Geoffrey and Frank Gowlland Correspondence.


Letters from 1941 to 1942 between Geoffrey Gowlland, great-grandson of George Castle Gowlland, and Frank Gowlland, great-grandson of George Castle's younger brother, Alfred Gowlland.

(First page of Frank's first letter)


Geoff to Frank Gowlland  -  12th March 1942


Dear Sir

I am writing to enquire whether you would be in a position to give me any information about our family.

A rough Tree is enclosed showing where the writer comes in and also your position in it.

On the back I have indicated the salient parts of a very extensive Tree of another part of the Gowlland family which I have collected together.  These are chiefly characterised by the Christian names of Richard Gowlland.

It would be very satisfactory if it were possible to link up our Tree with the other, as it is quite evident they must join somewhere.  My father, whom I believe you met at his house in Northampton Road one day, believes that your Uncle Arthur, the clock maker of Enfield, had a number of records.  As there appears to be no issue, we wondered whether you perhaps had them.  Alternatively, had your father any records which he left to you?

Your grandfather George Castle Gowlland was a Nautical Instrument Maker in business at Ratcliff, Highway, Wapping.

The family records appear to be largely in the parish register of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch; but, owing to the fact that there is so much to be done in connection with business, I have not had an opportunity of going there.

It was about six months ago that a cousin of mine in Canada wrote asking for information about the family and I have been trying to get together what I can, not only for her, but also in case my own children should be interested in years to come.  If you could add to the scanty collection of knowledge I have obtained, I would be very grateful.

Yours sincerely



Frank to Geoff  -  17th March 1942


My dear Geoffrey

You appear to be my grandnephew so you won’t mind my so addressing you.  It was very pleasant to have your letter and I think my sister (Edith, not Elsie) and I will be pleased to fill in some blanks.  Very unfortunately, she was taken away suddenly last Wednesday from her home at Southgate to be operated on for appendicitis and is, I fear, having a bad time, being still on the danger list.  I phone up every day and hope the news will be better soon.  She has kept in touch with Uncle Arthur’s children very closely – he had four daughters as well as Tom (who is dead, I believe).  There are several grandchildren, but the Gowlland name there has died out.  So perhaps you don’t want more than the first generation.  This is the case too with self and sister: we both have one daughter, married.   I have two grandchildren: my sister’s daughter has none so far.

As to connecting the lines, I doubt if we can help, but we may be able to and if Uncle Arthur had any papers, I expect his daughter Minnie will have them.  As a child, I heard a great deal about a Dr Peter Gowlland of Finsbury Square, but I expect he is dead: some years ago at a banquet I met Colonel Gowlland who is now an important man at the Star & Garter Hospital at Richmond, Surrey.

 You may be interested to know that after being ten years Fire Manager of the “Atlas” [Geoff’s initial letter had been sent to Frank Gowlland, c/o The Atlas Assurance Co, Cheapside, London EC1] I retired, having been fifty years in the City, in 1936.  We had fixed up a pleasant flat in Maida Vale for our declining years but in October 1940 it was bombed to bits and a number of people killed.  Luckily we had gone that day to our daughter’s country house – she married a Harley Street specialist, now a Major in Egypt – but as it happened, two days before we had our disaster, a jettisoned bomb fell on her lawn just as we were having our evening meal.  No casualties, fortunately, though we had narrow escapes from big chunks of metal which smashed the veranda and outside walls.  Since then my wife and I have been homeless wanderers, though [illegible] I have served on a Board of Trade committee re insurance, visiting London as required.  We have lived at Torquay and Ilfracombe, and this is our second visit to Bournemouth, where we are being made very comfortable.

 I will write you again soon, but meantime will you give my kindest regards to any of your uncles and aunts who may still be alive and have some little recollections of me.

 Ever yours sincerely . . . .

 PS  Do you know the real origin of the second “L”?  I don’t. 

 [Letter marked “Replied 18.III.42” in Geoff’s handwriting, but no copy remains]


Frank Gowlland to Geoff  -  24th March 1943


My dear Geoffrey

I was very glad to have your letter with its fine news that your good lady has given you another son, not only to be, we trust, a great joy to you both, but as helping to strengthen the “line” and name.  We hope both Mother and Son are going on well.  My mind is very comforted also by your news, for a little later than this last year I read a notice of the death of a Mrs Gowlland somewhere in the south of England.  I felt I dared not write you - it would be (and, as your news prove, would have been) an awkward question to ask.  Well – that is happily dismissed from my mind now.  You doubtless saw the fine obituary in The Times of Colonel Gowlland: although always claiming him as a distant connection, he seems to have been too distant to appear on your Tree. 

I wrote to Minnie Beaton, my first cousin and eldest surviving daughter of Alfred Gowlland, but she had no papers: any that may have been in existence would have been with her brother Ian, who died in the North of England, and they are doubtless destroyed. 

I was very glad to hear you have some further items [?] and later on will send you the sheet you gave me and perhaps you will bring it up to date.  It is at present at the Bank.

One little incident lately may amuse you.  We have an interesting little society (Literary and Scientific) here, and last Wednesday (the day I got your letter) we had a philologist speaking on “Local Place Names”: he supplement his paper by giving the origins of our various members’ names – and said mine showed a descent from a family of Smiths, “Gow” being a Saxon word for Smith.  I felt, in the general chat afterwards, that I ought to intervene; and I explained that the Smiths – with one “L” – were a lesser breed, and that we, with our second “L”, derive from the Land of Gulls, and are of true Viking stock! These are the little amusements that lighten a rather dull winter time.  As has been said – at any rate by me – Ilfracombe is a place where nothing seems to be happening ever minute of the day.   However we are very comfortable and well looked after here, and nearly always have some friend or relation living with us.  We are expecting one or both of our grandchildren with my daughter for June.  Her RAMC husband is back from Egypt and now in Edinburgh.  We are all very well and hope all my relations are in good health too, your way.

With affectionate regards to you and the family  . . .  



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