Calls for a memorial to 'Camberley Kate'
April 02, 2008
As Camberley looks to the future with the opening of The Atrium development there are calls for the town to commemorate one of its most famous past residents.
Mention the name Camberley Kate to anyone over the age of 40 and their face instantly lights up as they recall the eccentric old lady who walked up to 30 dogs each day to the town centre, pushing some of them in a hand-made cart.
Kate Ward, given the affectionate nickname by locals, was passionate about the welfare of dogs. She would walk the four mile round trip from her home in London Road to the town’s police station each day to collect any stray dogs that had been handed in.
All of the dogs she owned had been rescued by her. They were the unloved animals, often having been abandoned or badly treated.
She never turned down a stray, knowing they wouldprobably be put down if she did not take them in. Her efforts brought her great attention from across the world.
Pictures of her with her dogs appeared in newspapers as far afield as Australia and the USA and Lord Snowdon made a film about her.
Now, 29 years after her death at the age of 84, there are some people who would like to see her good deeds recognised more formally.
Colin Ingleton contacted the News earlier this month to suggest commemorating Camberley Kate with a plaque or memorial to remind the community of the colourful character.
He said: “She had a big influence on the town.
“With all this building work going on in Camberley’s new town centre can’t they find a little corner, a little plaque, somewhere for her?
“She’s part of the town’s history and it would be a good way to tell children about her and the good work that she did.”
Mr Ingleton was so influenced by Camberley Kate that he and his wife named their daughter after her when she was born in 1971.
He said: “We have always thought a lot of Camberley Kate and we thought it would be a nice way to remember somebody who did such good work.”
Mr Ingleton, who now lives near Wokingham, raised his family in Camberley and worked at the town’s railway station.
He saw Camberley Kate pass by every day. “She was thought a lot of,” he said.
“People would stop and give her money, donations, towards the upkeep of the animals.”
Kate was born in Middlesbrough in 1895 and orphaned before the age of ten. She was raised by a strictly religious aunt and at the age of 19 left home to become a servant in Bradford.
Her first experience of rescuing a dog was in 1943. She had just bought a house in Camberley for £600 when she found a lame greyhound sitting on the doorstep of the local vet’s office.
The dog was to be put down, but she took it home instead.
Over the rest of her life she rescued and cared for more than 600 stray dogs.
People left dogs on her doorstep, sometimes in shopping bags tied to her front door.
Incredibly, some dogs even found their way to her.
A local vet, Geoffrey Craddock, regularly visited Kate from 1954 until her death and always found the dogs healthy.
Her charitable work did not just extend to animals. She donated money to a Baptist church to enable it to buy 70 new hymn books, bought rocking horses for disabled children and donated £100 to a church fund to help bring Vietnamese orphans to Britain.
She also gave gifts anonymously to people who had fallen on hard times.
Despite her generosity she was not a wealthy woman, using just her meagre pension to keep a home for herself and her dogs.
Donations left to her in legacies or given to her in person by the public went towards the upkeep of the dogs or to buy gifts for worthy causes.
She never spent money on herself. Anything left over went into a trust fund which had grown to a substantial amount by the time of her death.
It was subsequently used to care for the remaining dogs that belonged to her.
Camberley Kate had her critics, however. Some residents and councillors complained about the number of dogs she cared for and there were efforts to ban dogs from the town centre.
On one occasion, police investigated claims that her dogs had bitten children, but no charges were ever made against her. The police were very supportive of Kate and suggested a route so that she and her canine entourage could travel safely to and from the town centre.
Camberley resident Anne Greenstreet described Kate as a “tremendous character” and agreed there should be something in the town to remember her by.
Historian Ken Clarke was also open to the idea of a formal tribute.
He said: “Anything to get people interested in local history is a good idea, especially as the old buildings keep getting replaced with new ones.
“Once they’ve gone the history goes with them.”
David Chesneau of The Camberley Society added: “Camberley doesn’t have a lot of history, so the more we can make of our characters and the history that the town does have, the better.
“I’d be in favour of a plaque.”
Leonard Puddifoot, 74, said he used to chat to Kate when he worked on the forecourt of Brian Gubby’s Datsun dealership on London Road.
He said: “She needs to be remembered as the character of Camberley. Everybody used to stop and talk to her and look at her with all these dogs.
“I used to say ‘how are you doing Kate?’ and she would say ‘I’m fine. The dogs are fine.’ She paid more attention to them than she did to herself.
“I can’t believe it was 29 years ago.
“They are knocking all the old buildings down. The only thing left is the white elephant.
“There should be a statue or something like a little water feature of her and the dogs.”
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