Tools & Trades History Society


Ted Cole Obituary

Ted Cole was born on 8 July 1945. He grew up in Bristol, where he was trained as a joiner. He worked for the Co-op, doing shopfitting in their many stores before everything gave way to metal and plastic. Later he ran his own joinery business, carrying out a wide variety of commercial and domestic work.

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Picture, taken through his window while he was still shielding, show Ted displaying a cherished plane given to him by a local expert on Bristol planemakers It was made by his namesake, Edward Cole of Bedminster, Bristol, probably in the 1830s

Those bald facts don’t tell you enough about a man I was so pleased to know as a friend. I knew him for less than four years, which was all too brief.

I had noticed that he was a TATHS member in Bristol, and first made contact in June 2018, but didn’t meet him until October, when Jim Hendricks rang me to say that this Ted bloke had bought a tool chest and wanted to show it to someone and I’d better get round there pronto.

I did as I was told, phoned up and arranged to visit. We hit it off immediately and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Ted and being introduced to some of his amazing collection of woodworking tools. His small sitting room was filled with three huge tool chests. The coffee table and hearth were a display area for his best infill planes and ebony and brass marking gauges. A pile of reference books spilled off his antique desk, where his computer stood, complete with a 40 inch monitor.

The star of the show was, of course, the tool chest he’d just bought at auction, now known to all of us as the Warrington Chest. We spent many happy hours exploring its contents, setting ourselves more and more questions about how it was made, the family whose tools it contained and what they were used for. I could see that it was special, and got in touch with Jane Rees and Nick White and arranged for them to come and see for themselves. Out of that visit, there grew the project of collaborating on a permanent publication to record as much information as we could about the chest and its story.

We’d just got going properly, and Jane had photographed the chest and its contents, when the coronavirus epidemic hit and everything changed. Ted’s health was not good and he was soon identified as one of the vulnerable people who needed to “shield” to reduce their chance of contracting covid-19. We switched to emails, (far too many of them!) phone calls and documents shared online, with the book appearing in June 2021. Ted may have been physically isolated but he was socially really well connected, He had long been an enthusiastic PC user and was in daily contact with hundreds of woodworkers and tool collectors around the world, sharing pictures of tools in his collection and knowledge gained over many decades, always with his ready wit and humour. (He was also an enthusiastic player of online games, competing with many people a fraction of his age.)

Throughout lockdown, Ted and I continued to discuss anything and everything, by email or phone. I’m so glad to have had this time with him. He was always so generous, with information from his experience and his collection, and with frequent gifts of tools as well.

Early this year, Ted was admitted to hospital for tests and observations on a lump at the back of his mouth. After a few weeks in hospital, where his pain was controlled by medication, he decided to spend his last few months at home, looked after by some of his closest friends. He died in the early hours of 29 June 2022, shortly before what would have been his 77th birthday.

He will be mourned and missed by many friends around the world. I feel very privileged to have known him.

Andy Tuckwell

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