Many generations of Corsham citizens have filled the comprehensive office of Town Crier/Ale Taster/Inspector of Weights & Measures. Whether Charles Bethel managed to contend with all these ‘strands’ is questionable, but there is no doubt that the bell and voice of “the Finisher” was heard over many years between the two World Wars.
The origin of the unique nickname of ‘Finisher’ is obscure; one theory being that when in conversation, he had the habit of finishing off others sentences.
Apart from his duties as Town Crier, Charlie was a man of many pursuits. At one time he kept a horse in a paddock at the back of his home at Priory Street Cottage, from which he ran a ‘Fish and Fruit Round’. This was eventually abandoned in favour of a more basic ‘Rag & Bone’ collection. He could never resist a wager. On one notable occasion he was offered £5 to wheel a hundredweight block of Freestone to Bristol and back within twelve hours, a distance of forty miles.
As one report put it: ‘For several succeeding evenings sounds of tapping could be heard from his (closed) garden shed, followed by the emergence of ‘Finisher’ carrying pieces of freestone which he secretively dropped into a bed of nettles in his garden. It was obvious he was hollowing out a block of stone to ‘lighten the load’.
At the appointed hour Charlie duly arrived at the Town Hall with the stone block securely wired to a home-made truck. Setting off to the cheers of the spectators the outward journey went very well. Once at Bristol his ‘exhibitionist’ streak got the better of him and he could not resist informing a curious crowd of his mission. The ‘hat was passed around’, and finances were further augmented by a similar pause at Bath.
But time was running short and Box Hill had to be tackled at great speed. It appears the effort was too much and ‘Finisher’ collapsed within sight of his objective. He lost his wager, but due to the sympathetic contributions received on the way he boasted a profit of £15!’
Resplendent in his Crier’s uniform of three cornered hat, be-medaled velvet coat, knee breeches, and yellow stockings, few parades took place without the ‘Finisher’ at the head. Charlie was the final custodian of this ancient Corsham tradition. How appropriate that his nickname should be ‘Finisher’.