A former West Oxfordshire farmer celebrated his 100th birthday at the weekend.
Frederick Clapton, known as Charles, has lived at Sanctuary Care’s Iffley Residential and Nursing Home in Iffley since it opened in February last year and celebrated his milestone birthday at a tea party with loved ones, fellow residents and the care home’s team on Saturday 15 November.
Charles was born in 1914, when King George V was on the throne, to parents William and Nora Clapton who were farmers at Field Farm in Alvescot. Charles was the youngest of four siblings, including Daisy, Vera and Billy. He grew up on the family farm and lived there for a large proportion of his adult life, until 1969.
Charles attended Alvescot Primary School and then Witney Grammar School (now Henry Box School) until the age of 15, when he left to work on the family’s mixed arable farm. Charles served in the Home Guard in Oxfordshire during the Second World War before taking over the farm full time in the 1940s.
In 1944, Charles married his first love Kathleen Sanders who he met when both were customers at the pub-restaurant The Fleece at Witney. The two married at St Mary’s Church in Witney and lived happily on the family farm, where they raised their two children David and Sally.
Looking back on his life, Charles recalls his memories from the farm as some of the happiest of his life: “I am very lucky to have lived and worked in the countryside and have been so close to nature. I absolutely love horses and it was a pleasure working with them on the farm.
“Farming, however, was a hard life and a demanding career. I was pleased to be able to retire early at 55.”
Charles retired in 1969 and he and Kathleen moved to Ducklington, Witney. Kathleen sadly suffered a stroke in 1978 and Charles cared for her at their home for ten years before she passed away in 1988.
A time later, Charles regained contact with his old girlfriend, Jane Handy. Charles and Jane had courted in their 20s but lost contact when Charles met and married Kathleen. 45 years later the two met for afternoon tea at Oxford’s Randolph Hotel and following that rekindled their relationship.
The two married a year later at Abingdon Registry Office; Charles was 75 and Jane 71. They lived happily together in Iffley and enjoyed 23 years of blissful married life until Jane passed away aged 93. A year later Charles moved into the care home, which provides residential care and nursing care for the elderly.
Charles has four grandchildren, Jonathan, William, Sonja and Oliver, and five great-grandchildren aged one to nine; Max, Louis, Leo, Elly and Laura.
Asked what the secret to his longevity is, Charles said: “Well – not having done anything foolish! That, combined with good health, eating good quality, farm-produced food all my life, drinking very little alcohol and absolutely no smoking!”
Charles was one of the first residents to move into Iffley when it opened in February 2013. He was an integral part of the creating of a mosaic which marked the home’s opening and has been embedded in the grounds. Charles worked on the mosaic with a local poet and artist, students from local schools and fellow residents.
Activities leader at Iffley, Mandy Bloomfield, said: “Charles is a lovely, gentle-mannered man who still takes a keen interest in all that’s going on in the world. We are delighted to have celebrated such a special birthday with him.”