More detective work with the autograph album

I’m taking my time with my grandma’s autograph book; the entries come mainly over two periods,, from 1905 when she was given the book by ‘P’, whoever that was, to 1916, probably just before she married my grandfather, and from 1938-1944 when my mum and her sisters used it.

I’ve had fun tracing some of the people who have signed it; in some cases I’ve found out quite a lot about them, in others, nothing at all, just a name and sometimes a date. Some of the friends who wrote in the book have unusual names – or so I thought;. I mentioned Erich Gyngell – I couldn’t for a while read his signature but eventually I made it out. He painted a nice little picture of Napoleon – I’m not sure why, was there some significance? I’ll never know!

Further on in the book I found another piece of art,a pen and ink drawing with a little verse, signed by Dudley Gyngell, obviously Erich’s brother. With this I could trace them and find out just a little about them. We find for example, that he wasn’t Erich as I thought, but Erick.

Erick painted his Napoleon picture in 1911; at that time, aged twenty-one, he was living with his younger brother Dudley on the Edgeware Road in Marylebone where grandma lived with her mother and younger brothers. Eric Lionel was a solicitor’s clerk, Dudley a surveyor’s clerk and they lived with their parents, Agnita, who was born in Ireland – possibly Ballynahinch in Galway , and Arthur Lionel who was born in Guildford Surrey. Arthur was the manager of a pawnbroker’s shop, and lodging with the family were two of his assistants,  George Cooper aged seventeen, and  Ernest Osborne aged fifteen. Also living in the house, and no doubt helping look after the household of four young men and Arthur, was Agnita’s unmarried sister Sophia Williams aged fifty.

Ten years earlier, in 1901 the census gives us another snapshot of the Gyngell lives; the family are  living on the Edgeware Road, Arthur is not the manager of the pawnbroker’s but an assistant,, and again there are lodgers from the shop, Frederick Goater aged twenty-two, and Henry Byrne aged twenty-four. Sophia is living with the family and we learn a little more about her, she’s living on her own means, which shows she was financially independent,

In 1891, going back a further ten years when Eric (without the ‘k’) was only one year old, the family were living in Walthamstow. His middle name is Lionel, his mother’s middle initial is W, and Sophia’s middle name begins with H, and there are no lodgers. in 1881, before Arthur was married, he too was a lodger, and aged 14 a pawnbroker’s assistant. He and two other young men were lodged with a pawnbroker’s widow, who maybe ran the business. Without a massive amount of research, I can’t properly trace Arthur further. He and Agnita Wilhelmina Williams married in 1889, and he died in 1948 at the grand age of eighty-two, Agnita having died in 1939 at the age of seventy

Of the two sons, I think Eric Lionel might have married in 1920 and  Dudley Stuart Hawtrey in 1928.  Eric died in 1977, and Dudley in 1974. What were their lives like, these two young men who were friends with my grandma… the 1st World war was looming, and they were of the age to a play a part – and whatever they did, they survived and married. I wonder if I can find out more about their lives? I wonder…


  1. FlowCoef

    What always amazes me is when someone’s description of one who lived in the far and distant past is ended with “…died 1977”. That old man everyone let live alone in his other days was a direct line to Queen Victoria and the Boer War!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lois

    Yes, and as a friend of my grandma’s links us back to those times. My grandma died in the 1950’s, so I guess it’s partly in my mind that people who knew her lived on after she was gone. On the other side of my family, I actually knew my great grandparents who were born in 1864 which makes me feel as if I have a direct link back to that time.


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