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Award winning builder dies aged 77

PUBLISHED: 12:32 21 November 2009 | UPDATED: 11:03 07 July 2010

Respected craftsman and award-winning Norfolk builder Ray Rollins has died at his home aged 77 after a long illness.

He spent a lifetime renovating cottages and buildings and restoring a listed Elizabethan manor house on the Sennowe estate at Guist.

Respected craftsman and award-winning Norfolk builder Ray Rollins has died at his home aged 77 after a long illness.

He spent a lifetime renovating cottages and buildings and restoring a listed Elizabethan manor house on the Sennowe estate at Guist.

Born at Weasenham, he was one of five children and had two other brothers. He left school at the age of 14 in 1946 to become a wheelwright with the late Lenny Mitchell at Wood Norton.

Eventually, he went into partnership as Mitchell & Rollins, which specialised in house renovations and improvements. It is now run by his daughter, Susan, and son-in-law Andrew Pearson.

He began working on the Sennowe estate more than 50 years ago for the late Sir Thomas Cook. His son, Tom, who delivered a tribute at last Friday's funeral service, said: “When I took over the estate, it was still in the recovery position following the war. He looked after 20 listed buildings on the estate, and from the late 1950s onwards, we installed bathrooms in more than 100 cottages, putting in heating and improved water supplies.

“Major restorations undertaken included Sennowe Hall and the Elizabethan Pudding Norton Hall. He was passionate about the Senowe estate, apart from his family, it was his life,” said Mr Cook.

“Ray was a farmer, forester, sawyer, wheelwright, wellright, undertaker, jack of trades and unusually master of them all - he was an extraordinary builder,” he added.

He was so dedicated that even turned out one Christmas Day to repair a tenant's broken water supply which involved going down a well. “There was absolutely no doubt that the Sennowe estate would not be in the situation that it is now had it not been for Ray,” added Mr Cook.

In 1993, Mr Rollins was presented with the Ian Howard Award from North Norfolk Council for restoration of Moor End Cottages, Stibbard. And in 1998, Breckland Council recognised his work on the listed Church Farmhouse, Gateley, with the Ian Howard Award.

“No job was ever too big or complicated for Ray to tackle. In fact, hardly ever were two jobs the same and he was never stumped,” said Mr Cook. “Over the 50 years that I worked with him, I never had a contract or an estimate from him. It was all done on trust and the shake of a hand,” he added.

He leaves a widow, June, daughter Susan and grandchildren, Duncan and Ellie.

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