A wedding - by George!

(A note by Roger William Sawkins, February 2003)

On the fifth of August 1911 my grandparents Henry Thomas Gosney and Mary Rose Symmonds were married.  Judging by the photographs it was a large and formal family affair.  (There is an index of many of the above people later in this article).  All of the bride's eight brothers and sisters are there, as well as her parents.  The groom had a sister who had died at about 10 years old and also a younger brother.  We have not been able to identify the brother, but his parents are definitely there.

The bride's parents were George James and Mary Ann Bryan (or Bryon?) who had married in Clapham, London, somewhere between 1879 and 1881.  He was in his early twenties and was described as a "fishmonger".  His wife appears to  have been about 6 years older than him and is said to have been born "in the Strand within the sound of Bow Bells" (the normal definition of a cockney).  They are seen here with their children about six years earlier, around 1905.

When first married they were living at 43 Livingstone Road, Battersea, but from 1888 to 1892 they lived at 13 Totteridge Road.  By the time of their daughter's wedding in 1911 they were living at 89 Union Grove, Clapham and he was described as "clerk of works, London County Council", later being described as a 'Surveyor'.  He died three years after his daughter's wedding, on 2 July 1914.  His wife survived him by over 30 years, dying early in 1947.

Their eldest son was also called George James after his father.  He appears near the top right of the family group above (unfortunately this part of the photo is rather smudged).  He is also near the top right of the wedding photo (enlarged on the left). George was born on the 4 September 1881 when the family were living in Wandsworth.  The other photo here was probably taken prior to the wedding, but I do not have an accurate date.

George was described as a "Gentleman's outfitter" and an "Outfitter's buyer".  My mother (his niece) said that he worked for Harrods in London and went out to Buenos Aires when that store opened a branch there.  I do not know the dates of that move, but it seems likely that the wonderful photograph of him with his car (below) was taken there.  Note that the background includes eucalyptus (gum) trees - native to Australia but commonly grown in South America.

One could say that he was stylish and handsome and apparently quite wealthy. He certainly would have been a remarkable man.

George died in Streatham at the age of 32 on 31 March 1914.  He could well have been living with his family at that time at their house at 34 Moyser Road.  His death certificate shows the cause of death as "infections" and describes him as a "bachelor".

I had my suspicions about George - described as "a bachelor" and a "gentleman's outfitter". Was he gay?

Confirmation came in 1998 when I was going through a number of family photographs and discussing them with my mother. We came to the wedding photograph and she was identifying all the people in it.

At the end of the top row she identified George for me, and then she said that the man next to him in the photograph was "the man that he lived with". When I mentioned that George died of "infections", she said "yes - venereal disease".

I find two things remarkable about all this. Firstly, George died just a year after my mother was born. She cannot therefore have known him. And yet she knew he was gay and how he died. It must have been part of the family history to talk about him, his partner and the cause if his death.

The other point is even more remarkable. There in the photograph of his sister's wedding is George and his partner. They are, of course, right at the back and on the far end (not a normal position for the eldest member of the family in a wedding photograph). But they are there! Was this a remarkable family? Were they indulgent of him because he was successful and wealthy? Did he just insist on bringing his 'friend'?

There is another point, about his final illness. Was he ill at the time of the wedding, or did the 'venereal disease' make itself known later? How did he contract it and did he have other partners? Was he in fact sleeping around? I shall never know.

My mother identified the following people in the main wedding photograph:

The bride's family

Father George James Symmonds (1), Mother Mary Ann Symmonds (2), Children George James Symmonds (junior) (3), Charles John Edward ('Jack') Symmonds (4), Mary Rose Symmonds (the bride) (5), Jane Ellen (Cecilia 'Sissie') Symmonds (6), Katherine A ('Kate') Symmonds (7), Rose Gertrude Symmonds (8), Alexander ('Alec') Symmonds (9), Thomas ('Tom') Symmonds (10), Joe Symmonds (11

Others George James' partner (12), Frank Flack (later husband of Katherine Symmonds) (13), ? Colyer (friend of the family) (14), Mabel ? (later wife of Charles Symmonds) (15), Lily Munzing (friend of the family) (16)

The groom's family

Father Robert Elias Gosney (17), Mother Marianne Elizabeth Gosney (18), Child Henry Thomas Gosney (the groom) (19)

For more information about individual people, see

Produced by Roger Sawkins, roger@sawkins.name or PO Box 57, Cannon Hill, Queensland 4170, Australia (61 7 3398 4222).
Last updated April 2009