Last of the Chedhams will be missed by many
THE last surviving member of a Wellesbourne family whose legacy shot to fame when it won a BBC television competition six years ago has died.
Bill Chedham, of the sixth generation of blacksmiths and wheelwrights who had worked at Chedham’s Yard, died at the age of 84 last Friday at the home in Wellesbourne in which he had lived all his life.
His close friend Roy Garbett, who has been involved in the Chedham’s Yard project for ten years, said this week: “Bill was a real figure and was friends with everyone in the village.
“He will be really missed.”
As a young man, Mr Chedham learnt the skills of a wheelwright, blacksmith, agricultural engineer and thatcher.
The family operated a threshing machine on nearby farms for many years, but dwindling trade led the yard to close in 1965.
Mr Chedham decided to sell it to the parish council in 2002. Mr Garbett, who was on the parish council at the time, said: “I was one of the first members to go to have a look at the site when it was covered in cobwebs, birds’ nests and all sorts.
“The buildings had been closed for 33 years and had been left to nature. Bill probably felt that the time had come that something needed to be done with them. He felt it should be kept as a time capsule for the village. “
Four years later, the site was visited by Griff Rhys Jones as part of the BBC’s Restoration Village series - and it was chosen as the overall winner, an honour that came with £1 million of funding towards transforming the yard into the educational and historical visitor attraction it is today.
Mr Chedham was a key figure at the site’s official opening in June this year - despite having recently been in hospital due to diabetes problems.
Heather Cox, a trustee of Chedham’s Yard who knew Mr Chedham for almost 40 years, said: “He had only been out of hospital for three weeks before he came to our opening event and he couldn’t yet walk.
“Bill was a man of few words - very quiet and unassuming and very gentle. But he was thrilled about how the yard was progressing.
“Only last week I was talking to him about the yard and he told me he loved the way we had done it.”
Mr Garbett said: “Bill was a real figure. He used to regularly wind the clock on the church tower and he took me up to see how it worked. He was always seen on his bike by everyone.
“He was very quiet and reserved, but he did like a drink. There is a beer named after him at the Stag’s Head - Chedham’s Ale - and they are still serving it today.
“The pub staff have laid a wreath on the handle that pulls that beer.”
Mrs Cox added: “I walked into the yard on Saturday morning and thought to myself, we will look after it, Bill. We are all very sad.”
The cause of Mr Chedham’s death is as yet unknown. Having never married, he lived alone since his mother died and has no family living in the Midlands.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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