Geoffrey & Langton Gowlland correspondence.


Letters of 1952 between Geoffrey Gowlland (b. 1903) and Langton Gowlland (b. 1903), son of Edward Lake Gowlland.

For biographical information on Langton Gowlland, click here.


Geoff to Langton Gowlland  -  5th November 1952


Dear Commander Gowlland

I am most grateful for your most interesting letter of the 25th October [of which there is no trace, unfortunately].

One has to hesitate a good deal when writing to people of the same name as occasionally they re-act very unfavourably.

I had guessed that you would prove to be one of the sons of the late Colonel, but I have found it tactful not to jump to conclusions because occasionally one arrives at a disastrously wrong answer!

It is about nine years ago that I had the pleasure of meeting your father for a short while at the hospital.  He was not too well then and I did not stay very long.  During the war things were difficult and it was not possible to leave the factory with any convenience and by the time the supposedly easier days of peace had arrived, unfortunately he was dead.

I am very grateful indeed to correct your section of the tree with the information you now supply.

I can vividly remember the occasion of your brother's first marriage.  I was at college at the time and received a good deal of leg pulling over the question of introductions to the bridesmaids, as he has the same name as myself.

If you are interested, I can give you a whole lot of information about your fairly close relatives in Australia.  I have been in touch with quite a number of them, but they are by no means enthusiastic correspondents.

The important Australian branch of the family started with Joseph Essing [sic] (sometimes John Thomas) Gowlland, who was a captain in the Royal Navy and the Canadian explorer.  He was drowned in a yacht race in Sydney Harbour in 1874.  

You may be interested in a copy of a letter dated 30th June 1942 about an exploration of his in British Columbia.  I have the maps mentioned.

The Richard Gowlland who I mentioned in my first letter and who was a Sales Manager living in North London told me that he had a contemporary painting of this Captain Gowlland's vessel, but unfortunately Richard Gowlland died just after the war and before I had been able to follow this up.

Turning back to Australia, the son of the Canadian Surveyor was appropriately christened John Vancouver Gowlland; he was born in 1866 and only died on the 28th May 1948.  I believe he had six daughters and I have written to two of them.

One of his sisters - Maud - married a Commander Chance, also of the Royal Navy; and, from casual gossip, she appears to be a very formidable old lady who has a certain amount of crested silver-plate, which, I confess, I would very much like to see.

I believe there was another brother of John Vancouver Gowlland of the name Percy Gowlland who, I believe, has issue alive now which might perhaps be the name which you have just noticed in the Navy List.

The John Vancouver Gowlland who died in 1948 seems to have had quite a number of children: one of them - Ruth - is married to a Mr Harrison and lives in Brisbane, and I have corresponded with her, and she owes me a letter now.  There is another brother, Richard, and I believe some other sisters.

Coming to your own family - IO had always thought that Mildred Mary Gowlland was a cousin of yours - I did not realise she was your aunt.

Last year my wife played bridge with Jean Larson and I spoke to her on the telephone and I subsequently wrote to your uncle at Christchurch and he was kind enough to ask me to meet him at his club in London, but unfortunately I was in Holland on business at the time.

In my own section of the family (who always seem to have despised trees and ancient history to a most distressing extent) there is one custom which has survived, and which might interest you.  Neither your father, nor Richard Gowlland, had heard of it.  Although I believe it unquestionably arises from actual forebears of your own.

Each year on the 1st June it is customary to drink a toast to The Glorious First of June and, before food was difficult, to have a dinner of boiled beef, carrots and dumplings.

During the war a friend of mine, who was at the time attached to the Naval Library at Greenwich, promised to look through various Naval Lists to see which Gowlland it was because on my own tree it seemed that the Gowllands were either too young or too old at that time to have taken part in this action in 1794.

I seem to have been very unlucky in the death of so many of the connections from whom I had been hoping to obtain more information after the war.

You may have heard that it has been said that we were of Huguenot origin, but that has been said of many families.  This unfortunately is not quite correct because the same [Gowlland] family can be intermittently traced before the Huguenot exodus into this country took place.

You are probably aware that the name abruptly altered from 'Gowland' with one 'L' to 'Gowlland' with two 'Ls' at the beginning of the 18th century.  The story passed on was that it was the result of a family quarrel, but this does not seem to be quite right because the early records show both the one 'L' and the two 'L' spelling for many years.

The earlier entry with two 'Ls' is a Joseph Gowlland who was party to a lease in 1705.

The most interesting case, however, is of Stephen Gowlland, born 1746 and died 1802, who obtained a marriage licence one morning at Buckland, near Canterbury [of course, we now know that GPG had identified the wrong Buckland  -  the correct one is close to Dover] as 'Gowland' but on the same afternoon signed the register at his wedding at Sandgate [Sandwich, actually] in Kent as 'Gowlland'.

The last single 'L' entry was made by James West Gowland in 1830 [who still used 'Gowland' in the 1861 census, but had changed to 'Gowlland' by 1871].

Your father showed me a book-plate from his father Richard Gowlland with the motto "Franges Non Flectes". At the time I did not like to explain, as he was obviously il, that most unfortunately the original Grant of Arms was given to Richard Gowland with one 'L' who came of a different family who have always lived in and near Durham.  Most of this family went to Buenos Aires at the beginning of the present century, and, it is thought, may not be aware that they are entitled to bear Arms.  Unfortunately our section of the family is not.

There is a well-known jewellers just behind the Mansion House in London and there is a firm of Watchmakers in Enfield, both of the one-L family, who have no connection what-so-ever [sic] with us.  Their name means "Gull's Land"".

Our own family were just small farmers in the 17th and 18th centuries and I have collected nearly thirty different names of Gowllands all within a twenty mile square area north of Canterbury and between Faversham and Sittingbourne.  The name was spelt with one 'L' or more prosaically 'Cowland' in the 18th century.  However, they attained recognition and a considerable number of them became Freemen of the City of Canterbury and took a leading part in activities.

Stephen Gowlland passed on gossip from your section of the family that their wealth was all lost in a long legal action of the 18th century.  In Halstead's Old History of Kent there is a copy of a deed about this election bearing the signature of Richard Symons Gowlland [Rosemary has searched for this but, so far, without success].

This Richard Symons Gowlland, born 1771 and died 1807, married very well: there was said to be a good deal of information on his gravestone which sustained a direct hit in the Baedeker air-raid on Canterbury.  I have not been able to find anyone with a copy of this particular inscription.

If at any time you happen to be near Croydon, I would very much like to meet you.  Perhaps you would be interested to see the factory where my father and I have been making surgical instruments on an extensive scale for over fifty years.

During the war we had all the Admiralty contracts so that at different times you must have had your ears, eyes, nose and throat examined with instruments bearing the brand name of Gowllands.

I gather that you or your brother was attached to the Headquarters' staff in Colombo.  Several people mentioned this to me.

I do hope that my casual remarks have been of interest: I am so disappointed that the three or four people who made a study of the family passed away before  had the opportunity of recording and tabulating their memories. 

Yours very sincerely 



Langton Gowlland to Geoff -  15th November 1952


Dear Gowlland

Very many thanks indeed for your most interesting letter, which contained much news of which I was ignorant.  It was very good of you to take all that trouble.

If you don’t mind, I am keeping the copy of the information about British Columbia  –  I will return it to you when I have a copy made of it.  It is really good value, this  -  I only wish I had been aware of it abut thirty years or more ago, as I was in those parts in 1921!  And was never aware of the various harbours etc called Gowlland.

Unfortunately I have left your letter at my office at the Admiralty, but remember most of it. I am most disappointed to learn that the Coat of Arms, Crest and Motto [see below] do not belong to our branch.  My wife gave me a Seal Ring for a wedding present, with the crest (Stag on a Hill) engraved.  The firm who supplied it (Packers of Regent Street) checked this for authenticity, and I remember they said it was practically identical with that of the Leverson-Gower family, so there may be some vague connection there?

Anyhow, I shall keep the very attractive Coat of Arms on my drawing-room wall  -  but it is indeed a blow  -  I have always been very interested in Heraldry.

I have not yet found time to write to Sub-Lieutenant R A B Gowlland R.N. – he is at present serving in a minesweeper and is on the books of H M S “Tyne” (c/o G.P.O.) if you feel like writing to him.

I seem to remember a Professor Hopkins Gowland in London, years ago – I believe a prominent medical man but cannot really remember.

My two daughters are both getting married next year!  -  but you’ll not need to know their married names.

I am due to retire in February and am looking round for a job!  Naval pensions are not enough to live on!  So if you should hear of anything worthwhile, I’d be most grateful if you could let me know.  I’ve no brilliant qualifications – (I specialised in Torpedoes)  -  but could do some administrative work, or perhaps [be] a P.A. to somebody.

This is really to thank you so much for your letter  -  some day I hope we’ll be able to meet  -  at the moment I am a bit busy!

In the meantime, if I get any more worthwhile family news, I will let you know.


Yours sincerely


The Crest which caused Langton Gowlland so much disappointment


Geoff to Langton Gowlland  -  20th November 1952


Dear Commander Gowlland

Thank you very much for your letter of 15th November.

The copy of the report about British Columbia was intended for you – please do not bother to return it.

The Grant of Arms which you have was in the first instance given to Ralph Gowland of Little Eppleton, an Esquire, and was granted on the 27th July 1749.  He was an M.P [Member of Parliament] for Cockermouth in 1775, and his son went to Westminster School in 1770.

A similar Grant of Arms made to Thomas Grant Gowland, the son of Ralph Gowland, on the 3rd June 1803.  A later Grant of the same arms, but with different tinctures, was made to a Richard Gowland.

The Stephen Gowlland, whom I have mentioned previously, had somehow got hold of the original patent and was trying to hand it over to the Argentine descendants of this family, who nearly all lived in and around Durham, and the Professor Gowland L Hopkins, whom I also met, is connected with this family.

They have, however, nothing whatever to do with us: their family was established in Durham at least in the early 16th Century, whereas our own was in North Kent at the same time.

What we are afraid has happened, although I did not like to tell your Father so, is that probably, when your grandfather became a prominent Civil Servant, an unscrupulous firm of Genealogical Agents [approached him] hoping for a larger fee by producing this Crest, thinking that the omission of one “L” was unimportant.

As a senior Naval officer working at the Admiralty, it would be quite easy for you to check up the above at The Herald’s College in Queen Victoria Street.  For myself, I imagine that Stephen Gowlland had got all his facts entirely correct.

I will certainly write to the Sub-Lieutenant E S B Gowlland you mention, as I would think he must be one of the Australian Gowllands, as I believe there is a male of about the right age to be a Sub-Lieutenant.

If you should come across any other Gowllands, or hear of them, I would very much appreciate if you would be kind enough to let me know.  At the same time, if I hear of the parts of the family closer to you, I will certainly write to you.

With best wishes   . . .


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