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James Dengate

Sexton of Rye, East Sussex

James Dengate was baptised 30 June 1783 in Udimore Parish Church, son of Thomas and Mary Dengate. Thomas is currently the top of the Rye Tree and very little is known about him. It is likely that James was an only child and resided in the Udimore Parish until his father's death in 1808, at which time his mother, Mary moved to Rye.

James married Frances Tamsett on 10 October 1809 in Appledore Parish Church. The couple remained in Rye for the rest of their lives. They had twelve children, all baptised in St Mary the Virgin Church, Rye, although not all survived into adulthood.

James' occupation was as shoemaker and cordwainer and he also worked as sexton for Rye church, a job later continued by his wife Frances and sons David and Samuel Dengate upon James' death. The story of Rye Museum purchasing the ledgers can be read here










James died in Rye, aged 50 on 25 October 1833. He was buried 31 October in St Mary the Virgin Church. His wife and children erected a headstone for James in the churchyard.

The grave, fast becoming illegible, reads, 'In Memory/of/James Dengate/who died October 25th 1833/Aged 50 years/Leaving a widow and 8 children to lament their loss/Also of/James Samuel son of/James and Frances Dengate/who died February 18th 1840/Aged 22 years'. The other side of the grave reads 'In Memory of/Frances wife of/James Dengate/who died May 7th 1854/Aged 67 years/Also of/Harriott their daughter/who died January 9th 1849/Aged 20'.

The 1841 census shows Frances living as a widow on Church Street with children David, Harriet and Catherine. In 1851 Frances, David and Catherine are still residing at Church Street where Frances' occupation is listed as sextoness. Living next door is James’ mother, Mary Dengate.

Frances Dengate died 7 May 1854 in Rye and was buried 11 May 1854 in St Mary the Virgin Church, alongside her husband James and two of her children. James’ mother, Mary Dengate outlived both her son, daughter-in-law Frances and several of her grandchildren, dying at the grand old age of 98!

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James Dengate's writing / illustration in the Rye registers

The double-sided Dengate grave in Rye churchyard
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