Wymondham Abbey, Mr Bacon told the launch party: “It was Paul who taught me all those years ago that if you're going to do something you should do it as well as possible.” Dr Cattermole edited a 309-page book with 19 contributors that charted the abbey's beginnings as a Benedictine priory in 1107 to its dissolution in 1538 and the restoration in 1902. Canon Christopher Davies said that Dr Cattermole had single-handedly catalogued the complex archive material at Wymondham, which would be of great value to historians.


Michael Pollitt (Obituaries Editor, Eastern Daily Press)
5 August 2009


Further obituaries for Dr Cattermole can be found on the website of the Society of Antiquaries of London, of which Dr Cattermole was a Fellow:

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