Jane Collier, whose family-based business, is Collier & Catchpole, an independent builders’ merchant, based in Colchester, is still thriving after 200 years and the Fund in the family name will give grants to charities and community groups working in the Colchester area year on year.
For Jane – who, as an an active, widely travelled and sport-loving great-grandmother with a sharp sense of humour, defies the traditional description of ‘matriarch’ – the charitable fund is the culmination of a lifetime’s giving by herself and her late husband, Roy.
“Roy would have been delighted that the charitable fund has been established in the family’s name,” said Jane.
“We have always been involved in the community, not only through the business, but also through politics and voluntary work.
“I worked with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Colchester for nearly 20 years and Roy was a magistrate, so we both saw the problems faced by people who came from all walks of life.
“Since Roy died in 1998, I have often thought about setting up a charity independently, but then my accountant introduced me to Essex Community Foundation.
“Establishing a fund with them is ideal, because they pool your donation with all of their other funds and do all the work for you, but you can be as involved as you want in making decisions about where money from your Fund will be distributed each year.
“Although I have lived and travelled abroad quite a bit during my life, the heart of our family is in Colchester. We want our fund to make a difference to people in the area where our family and business have been established for so many years.
Roy was born and grew up in Colchester, attending school locally and then boarding at Haileybury School in Hertfordshire. In 1955 he joined his father Samuel in the family business, Collier (Stanway) Limited, a gravel, lime and cement merchants. He continued to work for the business following acquisitions by St Ives Sand and Gravel and then Goldfields, but the family still owned the land and office building.
When the lease came up for renewal in 1975, Roy decided not to renew and set up a builders merchant operating from the site in Colchester. In anticipation of this, Roy purchased E Catchpole & Sons, an Ipswich based builder’s merchant and the two businesses traded separately until 1988 when they were amalgamated under the Collier & Catchpole name.
Jane, who grew up on a fruit farm in Frating, has four children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren and another on the way. She is delighted that family members will be able to continue the legacy the charitable fund will provide for Colchester.
As well as her work with the CAB, Jane was Chair of Governors of The Gilberd School for several years and of the Colchester Sixth Form College from its inception and for the first 10 years of its existence. She was also involved in the medical world, with the Family Practitioner Committee, is a member of a Christian Fellowship and is an enthusiastic croquet and bridge player.
In 1985 Jane was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty The Queen for services to the community and to politics.
She first met Roy at the Garrison Officers’ Club in Colchester and they were married in1957, when Jane was 20. She was soon involved in the family business as company secretary and wages clerk, as well as bringing up her children. Jane and Roy had a passion for politics and were founder members of Stanway Conservative Association.
Recalling Roy, Jane smiles when she remembers him teasing her about being “a magpie” when, in the early days of marriage, he found she had collected, washed and stored an array of baby food jars. “After that, anything I collected or stored was called Magpie-ing” said Jane.
But there is a difference between Jane and Magpies, as the birds have an instinct for taking, but her focus has always been on giving.
Roy was always involved in the local community, as was Jane, and she continues to be very active and interested in local issues. Setting up the family fund with us will ensure the support that they have always given continues in the family name both now, and as a lasting legacy.