Geoffrey & Charles Septimus Gowlland correspondence.


Letters of 1961 between Geoffrey Gowlland (b. 1903) and Charles Septimus Gowlland (b. 1878), younger brother of Geoff's father Egbert.

Charles Septimus Gowlland to Geoff -  9th December 1961


Dear Geoffrey

We were very pleased to have a visit from Gladys – I think she was about four or five years old when I last saw her.  She seemed quite excited at seeing her new-found uncle and cousins and this part of the country.  It was a very fine day, to make it all the better; and we too her for a run into Somerset through pretty scenery, which she seemed to enjoy very much. 

The photostat [see below] she sends brings back many old memories – your Uncle Will won numbers of these prizes, as in those days nearly every weekly, and most daily, papers ran these competitions.  The only trouble was the nasty letters we received by the hundred each morning – “What relation were you to the Editor?” etc etc.  The three names I have marked were also his friends.  He made quite a hobby of it.  From the pecuniary point of view, he was the only one in it. 

Mr Secker [presumably a former neighbour] is getting very old – in his 91st year – and is at present very ill.  I usually go up to stay with him each year, but a letter the other day told me he was too ill to see me.  He has lived there since twelve months before I myself went to live in Cheyne Walk [in Croydon – Charles’s former house is still there – the next road being Northampton Road where Egbert, his wife and Geoff lived].  That road does not seem to alter much all these years (we have been here, in Bournemouth, forty-two years).  I saw Mr Cornish [whose place of business, Scotts, was a few doors away from the Gowllands Ltd factory where Charles had worked as a young adult] a couple of years ago and was sorry to hear Mrs Cornish had passed away.  I remember Scotts of Woodside when it really was “Woods’ Side” and a very old village, and knew them all.  Mrs Lovell is a wonderful old lady – older than Mr Secker – and I think, with Miss Stroud, is all that are now left. 

Melissa has only been to see us once since we have been in Bournemouth, about four years ago, when she was staying in the town.  We do not know where she now lives.  Her brother Bill we have never heard from: I suppose he is still in the dial gauge line in Brighton [William, older brother of Melissa and only son of William Gowlland, who was an older brother of Charles and Egbert – the “dial gauge line” was “The Capstan Gauge Company”, very well known in its day, concerning which Geoff wrote disparagingly to Gladys about William Snr’s reluctance to answer letters]. 

Melissa wrote to me several times about her “Tree” as she calls it. 

St Nicholas Cole Abbey had a brass plate to the George Gowlland who was a Church Warden there – I saw it many times.  He was brother to Dr Peter Yeames Gowlland who was head of The London Hospital for many years.  So far as I know, the first mention of Gowlland as Instrument Makers was in 1561, when the name was engraved on a dial as Maker.  It was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851.  Your great - great - great - grandmother came from France at the time of the St. Bartholomew’s Eve Massacre, and settled in Canterbury.  The name was Le Beau; and they finally settled in Threadneedle Street, London, adjoining St. Christopher’s Churchyard.   We had an oil painting of the old house showing the churchyard at the side, and the churchyard is still in existence – inside the Bank [of England]. The church itself was pulled down when they built the Bank.  The oil painting was placed with other papers in a bank at Islington when your grandmother died, and I have never heard of them since. 

The Gowlland who gave his name to the places in Vancouver was, I believe, a son of Dr Peter Yeames Gowlland. 

Many thanks for putting Gladys in touch with us.

We are all quite well here and send kind regards to you and yours.


Yours sincerely   . . . .


The photostat Gladys sent to Charles Septimus mentioned above.

Geoff to Charles Septimus Gowlland -  24th December 1961


Dear Uncle Charles

Thank you so much for your kind and most interesting letter.  It was such a pleasure to hear from you.

Frankly I am disappointed that the bit of gossip about Cheyne Walk proved to be old to you – I had no idea that you were still in touch with Mr Stecker.  Mrs Lovell had to go into a nursing home, the same one in Croydon where my mother died three months ago.  We are friendly with the younger Lovell daughter who you may remember as a small trim blonde. 

There are few of your old employees left with us at the factory from your time.  Glass-Grinder [Glass Grinding is the process of turning raw glass discs or squares into optically worked lenses and mirrors] Harry Jarrett is one of my joint works managers and is in fine fettle.  He made, as usual, a magnificent Father Christmas at last night’s Social Club dance.  Toolmaker Dick Packham died about four years ago, and his wife only last year. 

Enclosed you may be interested in a photograph of the curious birth certificate of your grandfather, George Castle Gowlland, who, I believe, was a nautical instrument maker of Wapping.  A Stephen Gowlland, who was a real expert on Gowllandiana and who died suddenly in 1947, gave me the original of this certificate explaining that books  ???  and similar registrations were not unusual for strongly non-conformists who couldn’t stand the Church.  Stephen added that the writing in the body of the certificate is in George Castle’s handwriting as it tallies exactly with other documents he has. 

The other two photos (which I would be pleased to have back) are of that puzzling Grandfather Clock which Gladys bought from the public trustee in Toronto in 1928.  She is convinced that it is genuine from the date of 1751 on it, and also the scratched repair dates on the back of the movement. 

Do you really think it can be right that your elder brother retained this valuable family clock and took it with him to Canada?  I had always understood that he was not above a hoax and think this may well be one. 

I had earlier got into the 1951 Exhibition.  The Science Museum last wrote me 4th March 1954 that the exhibit centred around an improved remontoir mechanism patented by James Gowland in 1837 and shown with some other clocks of his.  He was a clock maker in London Wall and died in 1880, and his family is still in business as jewellers in Cornhill as Gowland Bros, and are a well-known and high-class firm, I believe.  They are the Gowlands from Durham and are not connected at all with us as we all came from around Canterbury. 

My mother spoke of Jane Orford’s Diary, which she well remembered as very detailed, long and beautifully written.  Do you happen to know what became of it? 

With best wishes for a happy 1962 to you   . . . .   Yours sincerely


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