Les’s team produce right royal lovespoons

Les Williams

A craftsman who created a traditional lovespoon for Prince Charles has won a major order to supply the historic sites of Wales.

Les Williams, of Pageant Wood Crafts, of Llanrwst, fashioned the delicately carved royal lovespoon from Welsh oak to celebrate Prince Charles’s visit to Llanrwst two years ago.

It is just one of a series of the romantic keepsakes the 45-year-old has made for celebrities over the years. They include football royalty as well as stars of showbusiness and entertainment.

Former England manager and European Footballer of the Year Kevin Keegan has one of Les’s lovespoons and so do the likes of Bob Hope, Norman Wisdom and Jim Davidson.

And now the shops at Wales’s great castles, from Caernarfon to Caerphilly and Conwy to Castell Coch will be stocking lovespoons fashioned from Welsh oak and hand-polished at the company’s workshop in a former chapel in Scotland Street, Llanrwst.

Les, who lives in Trelawnyd, is originally from Glan Conwy and began his career among the lovesoons as a 13-year-old boy sweeping out the workshop and making the tea at Pageant’s.

“They were in Glan Conwy then,” said Les: “And one day the owner, Derek Churm, was out, or so I thought, and I tried my hand at making one myself.

“He caught me and I thought I was for the sack but instead he encouraged me and I’d always been interested in working with wood – I didn’t brush any more floors from that day on.”

The company’s bid to win new orders, which also includes another major deal with prestigious Edinburgh Woollen Mills, has been boosted by support from Conwy County Borough Council’s Rural Business Action scheme.

Business Adviser Trefor Rowlands said: “Les came to us with a request for help with winning new business and since part of his marketing invpolves trade shows we we able to provide him with display cases and with catalogues.

“We’ve also been able to give expert business advice and IT support but really Les and his firm are an example of how traditional skills can create and sustain a business.

“Lovespoons are something that is intrinsic to Wales and instantly recognizable and these are the genuine article, made with passion and skill and from locally-sourced materials.”

When Derek Churm retired in 1989 Les took over the business and moved to Llanrwst and he was commissioned to make lovespoons for Welsh comic Wyn Calvin, then president of the entertainers organisation, the Grand Order of Water Rats, to hand to fellow members who included Bob Hope, Norman Wisdom and Jim Davidson.

But for Liverpool fan one of his biggest thrills was making a lovespoon for former Kop idol Keegan, then with Hamburg, when he opened Ruthin Craft Centre in 1980.

He said: “It’s always nice to make a specially commissioned lovespoon but it was even more of a pleasure to make it for one of my heroes.

“Maybe I’ll get asked to make one for FernandoTorres one day.”

“It was obviously also a great honour to make a lovespoon for Prince Charles and these are authentically Welsh – they’re made here from Welsh oak to traditional designs and even the lacquers and waxes we use are made in Wales by a Cardiff firm, Fidde and Sons.

“We get our wood from a local timber merchant, C L Jones, in Llanrwst, and then we sell him back the offcuts for kindling so nothing goes to waste.

“We do special commissions as well with, for example, the number of children shown by the number of balls in the ‘cage’ of the spoon.

“I once did one with 15 for a gentleman from Llanrwst but I think that included children and grandchildren as well.

“It’s done the traditional way too, hand waxed using cotton rags because that gives the best finish.”

That’s true of every one of the 20,000 spoons turned out by the business every year in 114 different designs.

The spoon made for Prince Charles was presented to him when he visited Llanrwst along with a slate plaque also made by Pageant, and both are now on display in Chatsworth House, while another of Les’s masterpieces, a lovespoon over six foot long is displayed in a glass case in a government building in Tokio.

They used to be on sale in Disneyland in Florida but according to Les 9/11 made freighting them too expensive with prohibitive insurance charges but as well as in some of Wales’s most historic properties, Pageant lovespoons can be found in giftshops all over Wales and even in Chester and Edinburgh as well as in Les’s local garden shop, Jacksons Nurseries in Trelawnyd.

Les and his partner, Gwen Wilson, and his two employees, brothers Shaun and Dean Roberts, from Llanrwst, do all the work by hand, from the cutting out of the spoons in the basement workshop to the hand polishing – at a rate of almost 400 spoons a week.

For further information about Conwy Council’s Rural Business Action grants contact Trefor Rowlands on 01492 574555 or e-mail trefor.rowlands@conwy.gov.uk and for more on Pageant Wood Crafts go to www.faze3.co.uk/lovespoons

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