A drawing down of blinds

The Bletchingley Colgates came from Kent originally, from Ightham a pretty little village near Sevenoaks. They moved to another Kent village, Plaxtol but it was from Penshurst that Henry Colgate moved to Bletchingley. He was married to Charlotte Jeal in 1846, he was about nineteen, she was a little older. There were families of Jeals already in the area although Charlotte was born in Horley and the Colgates settled in Bletchingley and their descendants are there to this day. Family tradition has it that she came from a richer family than Henry and he was her father’s coachman or gardener; however it seems more likely that they came from similar backgrounds and fell in love and married.

Henry and Charlotte had ten children, five girls and five boys , Mary, Martin, Henry, Catherine, John, Jane, Edwin , Charlotte, Susan and Thomas. Their children gave them at least thirty grandchildren, one of which was my mother-in-law Dorothy Colgate, daughter of John.

1970’s Bletchingley

Catherine Colgate, Henry and Charlotte’s second daughter married a young man of Irish descent, William Dagnell. His family came from County Wicklow, settling at first in Liverpool before moving to London. Somehow he ended up in Surrey and married Catherine, maybe he was drawn to her because his own grandmother was also called Catherine.

Charlotte and Henry’s youngest child was Thomas William, born in 1869 when his parents were in their forties, and in the same year as his own nephew, sister Mary’s son, Arthur. He was living at  number 3, Brewer street, and was a stoneman, no doubt at the local quarry when he met a young widow.  Emma Dodd, née Pither was probably  a couple of years younger than Thomas, and she had a one year old son Alfred. Alfred was born in Lambeth, London on July 1st, 1898 and after his mother married, he later took his step-father’s name.

Arthur and Emma married in 1899, and lived with seventy-five year old Henry, now a widower. Emma’s little son was now called Horace, but he still kept his father’s name of Dodd. Three years after their marriage they had their first child, Edith Gertrude. When Horace was seven and little Edith was three, Ruby Emma was born in 1905.  In 1907 Yates Thomas arrived, and the family was completed in 1912 when baby Raymond William John was born. By the time Raymond arrived the family were living in Barfields and they continued to live there to this present day.

In 1914, when Alfred, now Horace was sixteen, the First World War started, and Horace joined up in the Royal West Surrey Regiment . He went to Flanders as a private in the 7th battalion shortly after his 17th birthday, 27th July 1915. No doubt his family were proud of him, his little brothers, Yates and Raymond must have wanted to join their big brother to be a soldier, maybe Ruby and Edith thought it was romantic. Probably Thomas and Emma, though proud, were anxious for his safety, and as the conflict progressed and others in the village returned home wounded or did not return at all, they must have become increasingly worried for his safety.  He had been in France for nearly a year and it was Horace’s eighteenth birthday in 1916 when he went into action… and ‘in some foreign field,’ he was killed.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? 
Only the monstrous anger of the guns. 
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle 
Can patter out their hasty orisons. 
No mockeries  now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented  choirs of wailing shells; 
And bugles  calling for them from sad shires.
What candles  may be held to speed them all? 
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes 
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. 
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall; 
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, 
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
By William Owen 1893-1918


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