Geoffrey Gowlland, Rev Norman S Larke

 and R Kachler Correspondence.


Letters of 1943 between Geoffrey Gowlland (b. 1903), Rev Norman S Larke, vicar of St Mary Bredin, Canterbury, and Mr S Kachler.

Rosemary's notes attached to this correspondence sums up their relevance perfectly  -  "These are interesting to read, but GPG's research moved on later"; and in consequence many of his statements are, we now know, incorrect. 


Geoff to Rev Norman S Larke  -  14th June 1943



Dear Sir


[Geoff prepared a draft of this letter before sending it, and this is the draft]


In a Family Bible is a footnote "Richard Symond Gowlland born 18.7.1771 died 15.6.1807 buried at St Mary's Bredin Canterbury".  These dates do not quite fit in with other dates, and I believe either date of birth or burial is wrong.


In October [1942, presumably] I visited the ruins of your church and noticed that there were only a very few grave headstones in the passage at the rear.  Most of these were intact and of other persons; but there were two or more indecipherable.


Would you have the great kindness to check if you have any copies of the inscriptions?  Were there any interments in the church itself or is there a cemetery detached from the church?


R S Gowlland was a mercer and a person of some importance in your city - a freeman also.  He lived in Mercery Lane.


If you should be able to add any information from your records, I would be very grateful.



Rev Norman S Larke to Geoff  -   16th June 1943



Dear Mr Gowlland



Thank you for your letter of this morning.  I very much regret I cannot be very helpful to you, as all my registers have been destroyed.


St Mary Bredin did have a small church-yard: it is in Gravel Walk, a small turning opposite where the church once stood.  The records of burials would be with the City Council, I should think, as this burial ground has been closed for some years and the City Council have taken it over.


There is a Mr Kachlar at "The Glen", 8 Cherry Avenue, Canterbury, who I understand is quite an authority on Old Personalities and buildings of the City.  I feel sure he could help you.


Yours sincerely    . . . .



Geoff to Rev Norman S Larke  -  18th June 1943


Dear Sir


It was very kind indeed of you to write as your letter of 16th June.


Curiously enough, yours is the third church I have approached about records of my forebears whose records have been destroyed in air raids.   I should have interested myself years

ago in my family: it would certainly have been easier.


Thanking you very much for your assistance.



Geoff to Mr S Kachlar  -  19th June 1943


[There is also a rough draft: the final letter was slightly longer]


The Rev N S Larke of St Mary Bredin has given me your name and address.


I wonder if you could help me in tracing one of my forebears.


According to an inscription in a family bible, "Richard Symond Gowlland born 18.7.1771 buried 15.6.1807 buried at St Mary Bredin Canterbury".


Those dates do not quite fit with other dates and I believe either date of birth or burial is wrong.


I am rather anxious to check up.


In October I visited the ruins of the church and noted that there were only a few headstones in the yard at the rear.  I believe there was another church yard in Gravel Walk.  The church records were destroyed in the blitz.  Have you any copies?


R S Gowlland was a mercer and a person of some importance in your city  -  a freeman by marriage, brother-in-law of the Lord Mayor.  He lived in Mercery Lane.


What I'm really looking for is a Gowlland (at that time the name was often spelt Gowland and, earlier, Cowland, Gowlard or Garland etc) who distinguished himself at The Glorious First of June in 1794.  RSG might fit and, if so, some reference would no doubt be made on his grave.


There were quite a lot of Gowllands in Canterbury later, from about 1720 when they came from Faversham, until about 1830 when they seem to have come to London.


If you ever come across any traces I'd be very glad to know.  It is unfortunately impossible for me to get down to your city again owing to the war.


[The original letter is in Geoff's files, and on it is written, in pencil, the following notes, in Mr Kachlar's handwriting]


Freemen of Canterbury    J M Cowper


Stephen Gowland    P 195  Cooper  1796                                                   Richard Symons   P 125   Freedom by Marriage  Haberdasher  1793


June 15th  Miller [?]                                                                                     June 16th  Kentish Gazette


St Mary Bredin   1789   Burials    Will Sankey  [?]  July 5th


James Cowland  (A T Cowland)  of Chatham  -  St Peters  -  Ann Burton of St Peters  [?presumably Canterbury?]      May 1st 1709  (20 July 1709)


St Peter's Canterbury  F?? of R?? J M Cowper 1881 [?]   Weddings St Paul's Cant


Stephen Cowland of Tunstall and Judith Debnam of Nunnington by Sillery  Lic 1615  March 15th


1777 Nov 12th     St Dunstone's Cant  John Garland and Sarah Fagg of Elham



Mr S Kachler to Geoff  -  23rd June 1943



Dear Sir


I thank you for your letter, and will write again next week.  I am making enquiries and have obtained some items which may assist you; but do not know very much about St Mary Bredin's church.  Mr Larke, whom I know very well, is away on holiday at present.


St Mary Bredin's Parish adjoins the Parish Church of St Margaret, where I am organist.


The whole of the Registers have not perished: those which remain are being put in order.


The transcripts which I saw this morning are in good condition and under the date of June 19th 1807 among the burials I came across that of  "Richard Symons Gowland" whom you mentioned in your letter.  I hope to be able to find out more during the next four days.


May I ask if you would be prepared to pay a fee towards the searching of the registers if required, as it seem to be required more now.


Thanking you    . . . .  Yours faithfully   . . .






Geoff to Mr S Kachler  -  28th June 1943


Dear Sir


I am much obliged by your prompt reply.


It would be very nice if you could see what you could find out about the 18th century members of my family: there's no hurry  -  and you may perhaps be able to do it without undue trouble.


I would, of course, be quite willing to pay reasonable fees.  Are there recognised scales of charges for these matters?


Alternatively how would it be if I offered you one guinea for your preliminary searches, and two guineas if you are able to find out anything new?   Please let me know what you think  -  I've never sought assistance of this kind before.


A copy of the tree covering the 'Canterbury' period is enclosed and covers pretty well all I have been able to find out myself during the last three years.


What I'm very anxious to know is whether there were any brothers and sisters of the various people (they might be witnesses at weddings etc) and their addresses and occupations.


Yours faithfully   . . . .





Mr S Kachler to Geoff  -  1st July 1943



Dear Sir


Many thanks for yours and enclosures.  At present I am sorry to say I have not come across much more to throw any light on the subject.  Mr Sarke will be away another week.  As soon as I can I am going to search through the burial grounds in Gravel Walk.  Also a further look through the Transcript of the Registers of St Mary Bredin in the Library of the Consistory Court, through the kindness of the gentleman in charge, which will be some time next week.


Very few instances have come to light even in our Public Library, which contain many old books on Canterbury and East Kent, from Maidstone, to the Coast.  In the Public Reference Library are some old books circa 1818 to 1832 are the names all over Kent that went to the Poll for the purpose of electing a Member of Parliament to the Canterbury Division, and I came across the following:-


                                    1818        Stephen Gowland

                                    1830        James W Gowland


                                    R S Gowland

                                    -                Gowland ste [?]


I do not know whether they would be useful.


I thank you for your reference to the Fee, which I am sure will cover all.  They vary somewhat in different parts and in different parishes; and will endeavour to send on some information next week.


Yours truly   . . . . .




Mr R Kachler to Geoff  -  16th July 1943



Dear Sir,


I am sorry not to have written before but have been trying to get all I could.  I enclose an account of what information I have been able to obtain [Infuriatingly, but not surprisingly, this has not survived; and all we know about it is what we can infer from subsequent references -  from the allusion below to "Page 3", it was evidently quite comprehensive], and hope next week to continue my search with a friend.  Of course I do not know if all the enclosed is suitable, but trust it will help you.


You will notice at the bottom of Page 3 the church is not Sandgate, but St Clements', Sandwich, according to the transcription of the Registers. 


Many thanks for yours + Plan [Presumably he means the Tree]


Yours sincerely   . . . .


[Note, incidentally, the classic 1940s progression  -  the first letter ended "Yours faithfully", the second "Yours truly" and the third "Yours sincerely"]




Geoff to Mr R Kachler  -  17th July 1943



Dear Sir


Your letter of the 16th and your report are very interesting indeed.  The Freeman certificates are in the possession of a present - Stephen - Gowlland, and I have seen them.  The Poll Book entries I saw at Canterbury myself.  A few of the Ospringe and Luddenham names were known to me, but I am very pleased to say the bulk of your findings are fresh and very welcome to me.


As promised I enclose my cheque for two guineas and I hope you will consider this adequate remuneration for the trouble you have taken.


I'm glad that the 'Thomas' I dotted in on the tree really did exist.


Are there any collections of other records - e.g. births - available  --  this seems to be the only hope of linking up the names we have now obtained in a line.


Any additional information you come across I would be most grateful to hear.


Thanking you very much for your help.


Yours faithfully  . . . .




Mr R Kachler to Geoff  -  20th July 1943



Dear Sir


Very many thanks for your kind letter and enclosed cheque.


I am glad to hear that I have been able to help you, and will endeavour to find out if there is any more information available.  Some time I will look through the transcripts of All Saints, St Margaret's and St Andrew's parishes, which are all in the centre of the city. 


I searched through the cemetery of St Mary Bredin in Gravel Walk, but could not find any trace of the name.  Many of the stones there are almost obliterated., the names gone and others are broken, no doubt in the Blitz.


I have not seen Mr Larke since his return.


I have been compiling a history of St Margaret's and St Alphege's Churches and have had frequent access to their registers; but only in one instance have I come across the name. 


All Saints' church was taken down just before the war, as it was becoming unsafe; and St Mary Bredman disappeared in 1900.


I do nto know of any other records, but will make enquiries of the late City Librarian when I see him: should I be successful in any way I will write to you again.


I am a native of Croydon and we lived in Elgin Road [where Geoff's parents were living at the beginning of the war  -  it's a small world!].


Again thanking you   . . . .    Yours faithfully  . . . . .




Geoff to Mr R Kachler  -  5th August 1943



Dear Sir


It has been very remiss of me to have left so long before thanking you for your letter of 29th July.


I have been carefully digesting your information, and I have called on another Mr Gowlland [presumably Stephen Gowlland] who made a habit in his younger days of collecting Gowlland and Cowland entries.


Most of the Canterbury entries are thought to be of the parish of St Andrew, so you might refer most hopefully to them first, if you should have time to do any more.


Family gossip indicates that Richard Symons Gowlland who died 15th June 1807 lived at that time at Hackington (Mill?) [sic].  Did the Kentish Gazette say where he lived?


It seems that there is an unconnected Garland family.  Today they flourish and the name has survived unchanged.


Where we live is a new road on the site of the Old Whitgiftians playing field, about one mile south-east of Elgin Road, you may be interested to hear.


I do hope you will be able in due course to let me know any other Gowlland, Garland or Cowland mentions you come across  -  it's now like a half-completed puzzle to me!


Yours sincerely




Mr R Kachler to Geoff -  12th August 1943



Dear Mr Gowlland


Many thanks for yours.


I am still making enquiries and searching for you.  I have found out two more items which I think may be of interest:-


1)    All Saints Church  Canterbury  (Transcripts)        1780 October 8th   Marriage   

        Thomas Sankey, widower, of St Andrews in this City, and Ann Friend, spinster of this Parish (by Licence)


2)    At the commencement of the last war there was a Dr Gowlland practising in Faversham, but it is believe he joined up as an Army Doctor.

        [This, of course, was Edward Lake Gowlland, for whose biography click here).


I may be able to send you one or two more items towards the end of next week.  I have asked two friends if they are able to help.


There is nothing more in the Kentish Gazette for 1807 than what I have sent you.


There seems to be but very little more recorded of either family.


I had a long chat with Mr Sarke about a week ago, and was very pleased to hear that we have been able to help you.


I will try and find out if possible if there is any record at Hackington about the Mill.


Yours sincerely   . . . .




Geoff to Mr R Kachler  -  14th August 1943



Dear Mr Kachler


I really am very much indebted to you for your letter and the trouble you have taken.


The Sankey family are quite famous, and I enclose an interesting little book, which I would be glad to have back as it has been out of print for years and is VERY difficult to come by.  On page F2 you will find Richard Symonds Gowl(l)and.  About 1900 the executors of the author were approached but couldn't find the pedigree mentioned in the footnote.  Such a pity.


The DR Gowlland at Faversham you mentioned died last year.  He achieved medical, military and masonic fame, and is widely known as Colonel (Edwin [sic] Lake) Gowlland: from 1933 until his death he was commandant of the Star and Garter Home at Richmond.  I called on him one day in 1941, but he was then bedridden and couldn't talk much.  He settled at Faversham after training at St Mary's Hospital quite by chance and said he had no idea that all his forebears had lived around that district for many years.


He is directly descended from the Richard Symonds Gowlland whose traces you have recorded for me.


I myself am directly descended from the Stephen Gowlland whose freeman entries you noted for 1796.  About 1802 (?) this Stephen brought all his family and servants up to London, to the Mile End Road.  He was or became a non-conformist and had all his children re-baptised and re-registered at a Library [Dr Williams' Library].  I have my great great-grandfather's certificate!  We believe he [presumably Stephen] absolutely broke off all connection with the wealthier Canterbury section of the family about this time.  What is wanted is some proof that Stephen born 1772 was the brother of Richard Symonds born 1771.  It seems likely; but there is no evidence and the family bibles do not overlap.


I'd always been told that the second "l" in the name was added as a result of a family quarre; but the gradual adoption over 100 years or so makes this unlikely.  The earliest entry is of a signature of a Joseph Gowlland as part to a lease in 1705.  The most interesting is the Stephen born 1746 (he died 1802) who obtained his marriage licence at Buckland as "Gowland", but signed the register at Sandgate (the "wich" is wrong, I think: a friend copied out the original from Sandgate for me) [in fact, the friend was right and Geoff was wrong - it was "Sandwich"] as "Gowlland" the next day.  As late as 1830 James West Gowl(l)and voted as "l".


Yours very gratefully   . . . .






Mr R Kachler to Geoff  -  31st August 1943


Dear Mr Gowlland


I must sincerely apologise for not writing to you before in answering your kind note and book.  I have been making many enquiries and searches, but so far have failed to find much more information.

In St Andrews' transcripts I can only find three entries to the name of Gowlland, two in the Marriages and one in the Burials.  The entries to the Sankey Family are numerous between 1704 and 1705.

A friend of ours named Tyler recollects going to school with a boy named Gowlland, when I see him nettime I will ask if he remembers any more about him.

The Rev Mr Sankey cannot give much more information as he says the connection between the two families belonged to an earlier generation who have now gone to rest.

He cannot remember things happening a long time back. 

I am going to have another try tomorrow at the Transcripts. There is very little information available in the old Records at the Public Library: the late librarian tells me he does not know any more.

I will endeavour to see if I can trace anything at Hackington about the old Mill. 

I should like to keep the book until next week, and will take great care of it.  Mr Sankey has an exact copy of it.

If possible I will look through the late Dr Cotton's account of the old churchwarden's account of St Andrew's, also two or three other books.

By your letter it seems very strange to me that the Marriage entry of Stephen Gowlland and Sarah Symons should have be in both Registers, Sandgate and Sandwich - do you think there were two members or distant relatives of the same name living at that time, perhaps unknown to each other, as we have often heard of families drifting apart and losing sight of each other.

It is a very great pity and loss to the City, and especially to St Mary Bredin's church, that nearly all the ancient records were so wantonly destroyed by enemy action in those few days as it were, many valuable books and papers have gone.  The old church was built in the Norman Period and was demolished in 1867, so that the church as it stood in 1942 was only about 76 years old: it was rebuilt on the foundations of the ancient church.  Our church, St Margaret's, is still closed and will remain so until the end of the year: although badly damaged it is beyond repair.

Living so many years in Croydon, I know most of the churches and have played the organ for many of the services at different ones.  Many of the outlying villages I know well and have placed at such as Shirley, Sanderstead, Warlingham, Chelsham, Oxted, Tandridge and Kenley.

I was 5.1/4 years at Downe in Kent just over the border, and 10.1/4 years at Chipstead, near Redhill.  I have been 22 years at St Margaret's, Canterbury, and shall be very pleased when the church is re-opened again.

All being well, I will write again at the middle of next week, when I shall hope to send anything more on.

With kind regards and many thanks   . . . .    Yours sincerely  . . . .


Geoff to Mr R Kachler  -  2nd September 1943


Dear Mr Kachler


Your most interesting letter of the 31st is to hand: I do feel very grateful for your efforts and only regret that entries seem to be so hard to find.

It is particularly unfortunate that where original records have been destroyed transcripts are not available - but perhaps after the War they will be available.

If you do hear again about your friend fellow scholar "Gowlland", please tr5y to get addresses and period: I thought I had particulars of all living Gowllands in Europe.

Do not bother at all about speed in the enquiries.  I've been only three years on my searches and shall from time to time add what I can in the years to come.

It started, as far as I am concerned, when, a few years ago, a Canadian cousin wrote asking for the fullest particulars of the family.  My father and uncles had so little accurate information that I started referring to original records. - but I work and average of 75 hours each week, with no holidays, and progress is very slow until more leisure is allowed after the War.  I'm writing out detailed notes in case my three children should be interested in years to come.  I can only wish someone had collected notes together 100 years ago.

Family tradition (in nearly all sections of the present day Gowllands) claims Huguenot origin, but there seems no evidence at all of this, in fact.

Very many families similarly consider they were refugees - it must have been a form of snobbery about a century or so ago, I suspect.

A business card is enclosed.  I'm the fifth in line as an optician and instrument maker: I hope my sons will carry on in years to come.

Yours very gratefully



Mr R Kachler to Geoff -  16th September 1943


Dear Mr Gowlland


I expect you have been wondering why I have not written, but have been continuing my search and all I can find is three more entries in the St Andrew's transcripts, which I enclose.  Last Saturday afternoon I went over to Hackington to see if it was possible to find out anything about the old Mill, but with no success.  Many old residents do not remember it, or even its site.  Mr Mead, the late librarian of the Canterbury Library, says that some of the mill stones were lying about for many years, even in recent times.  Hackington is now a very large district, and many new houses have been built on the Estate called "Hales Place", which have obliterated nearly all ancient landmarks.  An old Mill erected in 1792 was burnt to the ground a few years ago, but this was beside the river Stour and really in Canterbury.  There were also two old mills in Blean, which adjoins Tyler Hill on the North; but I believe both of them have now disappeared. 

A very small map (the only one available) of Hackington from about 1890 - Hales Place is above and just to the right of the text "Hackington"

I have not seen my friend Mr Tyler since, but will at the first opportunity ask him about the school.

I am afraid for the present I shall not be able to find anything more; but should I be able to do so, I will think of you.

The name seems to have entirely disappeared from the Canterbury district for many years and no-one or books can seem to throw any light on the subject.   Two or three, who have now "passed on", are the only ones I knew that could have helped us: quite a number of elderly people have died in the past few years.  Mr Sankey cannot even remember very much about them, and he is getting on in years.

It is possible that some reference could be found in the Cathedral Library (this was unfortunately destroyed in the great Blitz). I will try and find out a little later on.  A portion of it has been set up in the Cathedral Crypt.

I am sorry that I cannot help you further at present, but will always be on the look out for anything fresh.


With kind regards and many thanks   . . . . .   Yours sincerely

PS  Could you possibly give me any indication as to where the Mill was situated?  If so, that would be a great help.




Note dated 1st October 1943  -  evidently in preparation for writing the letter below

Two entries are new and can't be fitted in exactly at first.  It's just possible William Honey Gowlland is the fifth child of Richard Symons Gowlland and Sarah Sankey.

A present Stephen Gowlland has heard that an early Gowlland  . ..  at Hackington in Canterbury.  When we find that Richard Symons Gowlland was des...ed on his death  as a M..? it seemed that t... was n...

There seems to have been a complete clear out of Gowllands from Canterbury about 115 years ago, all the many ... going to North-East London..


Geoff to Mr R Kachler  -  1st October 1943


Dear Mr Kachler


I do apologise for my lack of courtesy in not replying sooner to your letter of 16th September, for which I thank you very much.

It seems quite some time that I remitted you something more by way of fees or expenses, and I therefore enclose a small cheque for the latest information you have been kind enough to provide.

The 'line' on Hackington mill is very vague indeed.  A present Stephen Gowlland told me that his grandfather had mentioned a Gowlland as having lived there: we had little hope of tracing  which, until you cam across the obituary note of Richard Symons Gowlland, as it now seems probable (although not definitely proved, of course) that it was he.

Your two new entries cannot be exactly fitted into a pedigree  -  perhaps the baby William Henry Gowlland was the first child of Richard Symons.

There seems to have been a complete clear-out of Gowllands from Canterbury about 115 years ago, all the various branches going to different parts of North-East London (e.g. Mile End). 

I've just wondered whether perhaps the election troubles (at the beginning of the 19th century, described, as I head, in Halsted's "Canterbury", although I have not myself been able to verify this) which tradition has it ruined the senior part of the family financially may have given rise to bitterness and feeling, and explain the wholesale move to London.

If you have an opportunity to consult original records, or detailed transcripts, would you be kind enough to see whether Richard Symons Gowlland (b 1771) and Stephen Gowlland (b 1772) my great great-grandfather) were brothers, and Stephen Gowl(l)and of Buckland (who was married on 11th July 1770) at St Clement's Church Sandgate/wich) their father?  It seems probable, but we have no evidence.

Also, if you ever come across any identifiable address (e.g. when Richard Symons Gowlland lived in Mercery Lane) they would be very acceptable.  Colonial cousins are rather anxious, after the war, to sight-see the places were their forebears lived.

Business seems to absorb more and more of what little spare time I had, so there is not much chance of my being able to do much research myself, until the War is over: I am always very grateful for any information which you may come across.

With renewed thanks   . . .   Yours sincerely   . . .



Mr R Kachler to Geoff  -  4th October 1943


Dear Mr Gowlland


Very many thanks for yours and cheque for one guinea. I will do all I can for you in trying to trace anything more.

I have been compiling a history of St Margaret's and St Alphege's churches in Canterbury, which has entailed a lot of research work among old books and documents; but so far have not come across your family name in any other documents and papers beyond those I have sent you.

The transcripts of the Registers do not give much information, in many instances only the bare facts.  Beyond the announcement of Marriage, Death and Burial of Richard Symons Gowlland, there appears to be nothing at all in the local papers about him. Do you think it possible to get hold of any old London directory in the Croydon Library, or any information from the library in the British Museum?

With kind regards   . . .  your sincerely



Geoff to Mr R Kachler  -  9th October 1943


Dear Mr Kachler


I thank you for your letters of the 1st and 4th.

I am very sorry that I delayed so long in acknowledging safe receipt of your letter and relevant booklet, as this caused you anxiety.

In point of fact I've been at work from 8 each morning until 10 or 11 each night for a long while now  and my private affairs are regrettably behindhand.

Croydon Library proved fruitless early in my enquiries: the Guildhall library, when it is available after the war, should contain directories relating to the period after my forebears left Canterbury.  Of course the British Museum is THE place.  It may be that I'll have more leisure for more protracted and detailed searches if there is a slump after the war.

If you should notice the name in your work I would be very glad to know.

I must take this opportunity of saying once more how grateful I am to you for your effective help.


Yours sincerely, but in much haste   . . .





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