In the annals of history, the tale of the Titanic remains etched in our collective memory. The tragic sinking of the unsinkable ship claimed the lives of over 1,500 passengers and crew. Amidst the harrowing tales of loss, however, there were stories of survival, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit. The story of Charlotte and Marjorie Collyer, a mother and daughter from Eastleigh, who not only survived the Titanic but also found solace in a humble pub in the village of Grayshott, Hampshire, stands as a testament to the enduring strength of the human heart.
Charlotte Tate, born in 1881, was the eldest daughter of Allen Tate and Louisa Townsend. The family initially resided in Cobham, Surrey before eventually settling in Leatherhead. In 1901, Charlotte worked as a domestic cook for Reverend Sydney Sedgwick, where she is believed to have met her future husband, Harvey Collyer.
In 1903, Charlotte married Harvey, a warehouse man, and together they welcomed a daughter named Marjorie Lottie in 1904. The family relocated to Bishopstoke, near Eastleigh, where Harvey served as a verger for the local church, also fulfilling roles on the church council and as a bell ringer. By 1911, Harvey had transitioned into the role of a grocer and sexton while the family remained in Bishopstoke.
An opportunity for a fresh start presented itself when friends of the Collyer family purchased a fruit farm in Idaho, USA. However, plans to join them were temporarily put on hold when Charlotte fell ill with tuberculosis. Determined to seek a cure and start anew, they set their sights on America, boarding the RMS Titanic on April 10, 1912.
Tragedy struck on that fateful night of April 14, 1912, when the Titanic collided with an iceberg. Charlotte, confined to her bed due to illness, was informed by Harvey that the ship was sinking. In a twist of fate, Charlotte and Marjorie were among the fortunate souls who were rescued in lifeboat 14, but Harvey met his untimely demise, his body lost to the unforgiving sea. The family’s life savings, amounting to £5,000 in cash, also perished with the ship as Harvey had kept them in his breast pocket.
In a heart-wrenching letter to her mother upon reaching New York, Charlotte expressed her grief and regret, revealing that she would have chosen to stay with her husband if not for the forcible separation from her daughter. Determined to provide a better life for Marjorie, she forged ahead, buoyed by the support of the Mansion House Titanic Relief and the American Relief Fund.
After their return to England, Charlotte remarried in 1914 to James Ashbrook Holme, the landlord of The Fox and Pelican in Grayshott. The family made their home in the pub, where they found comfort amidst the warm embrace of a tight-knit community. Sadly, Charlotte’s battle with tuberculosis came to an end in November 1916 when she passed away at the age of 35. She was laid to rest in St Mary’s churchyard in Eastleigh, not far from their previous residence, with a commemorative plaque honoring Harvey Collyer adorning their former home.
Marjorie, now under the care of her uncle Walter Collyer, a gamekeeper in West Horsley, Surrey, took her own path in life. In December 1927, she married Royden Bernard Bowman Dutton, a mechanic from London, in the same church where her parents had exchanged vows in Leatherhead. Though records do not provide clarity on their offspring, it is believed that the couple had a child who tragically died in infancy.
In 1941, Marjorie became a widow and later worked as a doctor’s receptionist in Chilworth, Surrey. As the years advanced, she transitioned to a nursing home in Alverstoke, near Gosport. It was there that Marjorie’s journey came to a close, as she succumbed to a stroke in 1965. The legacy of Charlotte and Marjorie Collyer, two remarkable women who defied the odds and survived one of history’s most catastrophic maritime disasters, lives on. Their story serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and their quiet existence in the village of Grayshott stands as a poignant reminder that even in the face of unimaginable tragedy, life goes on, and new chapters unfold.