Dengate Shop Fire
Charles Dengate was born on the 6 March 1816 in Bexhill-On-Sea, East Sussex to James and Sarah Dengate. He was baptised in St Peter's Church, Bexhill on the 28 April 1816. Soon after Charles' birth, the family moved to Northiam where his father worked as a labourer and miller.
Charles' early life was spent in the small Sussex village of Northiam, where he, alongside his other brothers William, James, John and Thomas, learnt the trade of milling from their father James. While Charles' occupation as a miller was still in its formative years, he was graded as a journeyman miller, which meant that he was paid by the day and often had to move vast distances across Kent and Sussex in search of work.
Charles married Celia Sophia Stapley on the 6 March 1836 in Ticehurst Parish Church. Thomas Hammond and Eliza Stapley were witness to the occasion. The couple had 11 children: Sarah, born in Ticehurst soon after the marriage, Charlotte, born in Hawkhurst, Frances and Sophia born in Hollington, Harriet in Salehurst, Charles, Caroline and Susan born in Lamberhurst and Mary, Ellen and Henry John born in Wittersham.
The 1841 census shows Charles, Celia and their daughters Sarah, Charlotte, Frances and Sophia living at Baldslow windmill, just on the outskirts of Hollington, where Charles was working as a miller. Charles' brother James Dengate was working as a journeyman miller at the nearby Silverhill (Tivoli) windmill.
Approximately two years later the family moved from Baldslow to Salehurst, followed by Lamberhurst, where Charles and Celia's daughter Harriet died on the 2 April 1845 of pneumonia aged 18 months. She was buried in St Mary's Church, Lamberhurst on the 6 April 1845. The family continued to live in Lamberhurst, the 1851 census showing Charles working as a miller and grinder.
Within two years the family had moved to Wittersham where their daughter Mary was born in 1853. The family then had a brief, but tragic period in Bodiam. On the 25 April 1855, just over ten years after Harriet's death, Charles and Celia's 9 year-old son Charles drowned in the mill stream where Charles worked as a journeyman miller. He was buried in Bodiam Churchyard.
It was perhaps this tragedy which sent the family away from Bodiam back to Wittersham as their daughter Ellen Maria was born there in 1856. It would appear that Charles moved from being a miller to being a master baker, taking residence of Dengate Cottage. The front of the cottage was used as his baker's shop, the back as the bakery and family home. In 1881 Charles' occupation was listed as a 'Baker and Farmer of 23 acres.' His son Henry's occupation is listed as 'Farmer's son'.
Celia Sophia Dengate died 11 December 1889, in Wittersham aged 72 years of cardiac disease, which she had suffered from for 10 years. Her daughter Ellen Maria Weaver was present at the death. Her place of burial is unknown at this time, although it was not in the Parish church, possibly due to Charles and Celia being nonconformists.
The following account was written by Roger Simmons, Charles' great great great grandson: 'One day in the 1890’s, young Celia Simmons got on a train in Dover (alone or not?) and travelled to Romney Marsh, to Appledore, and was met by her great grandfather Charles Dengate with a pony and trap. He greeted her, and took her to his house in Wittersham, on the Isle of Oxley; slightly higher than the rest of the marsh. Behind his cottage was his bakery where he worked daily. In his cottage he had a grandfather clock made by Ballard of Lamberhurst, which he bought in 1834 when he was only 18. His photo sits inside his clock, a serious-looking man, but then with their photographic exposure times you did tend to look solemn.' To read the account in full, click here.
Charles Dengate died aged 78 on the 28 August 1894 in the High Street, Wittersham. He died of old age and syncope - this term means loss of consciousness. On death certificates it indicates a sudden death. His daughter Mary Weston was present at the death. His place of burial is also unknown at this time.
Grateful thanks to Roger Simmons for the photo of Charles Dengate and for his account of a Charles' life. Also thanks to John Dines for the photograph of Bodiam Watermill and the late David Padgham for the photo of Baldslow mill.