Stay connected

84-year-old at the helm of Frome business

AJ driving motorised transport in 1947

AJ driving motorised transport in 1947

AN84-year-old chief executive officer is still working hard after 70 years in the business.

Tony ‘AJ’ Charlton has worked for the family firm of AJ Charlton & Sons Ltd, which is based between Frome and Radstock, for 70 years.

AJ, as he is known, is now aged 84 years of age. Like his fellow octogenarians Rupert Murdoch and Warren Buffett he is also very much an active CEO, chairman and shareholder of the company that he has worked for all his life.

Charltons is today best known for its gates and fencing products, as well as its furniture and timber store businesses. The firm was founded in 1903 and is still very much a family business.

AJ ‘officially’ joined the business in 1943 at the age of 14, although when he was as young as 11 he started helping out with the horses. At the time, the timber business was heavily reliant on the coal industry, with pit props being supplied from the local woods to the nearby Somerset Coalfield and beyond.

AJ said, “We used Shire horses to haul the timber out of the woods. My job included feeding the horses and taking them to the blacksmith. I still remember the huge size of the animals. They were so big we used to shelter under them from the rain.

“The miners’ strike of 1972 had a big impact on the company’s profitability. I was helping to run the business and realised that the firm had to adapt and change or else die. The company then invested heavily in new sawmills and new products. This was just as well, as in 1973 the remaining Somerset coal pits at Kilmersdon and Writhlington closed.”

According to staff, “Today, AJ remains very much the active executive. He is early into the office most days and is a familiar sight in and around the yard and sawmills with his trusted iPad in hand.

AJ said, “I love it, it gives me energy coming in here. I am also extremely fortunate in having had my four sons, Michael, Peter, David and Adrian join the business and I now also have five grandchildren working in the business as well. Not only am I able to do the work that I want but at the same time I am with the people that I love as well! I think that there can be very few, if any, businesses in the country that can boast their fifth generation joining the family firm. I am very proud of that.

“I am now both old enough and wise enough to know that the reason Charltons is still here and has a future is that in previous economic crises we have had to adapt and change. Last year I was cautious about the company undergoing change with a full rebranding exercise, but I was happy to listen to the reasons why it was considered necessary and the rebranding has my full backing. It has been a big positive step forward.

“I don’t plan on retiring just yet, as long as my knees hold up and my fellow directors still want me then I plan to be here for the foreseeable future.”