Gladys Gowlland and Eleanor Barron Correspondence.


Letter from 1963 from Gladys Gowlland to Eleanor Barron of Australia, grand-daughter of John Thomas Ewing Gowlland..


Dear Mrs Barron

My cousin, Geoffrey P Gowlland, who lives in Kent, England, sent on to me a newspaper clipping regarding a plaque erected under the auspices of the Manly Warringah & Pittwater Historical Society to the memory of Commander J T E Gowlland.  I wrote to the Society for more information and have now received a most courteous and informative letter from their Honorary Secretary, Mr Charles E McDonald.   From it I gather that Mr McDonald has told you of my letter but in case he has not I enclose a copy as it outlines the reason for my interest.  Also, Mr McDonald very kindly gave me your address so that I could contact you direct.

As mentioned in my letter I have long been accumulating material regarding Commander Gowlland but after one hundred years this is not easy to come by.  At the time he was here British Columbia had not yet become a part of Canada and there were far more Indian inhabitants than whites.  A truly fascinating period, historically, from an author's point of view, and he was in Australia at an equally fascinating period of your country's history.  These historic backgrounds I hope to tie together by the achievement and exploits of Commander Gowlland and produce another book with "sea-going" personality which will be as popular as my "Master of the Moving Sea" [for details click here].

On the Pacific Coast Commander Gowlland's memory is perpetuated by many place names -

                Gowlland    Rocks       -            West Coast of Vancouver Island

                Gowlland    Island        -            Barkley Sound

                Gowlland    Harbour    -            In Discover Passage

                Gowlland    Island        -            In Discover Passage

                Gowlland    Point        -             Saturna Island

                Gowlland    Mountain  -             near Bella Bella

                Gowlland    Range      -            Highland District, Vancouver Island    (sketch postal card of this attached) [no trace remaining, sadly]

Mr McDonald also tells me that your papers, charts etc have now been presented to the Mitchell Library.  Is it possible to obtain detailed information from them?  or could you give me some?  Also, could you let me have a copy of the picture which appeared in the newspaper?  I have pictures of HMS "Plumper" and HMS "Hecate" on which Commander (then Lieutenant) served while in B.C. waters.   Also, I am in touch with authorities in London, Seattle and in San Francisco.  Shortly I go to Victoria to re-examine material available there.

My cousin, who is head of the very large and long-established firm of Gowllands Limited (Scientific Instrument makers) has long made a hobby of compiling family records and you may be interested in, and amused by, some notes he sent me ten years ago, or, rather, notes he made for my nephew, George Orford Gowlland (now an architect and Fellow of the Royal Society of Architects)  who is also interested in family records.  Part of these notes I have copied out for you [see below].  Geoffrey has also made up a detailed family tree but there are gaps here and there.  on my last visit to England (1961) he and I spent much time traipsing through old churchyards but were able to gather little additional information.

I was in Sydney and Brisbane in 1959 and am only sorry I did not then know that you resided nearby.  I'll have to make another visit!

I look forward to hearing from you and also to the pleasure of receiving some information to add to that I have already collected.

With warm regards and wishing you the Compliments of the Season,


Yours sincerely


Gladys M O Gowlland




(The crest referred to appears on a seal I have, given me many years ago by cousin Geoffrey P Gowlland.  GMOG)

. . . . .  Now the Crest is in the possession of a famous Colonel Gowlland, whom I managed to interview nine years ago during the war and just before his death.  Others of the family have the same crest. 

It is a stag (I am not sure of the genealogical description) and is part of the Grant of Arms. The description on the shield is (I expect you will be amused at the old French descriptions still used for these Arms):-

          “Per Pale gn and az, two bars or bln three bezants in chief and a phelm in base argent”

The recent history of these Arms and the Crest can be only guessed at, but my own theory, which is quite probably correct, is as follows.

The father of the Colonel Gowlland whom I saw was a Richard Gowlland, and he, about eighty years ago, achieved a very important Government position, being head in London of the Ministry of Works.  This position then was of greater importance and prestige than afterwards.  I guess that one of the not-too-scrupulous firms, who look up Arms and try to sell them to wealthy and important people, got hold of them [Sic] Arms, offered them to Colonel Gowlland’s father and probably collected a heavy fee.

Unfortunately there really is no doubt that these were related to another family altogether.

The Arms in question were granted on the 20th July 1749 to a Ralph Gowland, who lived at Durham and who was a Member of Parliament in 1775.  His son was educated at Westminster School, and he and his grandson had similar Arms awarded to them.

Now these Gowlands have lived in Durham for a very long while: their name is featured in standard books of descendants alive today with the same name.

The head of the family is believed to be in the Argentine and probably does not know he is entitled to bear these Arms.

Ralph’s grandson was a Thomas Gowland, and the original Grant of Arms is in the possession of one of our closer relatives – a Stephen Gowlland, whom I met several times in 1942 and 1943 but who unfortunately died suddenly and unexpectedly a few years ago.

Now our family goes back in a fairly direct line to ancestors in North Kent.  They moved from North Kent to East London in 1772, where they settled and there are quite a number of descendants of this family alive now.  I believe I have corresponded with, or met, nearly all of them at different times.

In Canterbury the Gowllands were, about 1750, people of importance providing Mayors, Councillors and the principal miller and so on.

The direct line goes back to Joseph Gowland, who lived in a little village just north of Canterbury and who was born in 1716.  In this same village, or in other villages within walking distance, there were other Gowlands, for instance – Thomas (married in 1678);  Humphry (born 1611); George (married 1540); Richard (born 1529); Stephen (married 1613); and another one (1601).

These last six entries are all described as “Yeoman” or “Farmer”; and all lived, were married and died within a few miles of the same area.  There is therefore little question that all of these are of the same family, although unfortunately I have not been able to connect them up father-to-son.

In the senior branch of our family, their names were usually Richard or Stephen right up till now.  In the minor branch, they were mostly George – although there was a George 413 years ago!

The name changed from Gowland to Gowlland with Stephen Gowlland, who married Elizabeth Sarah Simons, a very young but extremely wealthy heiress of a famous Huguenot family whose family tree is published in book form and [of which] I have a copy.

This Stephen lived most of his life as Gowland, but on the marriage register (which the Stephen Gowlland, who died a few years ago, inspected) he signed his name with two L’s; but the rest of his life he sometimes used one L and sometimes two L’s.  So that the story which you have presumably heard of a family quarrel which caused one branch to use two L’s is not really borne out by such evidence.

I spent a lot of time collecting together what information about the family I could.  The two churches in which I was most interested were both ruined in air raids; and the one at Canterbury I particularly wanted to see was cleared by bulldozers and the site is now a car-park.  I believe the tombs are just being pushed down into the rubble, at any rate they were badly burnt by the German bombs, and the fires afterwards.

Unfortunately, neither of the two churches has records left, and the copies stored in other places were also destroyed on the same occasion; and, therefore, my researches came pretty much to a standstill about eight years ago.




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