The course of Peter Charlesworth’s life was changed by a book - a free book in a “two for one” deal from a mail order catalogue.
For Peter, a successful vascular surgeon with 15 years in private practice, the result of opening the book, “The Complete Guide to Repairing and Restoring Furniture”, was to close his surgery down and take his young family to Kent, England, where he entered the Little Surrenden Workshops. It was a course of total immersion. Under the tutelage of Bruce Luckhurst, Peter spent 12-hour days for one year learning the precise and demanding craft of antique furniture restoration.
When Peter describes his transition from scalpel to chisel, his words flow with the same calculated precision that a surgeon uses with a scalpel, while his hands gesticulate with the same definition.
“The change was not just a simple light switch,” he says. “In fact, it was a gradual process of falling out of love with medicine. This book was a trigger at a time when I was increasingly dissatisfied with my situation at work and not knowing what I could do differently.” Peter pauses for a moment to compose himself. It’s clear that this fulcrum in the journey of his life is significant for him. “Initially what this book did was that it opened my eyes to another kind of area that I had not been aware of and that was clearly very practical.”
When Peter made the decision to leave medicine many of his colleagues could not understand why he was doing it. “Some of them expressed extreme surprise and regret but others said they wished they had the balls to do something like that.” Peter said this made him realize that there is probably an undercurrent of people who would like to do something different. “I think whichever profession you are in, you could find yourself just relentlessly going down that pathway and not seeing any way of deviating.”
Now, ten years later, he is living out his dream of repairing and painstakingly restoring pieces of furniture in his home workshop in Epsom. Chisels have replaced scalpels, but he is still working with his hands and says his years of training and experience as a surgeon enabled his success as a furniture restorer. “As a surgeon,” he says, “you couldn’t afford to make a mistake”.