Here in the full ceremonial robes of the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and carrying the Royal Burse. [Purse] was one of the greatest legal brains of his generation.
You cannot inherit rights to a Coat of Arms, so applied to the Garter King of Arms for a grant. This is an extract from their official archive:
The second son of Louis de Luze Simonds. Gavin married Mary (Née Mellor) (1887-1973) at St George’s Hanover Square in 1912
They had three sons, Robert and then twins Gavin & John who sadly all pre-deceased them.
The first son Robert Francis Simonds (1913) had died in infancy. Gavin Alexander Simonds (1915-1951) died as a result of illness contracted on active service in Africa during the Second World War.
was a paratrooper who was killed in action following 5 days and nights of continuous fighting after he was dropped into Arnhem in Holland. It was said that his intellect matched in every way that of his distinguished father. Winchester College Archives have a lovely biography HERE.
The Simonds Viscounty therefore became extinct when the 1st Viscount Simonds died in 1971.
The illustrated biography written by his godson Kenneth Simonds and illustrated by his great nephew. [me] Is HERE
A copy has been accepted by the House of Lords Library as his official biography.
There is also a comprehensive biography in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [ODNB]. This page therefore just adds a little more – not covered elsewhere.
Gavin Simonds enjoyed a scholarship from Summerfields School in Oxford to College House, Winchester College from September 1894-1900 where he was a keen sportsman. As a footballer, he played their particular version of the game at 6 and 15 a-side. There were only three teams and the matches were all within the school but also included occasional matches against teams of old Wykehamists and Gavin did play football there again whilst he was at Oxford. He also played in regular soccer matches, both inter-house competitions and in a school XI. Here are some school photos, reports of these matches and a ‘Hot Roll’ poster, courtesy of the Winchester College archives.
He went on to New College Oxford, 1900-04 where he gained firsts in classical moderations and literae humaniores.
He had the great honour to be received ‘Ad Portas’ at Winchester College, twice. First with a group of other Wykehamist judges in 1937 and then again in 1954 on his own. Here is a copy of the speeches (delivered in Latin) on that occasion and photographs:
He remained a keen follower of country sports throughout his life and continued shooting well into his 80’s, but his passion was fishing. He famously crossed swords with GEM Skues from 1936, when they disagreed on the adoption of the ‘wet’ nymph in place of a truly ‘dry’ fly traditionally for trout fishing.
Gavin was appointed Lord Chancellor by Winston Churchill in 1951 [1951-54]. This meant that he was in office when King George VI died, so he carried an enormous responsibility, personally conveying the tragic news to Queen Mary and later presiding over the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey, which is commemorated in a window of the Becket chapel at Canterbury Cathedral. One high point of his term was a visit to the USA and Canada, where he gave the keynote speech to 1500 assembled lawyers of the American Bar Association, but managed to take time out to stay with his Simonds cousins ‘Gran & Gramps’ in Cohasset!
At the age of 82 and completely from memory, Lord Simonds wrote his memoirs entitled; ‘Recollections of an Idle Old Man’ with memories and personal anecdotes of his family life and his years in high office. Since it contained many ‘personal opinions’, he instructed in his will that it should be kept under lock and key until 40 years after his death. That time has long passed so I am delighted to be able to make it more accessible here for the first time.
A typescript copy is housed in the New College Oxford Archives, under ref. PA/SIM 1 who kindly assisted in creating this digital version. The original manuscript version is available in the Winchester School archives and the family copy was donated to the Lincoln’s Inn archives in 2017. The 170 page memoir is divided into 8 large files, for access click:
These files, in common with all other material on Gavin Simonds and in this website, are not to be copied or quoted without consent and appropriate acknowledgment.