Camberley Kate and her dogs

Camberley Kate and her dogs

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The extraordinary life of Camberley Kate

By Zoë Monk Content Writer

Published on the

Camberley Kate’s extraordinary devotion to the welfare of dogs captured the community's hearts and continues to inspire over 40 years later.

Known affectionately as Camberley Kate, Kate Ward became a local legend in Camberley for her tireless efforts in rescuing and caring for stray dogs (and the occasional cat).

Her remarkable story is one of unwavering dedication, endless love and the profound difference one person can make in the lives of others.

Camberley Kate's story

Camberley Kate was born in Middlesbrough on 13th June 1895. Orphaned at a young age, she found herself under the care of a strict religious aunt in Yorkshire. She found great comfort in her love for animals and a deep-rooted desire to make a real difference in their lives.

After working in domestic service for several years and a stint at the Royal Military Academy, she eventually travelled to Camberley, where her journey as a dog rescuer began.

How it all started

In 1943, Kate purchased a small terraced cottage in Yorktown, Camberley and took in her first stray dog, a lame greyhound facing euthanasia. This act of kindness began her lifelong mission to rescue and care for abandoned dogs. As word began to spread that she was taking in dogs, she would find them left in carrier bags on her doorstep, tied to her door, or brought to her by local police.

As the number of dogs she had steadily grew, she asked someone to build her a green wooden cart, which she would fill with her dogs and make a daily four-mile round trip to the town centre to sell postcards with her picture on and collect donations towards the care of the dogs. She would also use the daily trip to collect more dogs from the police station. Kate's green cart was always stocked with meat for the dogs and a shovel to clear away any mess they made on the street. She would keep the dogs in check by using a whistle.

The nickname Camberley Kate is believed to have been given to her by historian Sir Arthur Bryant in his book "The Lion and the Unicorn", and it soon became the name everyone knew her by.

A champion for dogs

As Kate's reputation as a compassionate canine caregiver grew, so too did her pack of beloved dogs. With the support of the local community and the dedicated care of local vet Geoffrey Craddock, Kate's small cottage became a haven for over 600 dogs in her lifetime. Each dog received the utmost care and attention, was regularly exercised, and enjoyed a good dog diet. According to Craddock, most of her dogs would reach the age of 16 thanks to her care.

She was also passionate about championing dogs, which saw her fight plans to make it illegal for dogs to be out without a lead in 1969 and accuse the council of being "nothing more than a collection of dog-haters." Kate would also frequently write to the royal family about animal welfare issues and to tell them about her dogs. When dog lover Princess Elizabeth married, one of Kate's dogs sent her a dog lead as a present.

Kate's fame spread during her lifetime. She was featured on several TV programmes, in the national press in the UK, on NBC in the US, and in European publications. Lord Snowdon even photographed Kate for a feature in Time Magazine.

Camberley Kate's death

Camberley Kate died on 4th August 1979 at the age of 84, leaving behind a legacy of compassion and kindness. By the time she died, the number of dogs she’d rescued had grown to a staggering 600, and remarkably, Kate could name every one of them and even recall how they came into her care. 

Her funeral, held at St. Michael's in Yorktown, was a testament to her impact on the community.

What happened to Camberley Kate's dogs after she died?

By the time her health had started to deteriorate, Kate had cut down the number of dogs in her care, and it’s believed she had only seven before she went to live at Kingsclear Residential Home before she died. Fortunately, the growth of other dog rescues, inspired by her work no doubt, helped ease the pressure on her. 

Always thinking about her canine companions, Kate made provisions for the care of her beloved dogs before her passing. A trust fund was established to ensure they would continue receiving the care they needed.

Animal rescue legacy

During Kate's lifetime, unwanted dogs were simply dumped on the street or abandoned at the local police station or vet. But as there weren't any rescues to take them in, Kate would save them from a life on the street. Her tireless efforts to ensure her dogs received love, care, and veterinary attention inspired many others in her community to take in dogs or find ways to support Kate in her work.

 Kate's legacy as a pioneer in animal rescue lives on, inspiring future generations of rescuers.

Remembering Camberley Kate

Camberley Kate, the legendary dog rescuer, left an indelible mark on the town of Camberley and beyond. Her unwavering dedication to saving stray dogs earned her a place in the hearts of many, and her story continues to inspire.

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