Charles Matthewman Collins:

Charles Matthewman Collins, pictured amongst crew members during the rescue of two stranded German adventurers off the South American coast.
The route of the HMS Challenger Expedition
Charles' Obiturary

A life on the high seas

Whether choosing to take up the same trade, or working in a family shop or business, it’s not unusual for a child to follow in their parents’ footsteps when seeking a job. Contrarily, my great-great-grandfather, Charles Matthewman Collins, did no such thing. Born in Brighton to the rather quirkily named Charles Napoleon Matthewman (1822 – 1906, a plasterer), and Caroline Collins (1829 – ????, a laundress), Charles chose the high seas over a life of laundry in the family’s then-home at 32 George Street. After a childhood spent between schoolwork and service, and a whirlwind Cornish marriage to Mary Frances Patching (1850 – 1918), Charles seemed to take more inspiration from his father’s middle name than his trowel and plaster.

Challenger Expedition 1874

He joined the now-famous Challenger Expedition as an engineer in 1872, and embarking on a 700-day journey that would take him around the world by way of rescued German adventurers, strange creatures, a rather terrible on-ship orchestra and countries beyond imagination. While I’m not inclined to write at length about the Challenger’s Journey, this first-hand account makes for a brilliant read.Departing from Portsmouth Harbor on the 21st of December, the HMS Challenger set sail for Portugal, carrying a crew of Scientists, Navigators, Engineers and Sailors. It’s goal was to map the sea, discover new species and, for much of the crew, to get home in one piece.

Living at 46 Viaduct Road

Countless crew members fell victim to the journey, one was so unlucky he drowned before the ship even departed after falling between the dock and the ship. Thankfully for me, sitting here typing this now, Charles not only made it home, but went on to be one of – if not the – oldest surviving crew member of the expedition, having spent his days back on land starting a family at 46 Viaduct Road. He took up work as a whitesmith, also running a general store from his home, and had five children: George Anthony Collins (1879 – 1961), Ernest James Collins (my great-grandfather, 1887 – 1959), Elizabeth Clemson Barnett Collins (1888 – 1984), Edith Collins (1889 – ????) and Charles Collins (1891 – ????).

Comments about this page

  • Hi Emma. My Granddad was George Anthony Collins and if you look at local folk you can see an article (Geo Collins & Son) I put on the site some time back about his garage at Patcham.  If you’re interested in swapping notes on the Collins family, I would be pleased to hear from you. Tony Collins. 

    By Tony Collins (07/01/2017)
  • I think there must have been more than five children as my grandfather, Alfred Harry Collins was one of Charles’ sons. My mother, Marjory Grace Elson (nee Collins) remembers Charles – every Xmas, as a child, she was sent to take Charles a box of cigars from her father Alfred.


    By Elizabeth Elson (02/08/2017)
  • Hi Emma, My grandfather was Charles Collins, my father was George Alan Collins. Charles was married to Elizabeth Annie Hobbs. I am aware that the Collins family had a garage in Patcham, and my father spoke of his Uncle George. I will speak to my Cousin Karen to confirm dates.

    By Alan Charles Collins (15/02/2018)
  • Following Emma’s blog, I traced the original photo of Charlie on Inaccessible Island, with the other sailors from HMS Challenger who rescued two marooned German sailors. 

    By Philip Pearson (16/08/2018)
  • I’m putting together a life of Charles Collins, my great grandfather, and his wife Mary Francis nee Patching. I would welcome any information you can publish on these pages. 

    By Philip Pearson (15/10/2018)
  • I am interested in your posting as Charles is a distant relative and I have researched his family. Unfortunately I have never found a person named Charles Matthewman Collins.
    Charles was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1821. He married Caroline Collins at Brighton in 1848. Together they had 13 children of which child no.3 Henry is of interest to me.
    Henry  Matthewman, born 1851, was married to Harriet Marchant in St.Pauls Church, Brighton on June 29,1873. Together they had 10 children of which child no.10 Sarah Elizabeth Matthewman is my relative. She married my uncle Frank Guy at St.Philips Church, Aldrington on Sep.23, 1916. He was a Chief Petty Officer on HMS Suffolk.
    In 1851 census Charles & Caroline were living at 12 Artillery St.Brighton and the first 5 of their children would have been born there. In 1861 census they had moved to 36 George St.Hove and their final abode in 1871 & 1881 was at 10 Victoria Cottages Hove, near the Neptune Pub.
    I have four A4 pages of Matthewman information.

    By Peter Guy (08/11/2018)

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