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Dengate Reunion 1939

On Easter Monday, 10th April 1939 more than 50 members of the Dengate family met at the Masonic Hall in Hastings for a gathering that saw parts of the family reunited after more than 60 years. The idea came from 81-year-old Ernest Alfred Dengate (1857-1941) who had not seen some of his surviving two sisters and five brothers for many years and when they had seen each other, the meetings were increasingly at family funerals (five other siblings had already died by 1939).

Ernest Alfred Dengate set his son, Cecil Dengate (1890-1958) the onerous task of organising the get-together. According to the local newspaper, it was the first time that the eight siblings had sat down together for a meal since they had left the family home in Peasmarsh (between the 1880s and1890s). 

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The event was attended by fifty members of the Dengate family, which comprised the eight brothers and sisters, their children and some grand- children. A further twenty friends of the brothers and sisters were also invited. After lunch Cecil Dengate invited Mr Harry Finch to act as MC for the afternoon, who introduced Ernest Alfred Dengate to welcome everyone to the Masonic Hall and thank them for coming. Tom Dengate (John Thomas Dengate 1863-1956) responded on behalf of the other brothers and Carrie Skinner (née Dengate 1874-1966) responded on behalf of her and her sister, Hannah Stroud (née Dengate 1871-1972).

After a dinner of ham, chicken, potatoes and peas the family were entertained with a variety of performances including a magician, Tom Sherbourne, and the Senlac Singers. Messages of good wishes were sent from relatives unable to attend, among them William Dengate’s (1852- 1944) son, Albert Henry Dengate (1885-1969) who had been living in Adelaide, Australia since WW1.

The youngest Dengate at the event was six-month-old Dorothy Dengate, the eldest William Dengate at eighty-seven. The historic get-together made all the local newspapers and even The Daily Mail ran a story covering the event. The reporter wrote that, ‘Dengates of the future will hear the glowing tale of what happened at Hastings to-day.’

All of the attendees of the Dengate Family Reunion outside the Masonic Hall

Hover over the image for a who's who


Ernest Alfred Dengate rises to speak inside the Masonic Hall


The Dengate siblings

Seated (left to right) William (Bill), Ernest AlfredJohn Thomas (Tom)

Standing (left to right) Caroline (Carrie), JimFrederick (Fred), Charles and Hannah

Extract from The Daily Mail, April 11th 1939


First Reunion for 50 years

Hastings, Monday.

The worthy and ancient family Dengate of Peasmarsh, York, Eastbourne, Brisbane, and a lot of other places will never forget their Bank Holiday. Dengates of the future will hear the glowing tale of what happened at Hastings to-day. Eighty-five-years-old Ernest Dengate, of Hastings, invited his seven brothers and sisters, their children and friends, to a family party, and gave them a fine time in a hall which he hired specially for the purpose. The hall was full of Dengates and Dengates-by-marriage when I looked in this afternoon. Seventy of the them, seated at long and heavily laden tables, were lunching off chicken and ham, potatoes and peas, and chatting away for dear life. Ernest sat at the head of the centre table, and looked around him with the pride of kinship in his eye.  His five brothers (including William, aged 87) and two sisters were on both sides of him.


Dorothy Elisabeth, aged six months, youngest Dengate of them all, was there too.  She cried a bit, until Grandpa Ernest tickled her under the chin.  When the chicken and ham was finished, Caroline (64-years-old sister, from Wakefield, Yorkshire) got up and told members of the family, whom she had not seen for 50 years, how pleased she was to be there. "I shall take back sweet memories," she said  in her rich North-Country accent. Then Tom (76-years-old brother who farms at Peasmarsh) said how grand it was for them all to be there under the same roof.  And the Dengates applauded.


In one of his few free moments Ernest told me why he had arranged the mass reunion. "Well, I thought it would be a good idea if we could all meet at something other than a funeral," said he: "I got my son Cecil, who is only 48, to arrange something. He wrote all the invitations himself, hired the hall, and fixed up to-day's programme, meals, entertaining, and old-fashioned games.  I've just been told that altogether we eight original Dengates have now got 25 children and 37 grandchildren"

I settled down to laugh at the jokes of a specially hired concert party, to gaze in wonder at the family of 70 playing blind man's bluff.

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