By Alex Mettler
The Rogers family were monumental masons and granite merchants in Tavistock for almost a century, but they also lost a son in the Titanic tragedy of 1912.
Following the sinking of the Titanic on 10th April 1912, the Western Morning News reported the death of Reginald Henry Rogers, known as Harry, as follows:
"Henry Rogers of Tavistock, a second class passenger, was the son of the late J G Rogers, stone mason, and grandson of Mr J S Rogers who carries on the business at Tavistock. The young man was 18 years of age and had been in service with Rev Maitland Kelly of Kelly. Afterwards he was employed at the Bedford Hotel, Tavistock, and for about three years has been assistant waiter at the Angel Hotel, Helston. He was sailing for Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where he has several uncles and aunts, and intended to turn his hand to anything that came along. He was a smart and steady young fellow. He had intended to travel by another liner, but the sailing was cancelled on account of the coal strike. His mother has been married again and is the wife of Mr Jackman, who for many years has been in the employ of Tavistock Urban Council. Both mother and grandmother are in much distress, fearing the worst."
In 1877, a John Stephens Rogers had established himself as a monumental mason and granite merchant in Tavistock. His firm, based in premises behind the Duke of York pub on Ford Street, stayed in business until 1972, when it was bought by Pascoe and Son of Gulworthy. John Stephens Rogers was not, however, a Tavistock man by birth – he had been born in Calstock, on the Cornish bank of the River Tamar, in about 1850. His father, John S Rogers was an agricultural labourer who had been born in nearby Stoke Climsland in c.1827, while his mother, Betsy, was herself from Calstock. Quite why the younger John chose to become a mason is unknown but two of his brothers also entered the same trade, while in 1881 his father (previously an agricultural labourer) is recorded as being a retired granite mason. John Stephens Rogers had married in 1870 and Harry Rogers was his grandson.
In Tavistock, the Rogers’s family business was responsible for many of the gravestones and other monuments installed in the town over the period 1877 to 1972. There are over forty examples of this firm’s work in the Dolvin Road cemetery, as well as many more in the Plymouth Road cemetery, which was opened in 1882 after the Dolvin Road plot was closed, by Government Statute, to all but those whose families had brick graves or vaults established there.
Harry Rogers was not the only victim from the Tavistock area. Another young man, Frederick Pengelly of Gunnislake, was also lost in the disaster. Just like Rogers, Pengelly had been due to sail on another ship, only to be transferred onto the Titanic as a result of a coal strike.
Harry’s death on the Titanic is recorded on the family gravestone in Tavistock’s Plymouth Road Cemetery.