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Victor John Charles, 1917–2013: in memoriam

Vic and Bubbles Charles came to Barton in 1963. She died in 2007, born, as was Vic, in 1917.  Vic died in December 2013 aged 96.

Years ago my sisters and I would canter along the verges (few cars then) to Moreton-in-Marsh where Claytons (now I think KC carpets) would shoe our horses or ponies so we could go hunting. Claytons shut around 1960 and there was nowhere local to shoe a horse. My father advertised and Vic Charles took on the position of mobile shoesmith to the Warwickshire Hunt, employed by The Barton Farms Ltd and equipped with a van and portable forge.

When my father wanted to give up running the estate in 1987 and my wife and I – who had been living in Edinburgh since we were married in 1969 – took over, I saw Vic had been put on “half-time” from his 70th birthday. I asked him if he wished to continue working. Vic mentioned modestly that he had won a top-notch prize for ornamental ironwork at the then prestigious Royal Show. We asked if he could make a heron to put over the well (35 ft deep) on our terrace. He, with the advice of Bubbles, whom he described as his Artistic Director, triumphantly made a figure of iron, covered in lead with copper, which we looked at in amazement. Few blacksmiths are able to work in metals other than iron but Vic rejoiced in making things in iron, lead, bronze and brass.

He particularly liked making benches, including the one surrounding the oak on the Village Green and the one in our front porch. He once told me that he and Bubbles had been round the garden on our NGS Open Day and they had sat on 16 benches, three-quarters of which he had made.

In late 2011 he told me that he would dearly like to have made a bench to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but at 93 felt he no longer could. Fortunately we had a spare one which he had made maybe 15 years earlier. This has now been installed on the approach to the church of St Lawrence where it is a memorial both to Queen Elizabeth II (1952-2012) and to Vic and Bubbles Charles.

It was a privilege to have them as our neighbours and friends for half a century.

Hamish Cathie

(via LINK Magazine)

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