Paul, George (b.1924), Jack (b.1921) & Madeleine (b.1919)
Jack, George and Madeleine Paul worked all their lives in the well-known firm of builders and painters and decorators, founded by their grandfather in 1893. They undertook various kinds of work in the business - George specialised in sign-writing and Madeleine ran the office. The firm painted schools, offices, pubs, and churches and was contracted to build some of the military camps that sprung up in Somerset during the Second World War.
Paul’s Builders & Decorators, Cuthbert St, Wells, c.1970s. Paul’s Builders & Decorators, Cuthbert St, Wells, c.1970s.
Sound File
Listen to George, Jack and Madeleine Paul - 2.14MB Duration 3:21 min.

AH: When did you start in the company?


JP: I started when I left school at fourteen in 1935. I came direct into the company, you know, as sort of an apprentice, doing...


AH: What were you apprenticed to?


JP: Well, to the general trade, building and decorating trade. And my first job, we had recently decorated the tax office in Wells.  My first job was scrubbing all the floors after the painters and painting the radiators.


AH: How long would you have been an apprentice for?


JP: Well, at that time it was seven years.


AH: Were you paid as an apprentice?


JP: Yes, but being the boss’s son we always got less than everyone else.  And there was a rate for apprentices and of course at the end of the term you got your indentures for having served your apprenticeship. And then at that time you also then did a further two years as an improver before you came on to the full rate of pay.


AH: I’ve come across the word ‘journeyman’.  Does that apply with building and decorating?


JP: Not really, no. I think it’s just, as an improver you were between the grades of apprentice and the fully-fledged craftsman.


AH: So how many other apprentices were there working with you?


JP: I can’t remember offhand but I should say three or four because we always had, you know, quite a number.  In fact at that time I suppose we had twenty to twenty-five men working.  That was all trades from masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers.


AH: And were you working in the Wells area?


JP: Most of our work was in the Wells area because then everything was local.  I mean you only had handcarts to take things around or my father’s time; we had a pony and trap, which would do the villages.  So yes, it was either within cycling distance or walking distance.


AH: What kind of hours did you work in a day?


JP: Well, we started at eight in the morning and then we finished at five to half-past, generally five o’clock.  But of course we did work Saturday mornings, from eight to twelve on a Saturday.


AH: And what kind of jobs were you doing?  You mentioned the first one...


JP: Well, you know, the decorating.  We did a lot of work in schools, generally during the holiday time, and public houses, did a lot of work in those, bars and re-decorating, painting the outsides. At that time there was a general trade in, interior decorating, and we were quite heavily loaded towards that, because in those days spring-cleaning was done and that was a very busy time.  And everyone would really empty their house and spring-clean it from top to bottom, and we would be called in to decorate maybe one or two rooms at that time.


AH: I know you were saying you went off and were called up.  Which year was that?


JP: I was called in April ’41 and, just previous to that, course the war had started, and we were then involved in painting white lines all around the pavements and the kerbstones in Wells.  I mean all the firms in Wells were involved in it.  We used to get up at five o’clock in the morning to start that, black and white spaces going all around the kerbs.  We also did some work on the army camps that were springing up around here, doing blackouts at Shepton prison and the tented camps.  We made the ablution trays, and some of these tents were lined out with [tentis] board, put floors in them, actually, so there was quite a bit of work involved in that as the war came on.  And then, as I say, I was called up.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in November 1989. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.