The Peterborough family who left for a new life but died on the Titanic

Peterborough Civic Society has chosen 15 new sites for its popular blue plaques scheme. Each week, Looking Back will feature the stories behind the new plaques, as told by the civic society.

Blue plaque presentations -  The Sage Family whose 11 family members died on the Titanic EMN-200624-144851009
Blue plaque presentations - The Sage Family whose 11 family members died on the Titanic EMN-200624-144851009

This plaque is located on the wall next to the front door of the Gladstone District Community Association offices on the corner of Taverners Road and Gladstone Street.

John George Sage was born in Stamford Hill, Hackney, London, on October 13 1867 and was married in St John’s Church, Hackney, in November 1890 to Annie Elizabeth Cazaly (b. 1865), a native of Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.

John and his family moved to Norfolk sometime around the turn of the 20th century where he became a publican and ran the New Inn in Gaywood, King’s Lynn.

The family appeared at that address on the 1901 census.

By 1910 the family had moved to Peterborough, to 246 Gladstone Street, to run a baker’s and confectioner’s business.

But it wasn’t long before John decided on another career change. Leaving Annie in charge of the bakery, he and their eldest son George went to Canada.

They worked as waiters in the dining cars of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but also found time to visit Florida. Here John put a deposit on a farm in Jacksonville, and returned home to Peterborough in the autumn of 1911 to prepare the family for the move. It is believed that the rest of the family were not enthusiastic about it.

Blue plaque presentation at Gladstone House with committee members Mohammad Choudhary, Karen Igho, Asabir Akhtar and Yasmine Ilahi.

In April 1912 they left the UK on board the Titanic, to start a new life in Jacksonville, Florida, as pecan farmers.

They had intended to sail to the USA on the Philadelphia, but were forced to change their plans due to a coal strike.

After bidding their farewells to many well-wishers,the family travelled by train to Southampton and boarded the Titanic on 10 April 1912 as third-class passengers (ticket number 2343 which cost £69 and 11 shillings).

It is well known that the Titanic hit an iceberg on April 14, 1912, but little is known about the exact fate of the family.

Some witnesses report that the family were seen on deck, and that one daughter was offered a place in the lifeboats but refused to go without the rest of the family.

The only body to be recovered was that of 13-year-old Will Sage.

Stella Anne (born 1891); George John (born 1892); Douglas Bullen (born 1894); Frederick (born 1895); Dorothy Florence (born 1897); Elizabeth Ada (born 1901); Constance Gladys (born 1904) and Thomas Henry (born 1907) and their parents were never seen again.

All 11 members of the family drowned in the Titanic disaster. It was the single biggest recorded loss of life from one family.

This plaque is one of a series of 15 blue plaques recently installed in central Peterborough by Peterborough Civic Society. The new series of plaques augments the 20 existing plaques in the city centre.

Further details about all the plaques can be found in the accompanying 28-page booklet which can be ordered on the society’s website for £2 per copy (to cover postage and packing).

Once the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are relaxed, copies of the booklet will be available for free at the Town Hall and other outlets. The booklet can also be downloaded from the Society’s website.

The plaques project has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Peterborough City Council.