Lancashire's own Repair Shop - reporter Stef Hall takes pensioner's 100 year old family heirlooms to Leyland to be restored

Our fascination with restoration and repair has been reignited by a popular television series.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 4:55 am

Many Lancastrians are seeking the skills of talented experts in the county to restore their sentimental family belongings and bring them back to life.

A quick scout of the internet shows a wealth of repair experts across the county, including those who can restore record players, headlights, upholstery, leather goods, vintage watches and pieces of art.

So when my great auntie revealed one of her dearest wishes was to see two of my late great grandad's books repaired, I knew Lancashire would be the right place to come to!

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Peter Doyle, book restorer

Peter Doyle, 61, restores and binds books and texts from across the ages at his workshop in Leyland's Worden Park.

He started his trade as an apprentice bookbinder at T. Snape & Co Printers & Bookbinders, Preston in 1976.

After passing his City & Guilds exams in 1980 he moved to Lancaster University's Bindery, undertaking journal and thesis binding and restoration work on antiquarian books held by the university.

But his unusual skills quickly began to attract private commissions from book dealers, publishers and collectors, and by 1996 Peter was able to set up his very own repair workshop - an independent bindery catering for the printing, antiquarian, publishing and academic trades.

One of Phyllis's family heirlooms

He has produced books for cathedrals, local governments, television and sporting clubs.

The father of two recalls: " There was an article in the LEP about a Lancaster University competition quoting a man saying "it’s hard to get skilled craftsmen" so I wrote off.

"Over the years I’ve picked things up along the way."

The born and bred Prestonian now lives in Bacup with his wife Julie, a housewife, but travels to Leyland most days.

Peter Doyle, book restorer

He explains: " I love my job, I've never done anything else.

"Work is steady, I always have people coming in."

The oldest book Peter has restored was more than 500 years old - The Ship of Fools by Sebastian Brant, which dates back to 1508!

His ambition is to restore books published before 1500, which are given the special term of incunabula, "just for the experience".

Phyllis, 95, with her restored books

My family's books aren't quite that old, but they were in a terrible state of repair.

With the bible's cover completely torn and pages falling out of the hymn book, I wasn't convinced they were salvageable.

The original owner of them, my great grandad, Edward Moss Sr, did not go to church but always kept this bible.

Tragically he and my great grandma, Harriet, had lost two babies, William and Lily, in infancy, and he wrote their names, dates of birth and death in his little bible - it's clear this tiny book must have meant a great deal to him.

Happily they went on to have my great auntie, Phyllis, in 1926, and my grandad Eddie in 1931.

The dog eared books, now around 100 years old, were eventually passed down to my great auntie.

Sadly last year we lost my Grandad, Eddie Moss Jr, to Covid, and it became a dear wish of his last surviving sibling, now 95, that their dad's books, containing the only memory of their two siblings, be restored so they could be passed down the generations.

Peter said it took four hours to fix them.

The transformation has been magical, wiping away the fading of time and allowing us to keep and pass down precious heirlooms which, though admittedly not of much monetary value, are deeply sentimental to us.

On receiving them, Phyllis said: “This is really marvellous what he’s done.

“It’s unrecognisable.”

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