Geoffrey and Stephen Gowlland Correspondence.


Letters from 1941 to 1942 between Geoffrey Gowlland, great-grandson of George Castle Gowlland, and Stephen Leversha Gowlland (b. 1876), great-great-great-grandson of Joseph Gowland

Geoff to Stephen Gowlland  -  30th March 1942


Dear Mr Gowlland

 I am enclosing an attempt I have made to synthesise the present position of the various elements of our family.

Coming home I was alarmed to discover how few reliable notes I really made, and you will see that I have not been able to fix in satisfactorily some of the names you gave me at the top of the Tree.

In particular, I should have obtained information on the following points:- 

Is Buckland the name of a district within Faversham itself, because I cannot find on the map a village of that name in the district. 

Some time I should be interested to know the position of the Catacombs in Norwood Cemetery.  I take it that it was mostly your father and uncles who are buried there. 

I am not by any means clear exactly where Stogursey came in. Was this where James Winder Gowlland went? 

During my enquiries, somebody mentioned a Plate to a Janet Gowlland in the Lady Chapel of the church at Castle Cary in Somerset.  This is not very many miles away from Stogursey. 

Were the Sankey family’s Memoirs printed, and are they likely to be available in any library?  Probably the circulation was so small that it was merely private. 

I did very much appreciate your offer to turn over to me the George Castle document.  It does not really seem right to reduce your collection, but if at any time you do feel disposed to dispense with documents not directly connected with your own side, I should of course be happy to have it. 

I have given [you] the address of Richard Gowlland and I would very strongly urge you to get in touch with him in London one day when you have time.  He is very interested in these matters and you will see [he] provided the bulk of the left hand side of the Tree. 

I have also been in touch with Frank Gowlland on the right hand and he thinks one of his sisters, who is very ill at the moment, has some documents from her uncle.  

If you have any leisure for looking round your part of London (a thing I unfortunately have not, at the present time) I would like to record that I have been told that most of the records of the births, marriages etc of our bit, that is to say George Castle Gowlland’s children, are in the Parish Registers of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch.  Also, there is said to be a Plate on the wall of St Nicholas Cole Abbey in Knightrider Street, just south of St Paul’s, to a George Gowlland, “30 years People’s Warden”.  For some weeks I have been trying to get an opportunity to look at these, so far without success. 

Now that I have got affairs in a little better perspective, I would welcome an opportunity of meeting you again, and making more detailed notes or copies of some of the dates etc, if you would be so kind. 

I regret very much that I did not take more notice of the antecedents of Joseph Gowlland. 

I do hope that this Tree will contain some information that is new to you, and I do believe that it will enable you to join up various parts of your notes quite easily.

Stephen Gowlland to Geoff  -  2nd April 1942


[This letter is primarily a collection of notes, and incorporates extracts from different portions of the Family Tree: Stephen's writing is not easy to read.  Page number 9, dealing with the crest, make be accessed by clicking here]


Dear Mr Gowlland

Thanks very much for the loan of your pedigree.  It helps me a little in confirming the position of various members of the family, of whom I had knowledge from various sources, but no dates or other particulars which were sufficient evidence; and even now we have a long way to go before we have a pedigree which will stand investigation. 

With a pad on my knee last eve (this morning) while fire watching, I have made various notes, some (most) ask questions, and some supply in some way answers to your queries: they are rather disjointed. 

There are two brothers of George Castle G of which I have little information.  Thomas Winder G’s (birth only) no knowledge of what he was or where he went.  And William G  -  I got his name from Father who seemed to have heard a good deal of Uncle William when he was a boy, and he (and I) thought that he (W. G.) was the head of your branch of the Family.  I was greatly surprised to hear that G.C.G. should occupy that position  -  it only shows that evidence must be strictly sifted and should be supported by documents: hearsay is not evidence, but is useful in “giving a line”. 

I will enquire as to Janet G of Castle Cary – it is some way from Sugursey?? which is “off the map” so to speak and many miles from a railway station.

To be placed . . . .

Buried in Catacombs, Norwood Cemetery.

Richard Gowlland                                Buried          22nd June 1865

Louisa Mary Gowlland                         Buried           16th July 1867

Vault 38                                               Spaces A & B

(The Catacombs are under or near the Chapel in the Cemetery. I think I have particulars of all Gowllands buried there.)

John George Blantyre Gowlland          In Medical Directory 1905 (address unknown)

                                                             L.R.C.P   L.R.C.S (Edin)   L.F.P.S. (Glas: 1899)


R A Gowlland                                      of Nanaimo  B.C.  In list of Canadian Wounded 1917


Rex Blantyre Gowlland                       Married Florence  . . . . .  She obtained a divorce. 

? Married about 1928

            His mother was a sister of Mrs Murray to whom John

Herring of Hospital Saturday fame [?] left his money – Mrs Murray left Rex money by will (? 1909). 

Richard Gowlland                              Born about December 1851 in Holborn.

There was a Louisa Gowlland born in Mile End about 1876 – I have a note of the exact name and date somewhere.  I will look it up.

Joseph Gowland of Buckland

Buckland is a hamlet 3 miles N.W. of Faversham.  The church has been a ruin for many years if it now exists at all.  I have particulars of all Gowlland references in the register of the church – except for the marriage of the said Joseph, all the other references are [to] the baptisms of his children.  There are no burials. 

The children married in various parts of the county evidently and their names are spelled, on such marriage licences as I have notes of, [as] COWLAND and GOWLAND: only Stephen signed the register with two “L’s” and he is given in the marriage licence with one “L” so spelling does not count legally [?]. 

Sankey Family 

Thomas Sankey of Canterbury (b. 1738, d. 1801) married (secondly) Sarah Woodruffe (b. 1741, d. 1780); and they had two children, Matthew William Sankey (Mayor of Canterbury 1798), and Sarah, who married Richard Gowlland (*), whose pedigree was in the same M.S. collection (surname spelled with one “L” in the pedigree).  

In Memorials of the Family of Sankey  -  1207 – 1800  Put in 1880 by C S Best Gardner 

(In the light of what I now know, it is possible the pedigree was under the name of COWLAND). 

I communicated with Author [? Arthur] and heard from his brother that the asterisk (*) must have been a printer’s error.   But the following was inserted in pencil in his brother’s copy: “Richard Gowlland and Sarah Sankey, had seven children  -  Sarah, Susan, Richard, Eliza, Maria, Thomas and Harriett”.

Stogursey Marriages  [Stogursey is in Somerset, very close to the coast, about six miles north-west of Bridgewater]

28th April 1656                        John Gowlland and Margaret Davy


John Gowland                         Stogursey               1692

William Gowland                      Stogursey               1727

Elizabeth Gowland                   Stogursey               1740

Joseph Gowlland (party to lease dated 28th October 1705) of Donnington in Shaw, Co Berks. [Donnington is on the northern outskirts of Newbury]

I came across these when searching for Leaversham family.

Note  -  I find that the family name is often spelled as above in copied documents .. the “Cs” and “Gs” and the ??? are much alike in old script.

Thomas John Gowlland R.N.

The particulars you gave me as to this man are of great interest.  The question is where does he come in and did he die in this country?.  If he did, it is only a matter of time and the expenditure of a little money to get some further particulars as to his parentage.

I take it you are in communication with Miss [Gladys] Gowlland of Montreal.

Gowlland Naval Men

I have always understood that both sons of R.S.G. and Sarah were naval men.  I see you have the elder brother down as of Mercury Lane – have you evidence of this? 

Richard Symond G is described as a Mercer in Mercery Lane when he got his Freedom of Canterbury.



Grant of Arms to Ralph Gowland of Little Eppleton in Co. Palatine, Co. Durham. 

Esq. Granted 20th July 1749.    Per pale yn ???  2 bass on blue 3 bezants in chip & aptern ?? base argent.

[Geoff's interpretation of this, in his letter to George Gowlland Jnr of 22/09/64, was  “Per Pale gn and az, two bars or bln three bezants in chief and a phelm in base argent”].  For a helpful guide to heraldic signs, try http//

Per Pale means divided vertically in two.  Gn I have read as "gules" (red) and Az must be "azure" (blue).  Two bars (narrow horizontal band) or (gold).  Bin (unknown meaning) three bezants (a roundel, or solid gold circle) in chief (at the top of the shield - there are three points at the top, dexter chief, middle chief and sinister chief, being right, middle and left respectively - hence "in chief" presumably means that the objects are spread out across the top) and a phelm (presumably the conical device shown on Richard Gowlland's crest - its meaning is uncertain, as it appears in no dictionary, and a search on the Internet only demonstrated that there are thousands of people in the world who can't spell phlegm!) in base (at the bottom) argent (silver).

Any more informed contributions to this quest will be gratefully appreciated.

 Below is an amateur's sketch of it.

Richard Gowlland's Crest with Stephen Leversha Gowlland's details overlaid.

He was a candidate in the Durham City election of March 30/31st/April 1st 1761.  He was elected in contest of Dec 7th-12th 1761, but was unseated on petition.  He was M.P. for Cockermouth 1775.

Ralph Gowland admitted to Westminster School 19th June 1770  -  ? son of above. 

In any case, they are not related to us, I think, but to the North Country one “L” family.


Grant of Arms to Thomas Gowland, late of Sunderland in Co. Durham, gent, and grandson of Edward Gowland of the same, also dec’d 3rd June 1803. 

These arms have the main features of Ralph Gowland’s coat.  But are differenced [Sic] in tinctures. 

I have the pedigree of this family: they went to Buenos Aires

John Samuel Gowland of Cagebrook, Co Hereford, has the same arms and crest as Ralph Gowland. 

I have the original patent of the grant to Thomas G in my possession.  They are no relation at all.  We cannot claim to bear these arms. 

The Gowlland family have no Coat and unless we can prove descent from a family who spelled their name differently, as, say, GORELAND, we shall have to get a Grant. 

How do the above compare with the Coat you have of Richard Gowlland?  Where does it come from?  (I should like to see it again). 

Richard Symond Gowlland, Stephen Gowlland and James West Gowlland were all admitted [as] Freemen of Canterbury.  I have the original documents relating to Stephen and James W. 

I have yet to strictly [?] prove that this Stephen was brother to R.S.G, and of course that their father was the Stephen, son of Joseph; but indirect evidence points that way and things I have been told by my Father. 

The pencil notes on your pedigree re R.S.G are true of the R.S.G = Sarah [marriage], as noted on bottom of folio 4 herein.  Where did you get the dates against the brothers in your pedigree, i.e. R.S.G born 1750 etc?  I think 1771 is correct and this coincides with his Father’s marriage, and it is from this that I deduce he was the elder brother. 

I will look up St Nicholas Cole Abbey, if it still exists.  This part of the City is in a bad way [from bombing]. 

My earlier notes – prior to Joseph G – I am not at all sure where to place the line [above which] all the names are spelled with a “C”.  There are a few one “L” Gowlands in the period 1720 and on, but they are Essex and Sussex and rather out of our family beat.  It is only a question with me of giving some time to investigate and of course this cannot be done while the war is on as registers etc are mostly in places of safety and cannot be easily come by. 

Now that the lighter evenings are coming, perhaps you would come over early one Sunday afternoon and stay to tea, bringing the family.  I realise that bed-time for the young hopefuls will limit your stay but we should be very pleased to see you. 

In the meantime, I will go over your pedigree.  I am afraid you are as deficient in dates as I am, but at least you have got it in something like order, which is the thing that has rather bothered me. 

If you see any member of the family again, the great thing is to get a date fixed, either Birth, Marriage or Death.  You are in clover if you can get all three.  And any particulars as to location – this helps when registers have to be searched. 

I have noted St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, for Gowlland records.  I had rather thought the G.C.G was born and lived in Mile End, and that Stepney would supply the particulars. 

Abbey Park Cemetery seems to present some chance of help, if stones have been erected and the graves can be located.  I have found this very useful in branches of Mother’s family. 

With kind regards   . . .   Yours sincerely

PS   Will return the pedigree in a day or two, and hope you will not find this letter too rambling and illegible.  Have not your private address with me, so am sending to Morland Road [to the factory, Gowllands Limited].

Yours sincerely


Stephen Gowlland to Geoff -  24th April 1942


 Dear Mr Gowlland

Thank you for your letter.  I shall be pleased to see you on Sunday morning.  I have no doubt we can be mutually helpful to one another.  It is the first time I have found anyone in the family who has taken much interest in their descent.  I too have quite a lot of memoranda on the subject and have promised myself many times to give the time required for further search as I know where much can be found.

You will find No 29 halfway between Cheam Village and Ewell East Station. Nonsuch Walk runs parallel with the main road.  Ewell East is the best station; or there is a ‘bus from West Croydon.  Hays Walk, or the roundabout, are the nearest ‘bus stops.

Am looking forward to seeing you.

Yours sincerely

[Stephen had included a very carefully-drawn map of his local area in this letter – click here to see it.  On the second page of the letter is a note in Geoff’s handwriting of train times from or to Sutton and East Ewell.  Geoff never travelled anywhere by public transport if it could possibly be avoided, and the fact that it appears that he did on this occasion demonstrates forcibly how meagre was the petrol ration for private use at this period of the war].


Stephen Gowlland to Geoff -  28th May 1942


Dear Mr Gowlland 

I am sorry thro’ pressure of work I have been unable to answer your letter earlier.  I did not get much opportunity this Whitsun, and have been late all this week so could not give you any reply to your P.C. 

So far as I am fixed at present I could, and would be pleased to, see you any evening next week.  I am usually in by 7.15 – 7.30, or I shall be free on Sunday morning, or for that matter all day if you could manage to call.  You may like to hear that I have a friend in the Admiralty who has access to naval records or can get things looked up, and I have written to him on some points which will be of interest to us. 

Re Thomas G, brother of George C G – I think he was in the Navy and I have not worried about him much as he was not in the direct line. 

I have my eye on a Thomas G who lived in Canterbury about the period of Richard S G, and the Stephen G who was our grandfather’s grandfather.  He might be a brother to them; and once the war is over, and the records at Canterbury are available, I had already made up my mind to look him up.  I think he was a Freeman.  He is described as a “Grazier”, and on another occasion as a “Tinman” or “Tinsmith”.  I think he lived quite close to R S G.

More when I see you as to this.


With kind regards    . . . .   Yours sincerely    . . . .


PS  Did you see the announcement of the death of Geoffrey G’s wife, who came from Vancouver B.C. a short time ago?  I kept the cutting.



Stephen Gowlland to Geoff  -  1st March 1943 


Dear Mr Gowlland

I have been very remiss in not writing you many moons ago to thank you for the photograph of the birth certificate, which was an excellent production, and, except [should be “because”, presumably] I hardly like to let documents out of my possession in case of a “blitz”, I will get a photo done of the “Freedom of Canterbury” document I have of Stephen G, George Castle’s father.

I have been awakened to the facts [Sic] of not answering you by the notice [of Mark’s birth] in yesterday’s “Daily Telegraph”.  May I congratulate you, and trust the mother and son are doing well, and may he prove to be a credit to you both.

I had started a reply to your interesting letter on the points raised and now that I have someone in the family who takes an interest I was laying down some lines (?) on which we should work.  I hope to complete this and send it to you during the week.

With many apologies for the want of courtesy.

Believe me    . . . .   Yours sincerely



A page has turned up, in Geoff Gowlland's inimitable handwriting, with what appear to be notes for a letter or a meeting.  It seems to date from 1942.  But from Geoff's letter of 5th August to Mr S Kachler we believe that he met Stephen again in late July 1943, and conceivably therefore these notes were made prior to that meeting.   The text itself is shown below:-


The second paragraph is difficult to read.  An enlarged version is shown below, and an first attempt at a transcription of the whole document is:-

James Carter Gowlland  m  Jane Honey  -  issue

Change of name  . .   Richard Symond Freeman was buried a Gowland.  Family Bible gibes his son a "LL" who married 7.6.1821 in Paris.  But Stephen was "L" in 1830 in ?? ??.  You said your Freemen Certificate is altered later.  It's odd that the Richard Symond descendants are "LL" too  -  his death notice in Kentish Gazette has "LL".  I'd heard that a family quarrel was the cause. 

Stephen Gowlland (b 1772) moved to Mile End Road.  Intend to ?? Richard Gowlland (see Bible notes) ?? in Mile End 1823.

Elizabeth (nee Symond) ?? [could it be 'witness'?] a marriage in 1772 as "LL".  [This definitely seems to be "Symond", not "Symons"]

On the 1830 list of electors is James W Gowland.

Richard Symond Gowlland Freeman is a Haberdasher.  Polled (?) as a Mercer.  ?? note in Kentish Gazette 16.6.1807 as a 'Miller'.

What ?? is the Glorious 1st of June ??.

Marriage of Stephen Gowlland to Elizabeth ?Sarah Sym? by licence on 17.6.1770 was at St Clement's Church, Sandwich [amended in pencil to Sandgate] (according to J M Cowper, The Parochial Register).  [This presumably refers to Stephen's 17.11.1770 marriage in Sandwich, but the surname doesn't look exactly as "Symons"]

Is it any good trying Gardner (of Sankey Pedigree) also Cowland  -  it's very unfortunate that nothing came of your earlier enquiry.  A pedigree of the 18th century would be very interesting.

Needless to say, any assistance in deciphering the remaining illegible words will be greatly appreciated!









In 2009 two oil paintings discovered by pure chance at an Auction Sale in Bletchhingley, Surrey, proved to be signed (in red) "Stephen L Gowlland.  These are reproduced below.  The left-hand painting, entitled "Puritan reading his Bible", is dated 1906; and the right-hand one, "Old Fisherman", is dated 1909.



Puritan reading his Bible 1906                                                                                       Old Fisherman 1909

Early in 2010 we learned that Stephen had in 1938 been a Freemason, a member of Noel Money Chapter No 122, based at the Greyhound Hotel, High Street, Croydon. 

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