Obituary: Librarian Gwynydd Gosling was an authority on Highgate’s literary past who served community for 50 years
08:00 18 January 2014
Gwynydd Gosling, who served as librarian at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution for 50 years, has died aged 91.
A founder member of the institution’s archive committee and an authority on Highgate’s history and literary past, Mrs Gosling was frequently contacted by academic researchers from all over the world, particularly in connection with writer Mary Kingsley, on whom she was an authority, but also on poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge or any aspect of Highgate’s history.
She was born in Nelson, Lancashire, in 1921. Her father was a headmaster and her mother helped him as a school organiser.
When they separated, Mrs Gosling and her mother moved to Highgate in 1939, her mother taking the job of librarian at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution while Gwynydd began her career at Paddington Library.
There she met her husband John Gosling, but their marriage was delayed until 1942 because both were in the services.
Mrs Gosling was a radar operator helping to defend coastal installations until leaving the army in 1944 to have a daughter, Susan.
Throughout the 1940s and ‘50s, Mrs Gosling and her mother helped to rebuild the institution (it had suffered bomb damage and financial adversity) and helped it to thrive, organising film shows, gramophone record evenings, whist drives and talks on all kinds of literary and historical subjects.
In 1954 the first classes started; art, French and music appreciation, setting the template for activities the institution offers today.
After her mother’s death in 1968, Mrs Gosling took over. In 1971 she suffered a terrible blow with the death of her daughter, of a sudden embolism, aged 26.
Thereafter Mrs Gosling channelled all her energies into the library, plus the archives committee established in 1974, while beginning to build collections around her many personal interests.
These included Imperial Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church, British history and the monarchy, royal families of Europe, and historical figures of Highgate.
She mounted exhibitions, beginning in 1972 with 17th century Highgate. Her favourite was Coleridge and His World, in 1984, which had an albatross high above the hall, with a five foot wingspan.
Mrs Gosling gave dozens of lectures, often Highgate-related. She gave a lecture about the institution at the Royal Society of Arts in 1981, and another at the Royal Institution in 1986. In 1985 she was invited to conduct a five-day tour, Coleridge In The West Country, and this was repeated in 1992.
Mrs Gosling was a central figure in the Highgate community for more than 70 years. She is fondly remembered by many for whom she was a “go-to” figure in the library for all kinds of counsel.
Her funeral, which all are welcome to attend, will take place today (Thursday) at 2pm at St George’s Cathedral (Antiochan Orthodox Church), at Redhill and Albany Street, Camden Town.