The Gowlands

A great many people called Gowland can be found in the north-east of England, which is presumably where the Gowlands in London came from. There was a branch of them who had dealings in Jamaica in the 1700s, which I suspect, unfortunately, means that they were involved in slavery. However, the Gowlands who I want to tell you about were from a different branch, which meets the Nunn family.

In 1777, Mary Nunn, daughter of Joshua Nunn and Mary Baker, married Edward Gowland at St Andrew’s, Holborn. He was a tobacconist on Paternoster Row in London, eventually the couple moved to Romford, Essex, where Edward died.

Another Gowland called Thomas lived in Holborn around the same time and worked as a tobacconist at 317 High Holborn, and all four of his surviving sons because Excisemen. He was born in about 1742, although I haven’t found his baptism yet, or Edward’s. On 26 Nov 1779 he married Jane Bullman at St Andrew’s, Holborn, and the couple had three children – two sons called Thomas, who both died in childhood, and a daughter called Priscilla, who I haven’t been able to trace further than her baptism. Jane died, and was buried at the same church 9 Jan 1776.

On 2 Aug 1789, Thomas married Ann Dixon, again, at St Andrew’s, Holborn. They had four sons:

  • Thomas Gowland, 1790-1817
  • George Ralph Gowland, 1794-1834
  • John Gowland, 1796-by 1851
  • William Edward, 1796-1850

Ann died in 1796, a few months after the birth of their last son.

All four of the sons joined the Excise Office, becoming “Prevention Men”, or coastguards. Although now we associate coastguards with saving lives at sea with the RNLI, when the Excise Office was set up it was purely to protect the country from smugglers. Tragically, Thomas Gowland junr would lose his life at sea in his role.

Thomas senr died of “decline” in 1809; he was buried at St Dunstan’s-in-the-East, the church that James Nunn and his family frequented, on 1 Oct that year, aged 67.

Thomas Gowland

Thomas, the eldest son, married Mary Elizabeth Martin in Wivenhoe on 24 Aug 1814. She was the daughter of Joseph and Martin of the town. They moved to Harwich, where their daughter Mary Ann was born and baptised in 1815. They presumably moved to Hampshire not long afterwards, because by the end of 1817, he was the Chief Officer of a Prevention Boat station at Calshot on the Hampshire coast. On 29 Nov 1817, a strong blast of wind capsized the boat and most of the crew were lost.[1]Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 8 Dec 1817

He is commemorated on the headstone of his father-in-law, Joseph Harvey, in Wivenhoe’s old graveyard on Belle Vue Road, along with two of Joseph’s sons, Joseph and Harlow, who were also lost at sea.

His widow moved back to Wivenhoe, and remarried ten years later; husband number two was Thomas Harvey of Greenstead, although they couple moved to Wivenhoe. They had several children, and among them was Joseph Harvey, born in 1834. On the 1841 census, Joseph appears in a house on Dover Place, Newington, with John Gowland. Joseph would have been, in a way, John’s stepnephew: son of his late brother’s widow by her second husband! A Mary Gowland, aged 25, was also living – or staying temporarily – at the address, and I suspect this is Thomas and Mary Elizabeth’s daughter.

Interestingly, at the time Thomas Gowland was living in Harwich, there was another Gowland living there: John Gowland, who was born in about 1750 and worked as a carpenter. If Thomas senr and Edward were brothers, then could John have been another brother?

George Ralph Gowland

George married Elizabeth Ann Nunn at St Giles-in-the-Fields, London, on 1 June 1833 – they were already brother- and sister-in-law as George’s brother John and Elizabeth’s sister Mary Ann had married two years earlier. She was the last of James Nunn’s children to marry, and the witnesses were Joshua Nunn and Sarah Low. Joshua is presumably the son of William Nunn of Harlow, and when Joshua married in 1816, Elizabeth Ann had been a witness. Sarah Low is one of Elizabeth Ann’s sisters, who by 1833 had been married and widowed.

It doesn’t seem that George and Elizabeth had any children, and George died in August 1834; he was buried at St Dunstan’s-in-the East on 30 Aug that year. In 1841, Elizabeth Ann was living with George’s widowed brother John and his family on Dover Place, New Kent Road, Newington. She died not long after of consumption. She was buried at St Dunstan’s-in-the-East too. Her obituary reads:

Feb 23, in Brunswick Street, Dover Road, Elizabeth Ann, widow of the late George Ralph Gowland esqr, of the Excise.

Saint James Chronicle, 26 Feb 1842

John Gowland

John Gowland married Mary Anne Nunn at St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe in the City of London on 17 Sep 1831. Their daughter Mary was baptised at St Mary Newington on 25 June 1834, having been born on 29 May. Mary Ann died on 9 Nov 1837:

On the 9th inst at Dover Place, Mary, wife of Mr John Gowland, of the Excise Office, and youngest daughter of the late Mr James Nunn, of Great Queen Street.

The English Chronicle, 11 Nov 1837

John had a full house on Dover Place on the night of the 1841 census, and because no relationships are given in the census, at first glance it’s very confusing:

  • John Gowland, 45, accountant, not b Surrey
  • Elizabeth Gowland, 45, not b Surrey
  • Mary Gowland, 25, not b Surrey
  • Mary Gowland, 7, b Surrey
  • Sarah Low, 60, independent means, not b Surrey
  • Sarah Low, 23, indepenent means, not b Surrey
  • Joseph Harvey, 6, not b Surrey
  • Two female servants

It looks like John had married someone called Elizabeth, and that Mary aged 25 was… well… in actual fact, the people in his house that night were:

  • Elizabeth Ann, widow of his brother George Ralph, and sister of his late wife Mary Ann (so she was his sister-in-law twice over)
  • Mary Gowland, his niece, daughter of his late brother Thomas
  • Mary Gowland, his daughter
  • Sarah Low, another sister of his late wife Mary Ann
  • Sarah Low, Sarah’s daughter, and therefore John’s niece by marriage
  • Joseph Harvey, half-brother of his niece Mary, or to put it another way, son of his late brother’s widow by her second husband

Households like this can be absolutely golden for finding family history clues! It’s impossible to know from this snapshot whether his household looked like this for a long time, or if that night he happened to have several visitors descend. It’s very possible that Elizabeth Ann had moved into the house not long after George Ralph died, and once Mary Ann died, she stayed in order to run the household and look after her niece Mary.

John married again in 1842. His bride was a widow called Mary Maria Cranch, born Mary Maria Payne. John died intestate by 1851, but I haven’t found the record of his death.[2]He’s in the Death Duty register for 1851, with Mary Maria named as his administrix.

John and Mary Ann’s daughter evidently got on well with her stepsisters, Mary and Emma Cranch. In 1851, she was living with Mary and her husband Joseph Wace Gray in Greenwich, and in 1861, she was running a school with Emma. Mary Gowland died in 1880.

William Edward Gowland

The youngest of Thomas senr’s four sons, and yes, another Exciseman. He married Elizabeth Harriet Jenkins in Portsmouth in 1824:

At Portsmouth, on Saturday 16 inst., Mr William Edward Gowland of the Excise Office, London, to Elizabeth Harriet daughter of William Jenkins esq of the Navy Pay Office, London.

Evening Mail, 22 Oct 1824

The couple went on to have several children, and in 1841 were living on Harleyford Road in Lambeth – not far from his brother John. In 1845, his son George Price Gowland, a midshipman on HMS Skylark, died in Sierra Leone.[3]St James’ Chronicle, 21 Feb 1846. George died on 22 Dec 1845. It’s not clear if George died in a maritime accident, as William’s eldest brother Thomas had, or if he had been ill.

William Edward died in 1850:

On the 10th inst at the Grove, Camberwell, in the 54th year of his age, William Edward Gowland esq of the Inland Revenue Office.

Morning Herald, 16 March 1850

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1 Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 8 Dec 1817
2 He’s in the Death Duty register for 1851, with Mary Maria named as his administrix.
3 St James’ Chronicle, 21 Feb 1846. George died on 22 Dec 1845.