October 16th

So, on this day in the past Oscar Wilde was born in 1854, Austen Chamberlain in 1863 and so was Eugene O’ Neil in 1888 and Michael Collins in 1890. It’s also the birthday of Edward Ardizzone, Enva Hodxha and Max Bygraves, Angela Lansbury and Günter Grass, and Peter Bowles the actor.

However, in our family we think of it as the birthday of my mother-in-law, my children’s grandma, Dorothy Alice Colgate in 1914.  She was born in Bletchingley in Surrey in a room above what became Lloyd’s bank. Her parents were Augusta, née Brown, and Ernest Colgate. Augusta Sarah, was the thirteenth child of John Brown and Emily Charlwood. Dorothy didn’t know her Grandfather Brown who died in 1915 at the age of sixty-six, and probably barely remembered her grandmother who died when she was only three years old, but she remembered her Colgate grandparents and often talked about them, John who died in 1926, and Sarah who died in 1943.

John and Sarah were born in 1855 and 1856, and it seems extraordinary to me that my children both knew and loved their grandmother who had memories of people born a hundred and sixty years ago…

Happy birthday, Dorothy…

The Days and the Kettles

I thought I would share this post with you again:

In 1911 in the village of Bletchingley, Sarah Jane Day was living with her husband John Colgate; she was born in Suffolk in 1855. her widowed father had brought her to Surrey via London, no doubt in search of work and a living to support his family.

Sarah Colgate née Day

Eleven years later in another part of Suffolk, Kezia Cracknell was born… and in 1911, she too was living in Bletchingley in Common Lane. Did the two women know each other? Did Sarah hear Kezia talking in the shop and recognize her Suffolk accent? Did they talk about the old place?

Kezia was a recent arrival having moved there in about 1902 with her husband Henry and her children James, Charles, and Arthur; she may have been pregnant with Herbert, and within a couple of years Florence and Alfred were born. Her daughter Alice lived not too far away in Godstone, and her other daughter, Edith lived in Reigate; both girls were in service. Her son Edward was in Reigate, the same as his sister, he was a gardener. Her eldest son, William was at least in the same county; he was a police officer in Epsom.

There is no way now to know what brought the family, including the adult children all the way from Suffolk to Surrey.


Her husband Henry had been married before he met Kezia; he had married Hannah Day (no relation to Sarah Day of Lidgate) They had at least four children, Annie Day, Henry, Offira and Christina in the twelve years they were together… Poor Hannah died young, just as her own mother had, in 1882. He married Kezia the following year.

When Henry moved to Surrey, his daughter Christina stayed behind, living in Ipswich, and her brother Henry junior was well-settled in Suffolk with his wife Lily and five children. His other son Offord/Orford, and wife Clara also stayed in Suffolk with their two children, Orford junior and Edith. His step-daughter Annie was also married with three children… Did Henry Kettle leave his elder children and his ten grandchildren with regret? Or was he more concerned with the well-being of his new young family?

However, the move to Bletchingley was not as happy as no doubt Henry and Kezia had hoped; tragedy struck in 1909, Henry died aged sixty. He left Kezia a widow at forty-three, a widow with four children under ten, and another two older sons at home. She probably had some financial support from her working children, but the younger ones  were not without a father for long because Kezia married Joseph Trussler in 1912. It is hard to find exact details about Joseph, he may have been born in 1866… or he may have been born in 1871…

Her happiness did not last long because Joseph also left her a widow in 1919. To have been widowed twice in ten years… to marry twice in ten years, yes, she married again for the third time to Charles Coomber. As with her other two husband, Kezia outlived Charles, he died in 1930, she lived to be eighty-one, dying in 1948, five years after the other Surrey girl, Sarah Colgate.

So what brought me to the Kettles latterly of Suffolk, later of Surrey? My husband, Sarah Day’s great-grandson, went to school with Kezia’s great-grandchildren.


Robert Day… another sad piece of the biographical jigsaw

Poor Robert Day. I do not know but I have no doubt that what drove him and his family from the pretty little Suffolk village of Lidgate to London was the agricultural depression of the 1830’s. After the death of his wife he took his children to Bletchingley in Surrey, and in the 1870’s the great agricultural depression hit that area as badly as everywhere else. In 1871 the census records that Robert and his second wife Eliza were living with their children James, Alice, Emily and baby Robert in Middle Barn Cottage, Titsey, Godstone.

By 1874, Robert was applying for Poor Law Relief – the way parishes supported those who fell on hard times. Robert and his family had indeed fallen on hard times.He applied for Poor Relief for him and his family five times between September 1874 and June 1875… and some time during that period his wife Eliza dies. In the transcriptions of the records she is named Ellen and she only appears in the September and October 1874 applications… so she must have died in the winter of 1874-5… Poor Robert, widowed for a second time.

The family of his future son-in-law John Colgate, suffered too… in 1871 they also had applied for Relief… The problems caused by imported goods, by poor harvests and mechanisation taking over labouring jobs from workers, hit most rural families. The recession which affects us today is merely an echo of what happened 140 years ago.

A journey back

Having discovered the sad story of Robert Day’s life, and the happier story of his second daughter Sarah Jane, I took the opportunity on a recent visit to Suffolk to go to Lidgate where Robert was born. It is a lovely little linear village, with a very old, beautiful church where Robert’s father John and mother Avis were married in  1807 by the rector, John Isaacson.

St Mary’s Church, Lidgate, Suffolk

St Mary’s Church is most attractive and set on a mound overlooking the village. The first site of it is from the road from Newmarket to Clare where the tower can be glimpsed surrounded by trees. From the gate of the church there is a splendid view to the bailey pond and the village beyond.

View from the church to Lidgate village

Within the church is the font where countless Days, including John, Robert, Sarah and her sister Elizabeth would have been baptised.

The baptismal font in Lidgate church

Robert may have married Susan in this church, as his father John married Avis.

The aisle and nave of St Mary’s church,Lidgate

Lidgate still has many thatched cottages, set up above the road as if this is such an old track across the county that countless feet and hooves have worn it down lower than the surrounding land. In the middle of the villages is the Star Inn which may have been where John held the license and where Robert lived as a child.

The Star, Lidgate

The village pump – would Avis have collected her water from here?

A cottage in Lidgate

Lidgate cottage

Cottage and barn,Lidgate

Pretty little cottage in Lidgate

Bletchingley, where Robert lived with his second wife Eliza in the 1870’s was  a pretty village set in the rolling Surrey hills; would he have seen the similarities between his birthplace 100 miles away in Suffolk? Both verdant, green and with an attractive church,also dedicated to St Mary?

The church of St Mary the Virgin, Bletchingley in Surrey

A postscript to Robert’s story, many years later, when his daughter Sarah was an old lady, now Mrs Colgate, still living in Bletchingley, a stranger came to her door asking if there was a family called Day living in the village. Old Sarah was a little flustered and answered that she did not know of any such family, and only when the stranger had departed did she think that nearly seventy years before, she had been Sarah Day. Who was the stranger? A nephew, maybe one of her brother James’s sons, or may it have been James himself?

A sad tale… with a happy ending


My mother-in-law spoke fondly of her grandmother, Sarah Jane Day who married John Colgate in 1874 in Bletchingley, Surrey where the Colgates lived. Sarah was believed to have come from Suffolk but no-one seemed to know anything about her or how she had arrived in Surrey.

Sarah, her daughter (Annie?) granddaughter Dorothy, daughter-in-law Augusta, granddaughter Adeline, husband John. This photograph may have been taken while Ernest was serving in France during the First World war, maybe taken for him.

I wish I had found out Sarah’s history sooner to have shared it with  my mother-in-law. Sarah was born in Lidgate, sometimes spelled Lydgate,  near Bury St Edmunds which is not far from where the Elsdens came from. She was born around 1855 and lived to be eighty-eight. Her father was Robert Day and he  was the son of a publican John and his wife Avis née Fisher. John and Avis married in 1806 and seven years later they had a daughter Jane, and then Robert who was born in the spring of 1817, and baptised on April 13th 1817. It is Robert’s sad life that I wish to record… no-one else may remember him.

Robert was a labourer and married Susan and began a family, Elizabeth Avis  born in 1851,  Sarah Jane  born in 1855. There seems to be no trace of a marriage record of Robert and Susan; she was also born in Lidgate, according to the 1861 census but at present her surname is unknown. By 1861 the little family had moved to London; agriculture in the fenlands of East Anglia was not in a healthy situation and many labouring families had to move. The Days were living at 17, Norland Road, St Mary Abbots, Kensington. In this census Sarah is recorded as Janat, the enumeraters were not always as literate as one would suppose. Robert gave his date of birth as 1820, maybe he couldn’t remember, maybe it was just a mistake, maybe he had a Suffolk accent which baffled the Londoner writing the record.

Sadly, a year later Susan died probably in or after  childbirth giving life to a little boy, James. Robert was left a widower with a baby and  two little girls aged eleven and six. Three years later he married Eliza Ballard and by 1871 they are living in Surrey with two more daughters, Alice who is six and Emily aged three.  Robert now records his date of birth as 1823; he appears to be six years younger than he really is; could this be because Eliza was born in 1835 and it would be more seemly to be twelve years older than her than nearly twenty? Eliza herself is a mystery as I can find no trace of an Eliza born around 1835 in Wiltshire as she claims in the census. His older daughters are not with him, however.  Sarah is in service in Willesden with the Mr and Mrs Stanton, three little children and a mother-in-law and another servant; Elizabeth is also in service in Marylebone, London with Mr and Mrs Greatback.

Sarah returned to Surrey and there she marries John Colgate in 1874, the start of a long and very happy marriage. She and John celebrated their golden wedding anniversary two years before he died in 1926. However happy the wedding was, the following year tragedy strikes Robert again; Eliza dies in 1875.

1881 and Robert has fallen on hard times; he is now in the workhouse in Reigate separated from his family. Sarah is married and living nearby with two young children, Alice who was named after her half-sister, and born in 1876 and new-born baby Ernest. As ever the day family was not free from sadness; Sarah and John had had another baby, little Annie s born, 1876. Of Robert’s other children I can find no trace; Elizabeth was probably married, probably in London where she had been a servant. James, Alice and Emily… who knows.

Poor Robert Day, literally; in 1891 he is a pauper in a workhouse in Guildford and in Guildford he died aged 81 in 1898.

Entry showing Robert’s death in Guildford workhouse, aged 81

Did Sarah Jane know of her father’s death? When he died she had lost another child, little Edith who only lived for two years.  Her daughter Alice married James Knight and had a little girl, Ruby, but Alice died young in 1914 aged only thirty-eight. For all the happiness Sarah must have had from her marriage and from her grandchildren, there continued much sadness too…

John Colgate and his son Ernest

However, Ernest made a very happy marriage to Augusta Brown, he had four children, he has five grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren and so far thirteen great-great-grandchildren.