The Gosselins A Talk by Michael Maslinski

Gill Cordingley

At a recent meeting of the Hertford and Ware Local History Society, Michael Maslinski gave an interesting talk about some of his family history.

He started by telling us about his grandmother, Clare Gosselin, 1887-1965. Her father, Sir Martin Gosselin (1847-1905) had achieved a brilliant career as a diplomat. Sadly, his only son, Clare’s brother, Captain Alwyn Gosselin had been killed in action in WW1 in 1915. Thus, the name Gosselin disappeared within the circles of Hertford and its neighbourhood.

The Gosselin Family had been notable in the Channel Islands for many centuries.

The first member of the family to settle in Hertfordshire was a retired naval captain, Thomas Le Marchant Gosselin. In 1809, the captain had married Miss Sarah Hadsley of Ware Priory. They must have felt that they needed somewhere to live near Ware. It was, therefore, convenient for them to rent Bengeo Hall from the Byde Family of Ware Park. Later on, poor Sarah died after only 6 years of marriage. The Captain, who subsequently purchased the Hall, lived on until 1857! Strangely enough, by the time of his death he had been promoted in his retirement to the rank of Senior Admiral of Queen Victoria’s navy! (This promotion was all to do with the naval protocol of the time!)

The Gosselins of Bengeo Hall had four children: three daughters and one son. One daughter married into the Trower family. The son, Martin, married and went to live in Ware Priory. The two other daughters Mary and Charlotte remained unmarried and continued to live at Bengeo Hall. These ladies made a remarkable input into the life of the village. They became actively involved in the Sunday School, the Elementary School, the Working Mens’ Club, the Soup Kitchen in Hertford, the Bengeo Cottage Gardeners’ Society and were concerned with the general welfare of the inhabitants.

There was a feeling of great loss in the community when both ladies died during a flu epidemic in the winter of 1892. In Holy Trinity Church, there are two beautiful windows dedicated to their memory. One of these windows was paid for by public subscription on the part of the members of the parish. ( This is the window on the left side of the two.) The other window was commissioned by the family.

The ladies’ brother, Martin, who had predeceased them, left a family of six children: four sons and two daughters. (Three of these children became Roman Catholics.) Two of these sons, Hellier and Gerard also made an important contribution to the local life of Hertford and Bengeo. Hellier served as mayor of Hertford for 5 terms; he was also a JP. and one of the first County Councillors for Hertfordshire. His younger brother, Gerard, who was disabled as a result of a childhood accident, had a life long fascination for building work and engineering. He became the leading fund raiser and project manager of the restoration of St Leonard’s Church.

Our ancient, Norman building had been entirely neglected after the completion of Holy Trinity Church in the 1850’s. It is entirely due to Gerard’s initiative and determination that the building is intact today. He persuaded many of his Gosselin relatives to contribute to the funds that were needed for the extensive and essential work programme that took place in the 1880’s and 90’s. Gerard later moved away to Norfolk where he renovated a moated manor house.

In Bengeo, there are several reminders of the family’s former presence: I have already mentioned the stained glass in Holy Trinity, there are also family graves in the churchyard of St Leonard’s and inside the same church are the hatchments* for the Admiral and his wife. The family is also recalled in the naming of Gosselin Road and Gosselin House which are situated on the East side of Bengeo Street. In St Joseph’s Church, in St John’s Street Hertford, there are features that recall the name and the generosity and achievements of the Gosselins. There are also reminders of the family’s presence in Widford where the widow of Admiral Gosselin’s only son, Martin, had commissioned a huge mansion on the Blakesware estate.

Michael was warmly thanked for his interesting talk. As a child, he had lived at the Garden House in Warren Park Road. He is well known to many people in Bengeo and Hertford. This article, by no means, gives a full account of the content of his research into the history of the Gosselin branch of his family.

*hatchments: large wooden boards painted with coats of arms that were hang outside the houses of wealthy people to indicate that there had been a recent death in the family

Gill Cordingley Oct 2018

This page was added on 08/04/2022.

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