A WEST Devon wood turner is reshaping history at Tavistock Parish Church, using wood from the building’s former oak doors.
Wood turner Eric Cockings, who has been a chorister in Tavistock for 13 years, is applying his carpentry and joinery skills to make high quality gifts from the former doors for the church bazaar at Tavistock Town Hall on Saturday, November 19.
The doors of St Eustachius’ Church, believed to be two to three hundred years old, were replaced two years ago and with no plan for them, Eric was permitted to rescue them for St Eustachius’ benefit.
Eric, whose workshop is well equipped with saws and a lathe, is crafting everything from bowls, pots and coasters, to pencil holders, egg cups and jewellery stands. Taking pride of place are his paper weights, which are inset with cast iron studs from the church doors.
Eric and his wife Sylvia moved to Tavistock in 2000 and three years later both joined the church choir. Eric, who has been a chorister since he was eight, became a founder member of Tavistock Turners and Carvers Club and is now president.
Holding the door jamb from one of the old church doors, he said: ‘I always feel it a bit of a privilege because when I turn that, I am seeing the centre of the wood that nobody has seen for perhaps three to four hundred years.’
His passion for carpentry and a life-long career as a joiner resulted from his boyhood days in the church choir. The catalyst was failing his 11-plus examination, after which he was devastated.
He said: ‘The vicar said to me “Eric, don’t let it get to you — you want to be a carpenter”. He arranged with the school that I should have extra carpentry and joinery lessons. Then I went with a local firm and learned the trade.’
Eric studied the necessary skills at Devonport College and achieved his City and Guilds in carpentry and joinery. Then, when he went into National Service, he became regimental carpenter at Grays Royal Artillery in Essex.
Back in civvy street, he decided to set up his own business in Ivybridge, going into partnership with his brother. Since Eric retired, it is being run by his and Sylvia’s son Mark.
Eric and Sylvia met in the choir at Ivybridge when he was 16 and she was 14. They have been married for 58 years and still enjoy singing together as tenor and alto at St Eustachius’ Choir.