The Dagnalls of Reigate

What a happy day it must have been in the spring of 1878, when twenty-five year old Catherine Colgate married William Thomas Dagnall! They were married in the parish of Godstone in Surrey, but they have been married in the church of St Mary the Virgin in Bletchingley, where Catherine’s family lived.

The church of St Mary the Virgin, Bletchingley in Surrey

William was a painter and decorator and had been born in London; Catherine does not appear on the 1871 census with her family so maybe she was working as a servant in London where she may have met him.

Three years after they were married they had moved to Doods Road in Reigate and had little one year old Catherine and newly born William Edward as well as William’s mother Margaret living with them. Little Catherine born in 1879 had the middle name of Colgate, obviously her mother was proud of her family name! Names were important to the family, William got his middle name Thomas from his father who had died in 1873. As well as the family, there were two lodgers, brothers James and George Plowman from Worthing in Sussex. They were house painters too, so maybe worked with or for William. Maybe Margaret looked after the lodgers, or maybe she looked after the babies, but it was certainly a houseful!

In 1883 a new baby arrived in the Dagnall household, Margaret Cross and it is tempting to think Cross may have been grandma Margaret’s maiden name. Little Margaret may have been greeted with even more joy because it is probable that William and Catherine lost a baby boy in 1882. Another new child arrived, Winifred Sarah in 1884; however her names seem to have no family connection. Another son may have been born in 1886, but little John Martin John died the following year, so the arrival of Henry Thomas, in 1889 may have salved some of the pain.  Henry was named for his Colgate grandfather and his uncle, and shared his father’s middle name.

In 1891, the family were still living in Doods Road but Margaret was no longer with them, maybe she had died but there seems to be no record. The lodgers too have gone, which is just as well with a family of five children! There were other Dagnalls living in Reigate, so the little ones who died, one unnamed and John Martin,  may have belonged to other families but knowing William and Catherine’s fondness for family names it is possible to imagine them as their children; William and catherine both had a brother called John and Catherine had a brother, Martin.

Catherine’s brothers Martin and Henry as old men

In 1901 the family do not appear in the census although young Catherine and Margaret do, they are now servants, Catherine in Redhill, Margaret in Wray Cross, Reigate. Maybe the rest of the family were away, is it possible they may have gone to Ireland? In 1911 they are at home still in Doods Road with their son William Junior who is a dairyman. Henry is living with his wife Esther in Redhill, he is now a coachman. Winifred is a parlour maid in Beulah Hill, Norwood, which has a connection with another Colgate, closer to home for me, my mother-in-law Dorothy, née Colgate gave birth to my husband there!

So what is the story of the Dagnalls? William was the son of Edward Dagnall, painter and glazier who was probably born in County Roscommon, Ireland in about 1818. His wife, Margaret, maybe née Cross, came from County Wicklow and was probably about five years older than her husband. In 1841 Edward and Margaret were living in Manchester, on the London Road in the Lomass Buildings. They had at this time their two eldest children, Catherine and John; they had Edward’s brother also John living with them and his mother Catherine, who was born in about 1796.

The family must have come from Ireland between 1827 when John was born there, and 1837 when Catherine, known as Kate,  was born in Lancashire. When they were living in Manchester in 1841, there was another Dagnall family nearby living on Deansgate, Frank and Catherine and their children, Dominick 15, Francis 7, John 5, and new-born Edward. It’s tempting to think they were related but there is no proof… nothing except for the names.

Edward Dagnall, aged 25 from Ireland, born 1816 (his date of birth varies from census to census) Margaret Dagnall, 29, born 1812 from Ireland, their children Catherine and John born in Lancashire in 1838 and 1840, mother Catherine,  aged 45 and born in Ireland in 1796, and her younger son , John, Irish born in 1827 and aged 14 in this 1841 census.

The names are the clue, the repetition from generation to generation tells a story. When William met Catherine Colgate was he drawn to the name, the same as his sister and grandmother? And was his own daughter named for them too, as well as his wife? Did he have another uncle, Frank who married yet one more Catherine and had children including a John and an Edward?


  1. jameskemp56

    You’ve got a lot of interesting family stories here! I’ve come across them while looking up a random name given to me from a local war memorial. William English died as a Prisoner of War in May 1918 in Germany. In finding out what I could about him I discovered that he married Catherine Colgate Dagnall from Reigate in the summer of 1905. So yet another William and Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.