Charlie Wager & Eva Wager
Charlie Wager will always be known as the man who put the gardens into the garden city. He joined the WGC Co., which was constructing the gardens for the New Town, early in his life, and spent the rest of his career on the gardens, becoming head gardener for many years.
Charlie was particularly proud and fond of the cherry trees he planted in Pentley Park, and enjoyed seeing them bloom every year. But he was less fond of the Howardsgate and Parkway gardens as his team had initially had to dig these all out by hand.
He was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee medal in 1977 for his work on the town’s environment.
Charles William Alfred (always called Charlie) was born in Hammersmith, 25th June 1914. His father, Charles Henry, an apprentice goldsmith, was killed in WW1 at the age of 22, when Charlie was only two. His mother remarried and the \family moved to WGC when Charlie was 14.
Eva Crawley, who became Charlie’s wife, was born in Lemsford in a cottage next to the Long Arm and the Short Arm, which was demolished in the 1950s. Eva and Charlie married in 1941, by which time Charlie had been in the army for two years. He never spoke about his army days, but drove amphibious vehicles and was in Sicily and Italy. Apparently he drove the first amphibious vehicle up the Grand Canal after the relief of Venice.
The couple had three children, Francis, born 1942, Mary, born 1948 and Janice, born 1952.
Post war, the family lived in the cottage with Eva’s widowed mother Lizzie. Charlie enjoyed village life, joining the football club and helping build the extension to the reading room which included inside toilets and a committee room. He ran whist drives and socials which were the highlight of village life in the 1950s. He also ran the youth club and was an organiser of the annual fete, held in the adjoining field, “Oggley Meadow.”
As chairman of the resident’s association for many years he was instrumental in getting a small number of council houses built in the village which eventually led to the building of Mill Close. In 1955 the family moved to New Road in Stanborough, along with Eva’s mother. Charlie used to joke that he was always surrounded by women – even their cat was female.
All three daughters were christened and married at St Johns, and his grandaughter Naomi was the fourth generation to be married in the church.
Charlie was never one to mince words, but was a little daunted when asked to be a church warden. Nevertheless he served under several vicars, and made his opinions plain. For instance, when the vicar at the time tried to tell him how to cut the graveyard grass, Charlie handed him the mower and told him to cut the B……. himself.
He was also involved in the church bells project, which was very dear to him, and the subsequent bell-ringing bought him new friends and a lot of pleasure. On his death the family donated a bench in the bell tower for the ringers to sit on, a practical gift that Charlie would have appreciated.
In his later yeas he was the church verger and greatly enjoyed setting up the church for weddings and funerals. Once Lord Brocket asked him to reserve the front row of pews for himself and his house party. Charlie refused and told him to come early or sit in the Brocket Chapel. The house party included Prince Charles and Princess Diana!
After Eva died in 1998, Charlie was supported by friends and family in living in New Road until a few months before his death in December 2003.
Ron Ingamells, a good friend of the Wagers, said at his funeral: “People said that Charlie called a spade: Charlie never called a spade a spade, he always called it a ‘b…… spade’.”