Charles Toms is the ‘C Toms’ of C Toms and Son Limited, now the only commercial boatyard in Polruan, and its biggest employer. Charles, or Charlie as he was known, was born near Taphouse, where he was later apprenticed to a blacksmith. He came to Fowey as a young man, working as a blacksmith for Gordon Langman in Caffa Mill and marrying Louisa Kendall, the daughter of a ship’s captain. They lived for a while at 38, North Street before moving to Fore Street in Polruan, after Charlie was offered work at Slade’s shipyard in Polruan.
Slade’s business collapsed after the First World War and Charlie was laid off. In 1922 he started his own business, based in premises between Slade’s Yard and Brazen Island. He and his employees undertook ship repairs, but his own heart lay in the repair of buildings around the parish. His work can still be seen in the large round window of St. Saviour’s church. An artisan rather than a businessman, and never a rich man himself, he was known to accept goods, such as eggs, in lieu of payment when others were in financial difficulties. He was never short of work and his business survived, due in no small part to the thrift and hard work of his wife, Louisa.
His son John (Jack), a marine engineer, joined his father’s business in the late 1930s and C. Toms and Son Limited was incorporated in 1941. A staunch Methodist and lay preacher throughout his life, Charlie returned to live in Fowey before his death in 1964. The company has expanded and prospered under his son and grandchildren.
Research Alex Lewis
Sources: Interviews with Allen Toms and Angela Couch 25.01.2012 and 26.01.2012; Register of Companies at www.companies house.gov.uk; Helen Doe, ‘Jane Slade of Polruan’ (Truran 2002), pps 82, 102; C H Ward-Jackson ‘Ships and Shipbuilders of a Westcountry Seaport’ (TwelveheadsPress, 1986).