Geoffrey and Frank Syle Amsden Correspondence.


Letters from 1944 between Geoffrey Gowlland, great-grandson of George Castle Gowlland, and Frank Syle Amsden, son of Robert Syle Amsden (born about 1850) and Louisa Mayes Gowlland (born about 1853), daughter of Richard Gowlland and grand-daughter of Richard Sankey Gowlland..


Geoff to Frank Emsden   -   24th November 1944

Dear Mr Amsden

I was very interested indeed to have a conversation with you the other day about the Family.   It was a great surprise to me to learn that you had any aunts alive. 

I have been trying very hard to record such family gossip or information as is still available, for the benefit of my own children, in case they should be interested in years to come, and also for some Colonial cousins who have asked me to do what I can in this direction.

I have copied out the bit of the Tree showing your senior branch, and I presume you are on the extreme left hand side.

If you could tell me anything more about your grandfather or earlier than this, or even about your uncles and aunts, I would really be very grateful.

The very sad deaths both of Richard and the Colonel have deprived me of a source of information about your branch of the family upon which I had been relying. 

Would it be possible for you, do you think, to contact your aunts and ask them if they could let me have anything additional. 

Probably you have heard of the Family Toast on the Glorious First of June, but I have been quite unable to trace to which Gowlland(s) this refers. 

I am sorry to worry you with these trivial matters but once information of this sort is lost, it is exceedingly difficult to put together again, as I have found in many other connections. 

Our own branch of the family is more or less in line with the bit of the Tree I am enclosing, but on, so to speak, the extreme right hand side. 

Yours sincerely

Frank to GPG   -   3rd December 1944

Dear Geoffrey

Many thanks for your letter and the bit of the Tree which is very interesting. 

I have not yet written to my aunts at Bournemouth, but shall be doing so for Xmas; and I will ask them to let me have what information they can on the family history.   I also have a book at home which may have something interesting, and will look it out when I am next in town.

I can’t say I have heard of the family toast on the 1st of June, so it is very likely this concerned another branch of the family. 

I must say the task of digging into the past is very interesting, though rather difficult; and I hope I shall be able to provide you with some additional information  -  if only a few “twigs”. 

Have the Gowllands a family motto?

Yours sincerely


Geoff to Frank Emsden   -   6th December 1944 

Dear Mr Amsden

I was very glad to receive your letter of the 3rd inst., and I do thank you for the trouble you have taken to write. 

Throughout the last three or four years in odd moments I have managed to piece together a pretty comprehensive pedigree of the Gowllands comprising about 120 Gowlland entries, and going back fully to the middle of the eighteenth century. Earlier than this, there are rather spasmodic, not continuous, entries to the early sixteenth century. 

I have been relying very much on information which I expected to get from Richard and from Colonel E L Gowlland.  Pressure of business prevented me from having more than one short visit with each. 

Furthermore, the two churches,  (St Mary Bredon at Canterbury, and St Nicholas Cole in Knightrider Street,  London EC1) upon which I was relying to clear up dubious points on the tree,  were both destroyed with their records as well, as far as I can discover. 

Therefore I am rather driven to making a nuisance of myself to those Gowlland connections who are still alive. 

Your immediate branch of the family sported both a family crest (Stage trippante) and a motto (“Frangas non flectes”  -  roughly “I bend but I do not break”), the late Colonel in particular having very nice woodcuts of these.  However these are, we fear, spurious.

The grant of arms was made to members of the Gowland family who originate in Durham.   This is a rather larger and more widespread family than ours, who have had three grants of arms from the College of Heralds at different times. 

The senior branch of this family has lived in the Argentine for many years, and does not appear to know that it is entitled to the use of these arms. 

Probably you will have heard various stories about the change in our name from Gowland to Gowlland.  Unfortunately the most romantic of these cannot be fully substantiated, as there is a Gowlland [two “L’s”] entry as party to a lease in 1705, and the latest entry of Stephen Gowlland about 1802 who signed the poll of electors [as] “Gowlland” [one "L"]. 

The most romantic facts, which have come to light so far, are in connection with a Stephen Gowlland (1746 – 1802) who obtained a marriage licence in the name of “Gowland” [one “L”], and was later married the same day at the other end of Kent, signing the register as “Gowlland” [two “L’s”].  If there was a question of a family quarrel giving rise to the change, this is probably the man to whom it should refer.

Rigidness [Sic] of spelling is, however, a relatively modern development, and too much significance should not be attached to earlier vagarities [Sic]. 

The only family custom I have so far come across is that of drinking a toast in port wine on the “Glorious First of June” to, as it was said, Gowllands who distinguished themselves in Lord Howe’s victory over the French in 1794.  The difficulty is, I have no-one on the Tree who would be the right age at this time to take an active part, and it looks as thought there is an unsuspected gap.  For this reason, I am rather anxious to check upon this story as much as possible. 

Both pressure of business, and the fact that most records are stored away underground for safety, make it impossible to do very much just at present; but I am anxious to record all the odd bits of information I can lay my hands on now, in case my children are interested in years to come; and also for the benefit of several Colonial relatives who keep asking what I can find out about our forebears.

Yours sincerely    …...


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