George Nelson Godwin

Godwin, George Nelson (1846–1907), antiquary and travel writer, the only surviving son of Edward Godwin, a draper of Winchester, and afterwards a farmer of Melksham, Wiltshire, and his wife, Mary Tugwell, was born at Winchester on 4 July 1846. He and his only sister, Sarah Louisa, were brought up at Winchester, and George was educated there at a private school. After engaging in private tuition, and qualifying in 1868 at the London College of Divinity, he was ordained deacon in 1869 and priest in 1870. He later proceeded to Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained the Cluff memorial prize in 1882, and graduated BA in 1884 and BD in 1887. After filling curacies at Heanor, Derbyshire (1869–72), East Bergholt (1873–6), and Capel St Mary, Suffolk (1876–7), he was appointed chaplain of the forces in 1877, and continued in the army until 1890; during this period he served at Gibraltar, Malta (1878–81), Alexandria (from 1887), Cairo (1889), Dublin, the Curragh, and the army medical school at Netley Hospital. He was vicar of East Boldre, Hampshire (1890–93), Woodmancott-with-Popham, Hampshire (1893–8), and Appledore, Devon, curate of Weasenham, Norfolk (1903), and curate in charge of Stokesby, Great Yarmouth (1904). He was also a freemason, a brother of Economy Lodge in Winchester.

Godwin was best known as an antiquary and local historian. He was one of the founder members of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society, reflecting the strong link between Netley Hospital and the club in its early days. With Thomas William Shore (1840–1905), the first secretary, he spent over a year canvassing potential members before the club was officially formed in 1885, and he spoke at its first two meetings. He was the first editor of Hampshire Notes and Queries, from 1883 to 1896 (originally published in the Winchester Observer and County News, but a separate publication from 1893).

Godwin was a leading authority on the history of Hampshire and neighbouring counties during the civil war. His major work, Civil War in Hampshire, 1642–45, and the Story of Basing House (1882, 2nd edn 1904), though now superseded, shows detailed knowledge of the available primary sources. His travel writing, mainly on south-east England and Malta, was voluminous but largely ephemeral, and—as with other of his historical work—rarely goes beyond lists and trivial description. In addition to this, Godwin published: Materials for English Church History, 1625–49 (1895); with John Plummer, Silchester, or, The Pompeii of Hampshire (1879, 2nd edn 1886); and, with H. M. Gilbert, Bibliotheca Hantoniensis (1891), a list of books relating to Hampshire. He was a contributor to early numbers of the Papers and Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society.

Godwin was married twice: firstly, on 15 February 1870, to Mary Godwin (no relation), by whom he had one daughter; and secondly, on 8 August 1899, to Rosa Elizabeth, the daughter of George Jay of Camden Town, London, who survived him, and with whom he had no children. He died suddenly of heart failure while staying for the night at the Black Lion Hotel in Little Walsingham, Norfolk, on 11 January 1907 (pursuing yet another curacy) and was buried in the churchyard of that village.


Oxford DNB

Charles Welch, ‘Godwin, George Nelson (1846–1907)’, rev. Richard Dennis, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 28 May 2017]

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