Mrs Harvey Collyer was born as Charlotte Caroline Tate 1 in Cobham, Surrey, England on 1 October 1881 2. She was baptised the following day at St Andrew's Church in Cobham.
She was the eldest daughter of Allen Tate (1853-1911), a coachman, and Louisa Townsend (1853-1931), both Surrey natives who had married in Essex in 1880. Charlotte had six known siblings: Louise Alice (b. 1883), Nellie (b. 1885), Lily Maud (b. 1886), Allen (b. 1888), Gladys Florence (b. 1891), and Eva Elsie (b. 1893).
She first appears on the 1881 census living at an unspecified address in Cobham, showing up as a resident of Kings Head Alley in Leatherhead, Surrey by the time of the following census in 1891. By the time of the 1901 census Charlotte had left home and was working as a domestic cook for the Reverend Sydney Sedgwick, a Church of England clergyman who lived at Fanfield Hill, Leatherhead. It was perhaps through the church that Charlotte met her future husband, Harvey Collyer (b. 1880) who was the church sexton and verger.
Harvey and Charlotte were married in St Mary and St Nicholas' Church in Leatherhead on 5 May 1905. Their respective addresses at the time were given as Church Walk and Hill Street, both in Leatherhead, and Harvey was described as a warehouseman. The couple had one child, a daughter, born in 1904 and whom they named Marjorie Lottie.
The family later moved to Bishopstoke, Hampshire, following the Reverend Sedgwick who had moved to his new Parrish church there, St Mary's. Harvey would continue to work for the church as verger, on the church council and as a bell ringer and he also ran a grocery store in the town. Charlotte also continued to work at the church and the family were well respected within their community.
The family appeared on the 1911 census living at 82 Church Road in Bishopstoke, Hampshire and Harvey was then described as a grocer and sexton.
Friends of the family had gone to Payette, Idaho several years before and made a success of the fruit farm they bought there. They wrote glowing accounts of the climate to the Collyers and advised them to come seek their fortune in Idaho. The Collyers did not seriously consider the proposition until Mrs Collyer began having respiratory problems (she was afflicted with tuberculosis), at which point they decided to buy a farm in the same valley as their friends in America (Mrs Collyer later felt guilty that it was her own health problems that eventually caused the death of her husband).
"The day before we were due to sail (our neighbours) made much of us, it seemed as if there must have been hundreds who called to bid us goodbye and in the afternoon members of the curch arranged a surprise for my husband. They led him to a seat under the old tree in the churchyard and then some went up into the belfry and, in his honour, they rang all the chimes that they knew. It took more than an hour and he was very pleased. Somehow it makes me a little sad. They ran the old chimes as well as the gay ones and to me it was too much of a farewell ceremony." Charlotte Collyer (the Semi-Monthly Magazine) R
The next morning the Collyers went to Southampton, where Mr Collyer drew from the bank the family's life savings (including the money from the sale of their store in Bishopstoke). He took the money in banknotes instead of a draft, and put the money in the inside breast pocket of his coat. In the Titanic's hold were the few personal possessions that the family had kept after the sale of their home -- which meant that everything the Collyers owned was on board the Titanic, which they boarded under joint ticket number 31921 which cost £26, 5s).
When the Titanic collided with the iceberg Charlotte was in bed feeling nauseous due to her meals having been too rich that day. Her husband went out to investigate and reported back, saying: 'What do you think? We've struck an iceberg - a big one - but there's no danger. An officer told me so!' She just asked her husband if anybody seemed frightened, and when he said no, she lay back again in her bunk (Lord 1976).
Charlotte and Marjorie were rescued in lifeboat 14 but Harvey Collyer died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
Following her arrival in New York, she later wrote to her mother:
Brooklyn, New York
My dear Mother and all,
Charlotte and her daughter also received relief from both the Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund:
Number P. 26.
And the American Relief Fund:
No. 83. (English).
Charlotte and Marjorie did not settle in the USA as planned and returned to England where, towards the end of 1914, she was remarried, much to the chagrin of her deceased husband's family. Her new husband was a Liverpool-native named James Ashbrook Holme (b. 1885), a licensed victualler, and the couple lived at The Fox and Pelican in Greyshott, Haslemere, Surrey.
Charlotte finally succumbed to the tuberculosis which had plagued her on 28 November 1916 aged 35. Her second husband James Holme died less than three years later on 22 March 1919, leaving little Marjorie to be raised by her uncle Walter Collyer, a gamekeeper.
- Name frequently given as Charlotte Annie Tate. Her birth registration and both her marriage registrations and associated church documents do not list her middle name. Her baptismal record specified her name as Charlotte Caroline and she is listed on the 1891 census as Charlotte C. Tate. Her death record makes no mention of a middle name.
- Some sources say 1880. Her birth was registered in Epsom in 1881 and she was baptised that same year. Census records confirm also her approximate birth year as 1881.
References and Sources
The Semi-Monthly Magazine, May 1912, How I was Saved from the Titanic
Brian J. Ticehurst and Geoffrey W. Whitfield (1997) The Doomed and The Delivered, in preparation
Christopher M. Wardlow (1997) Catching up with the Collyer's[sic], Atlantic Daily Bulletin, No 2., p.7
Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley
Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund Booklets and Minute Books (p.26)
American Red Cross (1913) Emergency and Relief Booklet (#83)
Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
Brian Ticehurst, UK
George Behe, USA
Articles and Stories
Surrey Advertiser and County Times (1912)