Geoffrey and Edward Lake Gowlland Correspondence.


Letters of 1942 between Geoffrey Gowlland (b. 1903), grandson of George Gowlland, and Lt.-Col. Edward Lake Gowlland (b.1876), grandson of Thomas Sankey Gowlland. 


Lt.-Col. Edward Lake Gowlland's two letters to Geoff


Geoff to Lt.-Col. Edward Lake Gowlland  -  31st December 1941


Dear Sir 

Several people have mentioned to me that you are the leading authority for the history of the Gowllands family. 

Recently a cousin in Canada asked if I could find out a little about our forebears for her, and I must say I have found the necessary enquiries a welcome relaxation from the forms, regulations and sustained hard work which the war represents for many of us. 

Our own section of Gowllands I have traced back to George Gowlland born in 1767.  We have all been instrument-makers, and you will notice from the enclosed card that it is my business today.  Probably you have, in the course of your duties, noticed a familiar name on W.O. [War Office – equipment issued to the Armed Forces] auriscopes, dental mirrors and so on.  Probably also your son has in the Navy. 

Would it be possible for me to call and have a chat with you one weekend, with a view to increasing the scanty information I have so far managed to collect? 

Yours faithfully,


Lt.-Col. Edward Lake Gowlland to Geoff  -  22nd January 1942


Dear Sir

I fear I am not an authority on the Gowlland family and unfortunately I am at present “laid by” and am likely to be in bed for some very long time, indeed I am not very likely to recover from this illness which is in the nature of a tumour pressing on the spine 

I know your Auriscopes etc, and I think I met your daughter [see Geoff’s reply below] some years ago; she came to see me just before her marriage.  I would very much like to see you one day – almost any afternoon after lunch – and talk over this business.  We came from Durham; the crest and coat-of-arms of the Gowlland family is the same as my grandfather, who apparently only used one “L”.  My Mother told me that the Durham Gowland was rather a naughty old man, and the rest of the family, after he died, put in another “L”.  There are not many male Gowllands alive.  My brother – who is aged 55 and is a brigadier R.E. – has one daughter.  My two sons are both married – one has two daughters and the other nothing! 

With very kind regards.



Geoff to Lt.-Col. Edward Lake Gowlland  -  27th January 1942


Dear Sir

I was very sorry indeed to hear from your letter of the 22nd inst., for which I think you very much, that you are likely to be in bed for a long while.  My very best wishes for your speedy recovery are freely given and I do hope that the seriousness of your trouble may perhaps have been over-estimated.

The Melissa who called on you is actually my cousin.

Our little bit of the family seems relatively well provided with male heirs since another cousin has boys of 7 and 4 whilst I have a daughter of 4 and a son of 2.  It is perhaps a little early to say whether they are going to carry on our particular tradition of Instrument Engineering, but we can only hope for the best.

Business sometimes takes me through your part of the County and I will one day ‘phone up the Administrative Office of the Home and ascertain whether it will be possible for me to call and see you that particular afternoon.

With very best wishes,

Yours sincerely



Lt.-Col. Edward Lake Gowlland to Geoff  -  1st March 1942


My dear Gowlland

Here is the engraving and I think it was my Father’s, anyhow it has the two “L’s”.

It was so very nice of you to have been to see me and I appreciated it so much.

Yours sincerely



Geoff to Lt.-Col. Gowlland   -  3rd March 1942. 


Dear Colonel Gowlland

It was exceedingly kind of you to take the trouble to send me the engraving and also to see me on Friday afternoon.  I very much enjoyed our talk together and I do hope that its length was not too much for you.

I am having one or two photographic copies made of the engraving and I will see that every care is taken of it and sent back to you in a few days.

If at any time in the future your wife, sons or secretary should come across any other Gowlland relics, I wonder whether you would be kind enough to let me have a look at them.  Naturally I will take every possible care of them and see that they are send back to you quickly.

It is so very difficult, particularly with the limited time available under war conditions, to get any information that I am asking this rather unusual request.  There is unfortunately very little which I have found out that is not already known to you

My Canadian cousin is looking into the question of the geographical features labelled Gowlland in Western Canada, and her last letter on the subject read as follows:-

“One tremendous range of mountains running from just North of Vancouver, and extending for many hundreds of miles towards Alaska, was called the Gowlland Range.  It was shown on an old Survey Map but seems to have changed as it does not appear on current maps.  It is a small village miles from anywhere else, largely inhabited by Indians (West Coast Tribes) and men engaged in Cannery and Lumbar business, a really unprogressive backwater.”

In view of the assorted Naval relatives, it seems pretty obvious that a Gowlland in the crew of one of the surveying vessels provided inspiration for these names, but I have not been able to trace which it is.  Tradition in our bit of the family held that it was a Commander in Vancouver’s expedition.

I have waded through the lives of Vancouver and traced names of the crews of his boats, the “Discovery” and the “Deptford”.  No Gowllands appear.

Mr Richard Gowlland of London thinks the Gowlland concerned in the above names is John Essing Gowlland who later died in Sydney.

If all else fails by way of explanation, we can always assume that at a complete loss for further names, the Surveyors simply followed the name engraved in the instruments they were using.

If I come across any odd facts which are not likely to be known to you, I will take the liberty of writing to you again, but it is quite evident that your store of knowledge is [likely to remain] very much greater for some while yet.

Thanking you once again for your very great kindness and help, and with of course very best wishes for your successful progress with the “Rat Poison” [the Colonel’s doctors had evidently prescribed Warfarin for him].

Yours very sincerely


Geoff to Lt.-Col. Gowlland  -  10th March 1942


Dear Colonel Gowlland

I am returning to you the Coat of Arms and Crest you so kindly lent me, and I would like to thank you once again for your courtesy in this matter which I really do appreciate very much.

I have not been able to clear up fully the exact Gowlland who gave rise to the 1st of June tradition in the family [drinking a toast in port to commemorate Lord Howe’s famous victory].  On the Tree you indicated a Richard Sankey Gowlland born in the year 1795 as being the one concerned.  This does not seem to be correct as he would be a mere child at the date of Lord Howe’s victory.

In a copy of some Bible entries I obtained from Mr Richard Gowlland of Messrs Mansell Hunt & Catty of North London, a foot-note was added about another Gowlland, Richard Symond Gowlland who was born the 18th July 1771 and who died on the 15th June 1807 but he does not appear on the tree.  It seems possible that this was the one.

I am on the track of some old instruments made by my section of the family during the centuries which were at one time in the Science Museum at South Kensington.  One of my informants, who is usually reliable, says that they were named George Gowlland and dated 1570.  If this is correct, it is rather interesting as showing that the change in the name from the spelling with one “L” to two “L’s” occurred rather earlier than most of the family thought.

I very much hope that some progress is being experienced in your illness and I do send my very best wishes.


Geoff to Lt.-Col.Gowlland  -  19th March 1942


Dear Colonel Gowlland

It is with real pleasure that I am sending you a copy of a letter I have just had from my cousin, because I believe I am now in a position to tell you something about Gowlland affairs.  I did not hope to be able to do this before.

If at any time you come across the address of the lady whom you mentioned as living in Epsom who possesses some of the original Gowlland silver, would you be kind enough to have it sent on to me.  You did say that you yourself had not much thought of buying any off her, and I very much doubt if my modest resources would run to it, but I shall be interested to get in touch with her some time.

With very best wishes




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