Thursday 7 December 2000

The Heytesbury Blacksmith

One hundred and seventy-five years ago today, on 7th December 1825, Charles Dyer was born at Berwick St. James, where his father and grandfather were both blacksmiths.

At the age of eight, Charles worked in the fields, when men earned eight shillings a week with an extra shilling when they were married.

He later found employment at Southampton and walked the 30 miles or more to his home each weekend; returning to the south coast port for work on Mondays.

About 1853 he settled at Heytesbury, running his own smithy and living at The Hollow.

Charles Dyer reached the grand old age of 101. "Na'ar a man in 'Yetsbury 'ave worked 's 'ard as I av" was, he said, the reason for his longevity, aided by a quart of beer at meal times. Tea was such a luxury that it was only drunk on Sundays! And no barber had ever cut his hair.

Among his earliest memories was the time when, about 1830, there were riots by labourers protesting about the introduction of machinery. The rioters started at Bristol, touring the country, smashing up machines on their way. When they demonstrated outside his parents' home at Berwick St. James, his father gave them half-a-crown and gently persuaded them to go away without doing any damage.

On his 100th birthday, Charles Dyer received a letter of congratulation from the King and Queen; the village bells were rung; he was presented with an illuminated address and a rug; and he was photographed for the London press.

His son, Alma, was in June 1928, still continuing in business at the Heytesbury smithy.

Another smith in the village had, at this time, already converted his workplace into a petrol station.