Copeland, G. W.

G. W. Copeland in 1967.


Published in DA Transactions, 1968.

GUSTAVE WILFRED COPELAND, well known as an antiquary in the Westcountry, died on November 21st, 1967 at the age of 74. He had been the Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1957 to September 1966.

Mr. Copeland was born at Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent, and, having served with the South Staffordshire and Second Suffolk Regiments in World War I, took the profession of schoolteacher. He taught in Plymouth from 1928 until his retirement in 1955. At that time he was senior French master at the Plymouth Secondary School for Boys. In 1956 he moved to Topsham.

While at Plymouth he was very active in the local societies. He was President of the Plymouth Institution, 1947 to 1949, and of the Plymouth Field Club from 1947 to 1950. He acted as Hon. Secretary of the Plymouth Branch of the Association from 1941 to 1955, as well as of the Old Plymouth Society over about the same period. The latter Society, who have done so much to keep the City Authorities aware of the interest and value of their heritage, owe him a particular debt.

Mr. Copeland’s knowledge of buildings of all periods was encyclopaedic, and the Association has suffered a great loss at the passing of one of its most erudite members. Apart from buildings and their construction, his interests embraced archaeology, heraldry, botany, art, music, and photography. He was a Fellow of the Ancient Monuments Society, and of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of London.

The sympathies of her many friends in the Association are extended to Mrs. Copeland.

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G. W. Copeland was an important figure in the Devonshire Association and most of his activities are covered somewhat briefly in this obituary. What does not come across is his enormous contribution to the Transactions of the Devonshire Association (TDA) and the nature of the 21 papers published therein.

G. W. Copeland was one of the first people within the DA to systematically record various types of buildings and publish his findings in TDA. His series on Devon Dovecotes ran to six papers, between 1937 and 1967, covering several in each. He was acutely aware that these largely redundant agricultural buildings were fast falling into disrepair and wished to record them while they were extant. His work on Devon Church Houses was extensive and his findings published in seven papers between 1960 and 1967. This was again an overlooked type of building that had lost its original purpose and was therefore prone to alterations that often masked its once important status in the community.

We owe G. W. Copeland a debt of gratitude for recording these and other Devon buildings.

Helen Wilson


Papers published in DA’s Transactions

Year     Vol. Pages
1936 G. W. Copeland An Early Fireplace in Membland Hall [Holbeton] 68 355-357
1937 G. W. Copeland Devon Dovecotes 69 391-401
1937 G. W. Copeland Blagdon Barton: a Plea for its Preservation [Paignton] 69 479-482
1939 G. W. Copeland Devon Dovecotes: An Addition 71 279-282
1941 G. W. Copeland Further Notes on Devon Dovecotes 73 133-137
1943 G. W. Copeland Notes on Devon Dovecotes: Part IV 75 267-272
1945 G. W. Copeland Radford (Plymstock, Devon) 77 149-156
1949 G. W. Copeland Charles Church, Plymouth 81 271-286
1953 G. W. Copeland Buckland Abbey: Some Problems 85 41-52
1953 G. W. Copeland The History and Work of the Old Plymouth Society 85 53-55
1955 G. W. Copeland Widey Court 87 230-238
1956 G. W. Copeland and A. W. Everett Discoveries at the Church of St. Andrew, Plymouth 88 163-173
1956 G. W. Copeland Notes on Devon Dovecotes: Part V 88 197-199
1960 G. W. Copeland Devonshire Church Houses 92 116-141
1961 G. W. Copeland Devonshire Church Houses: Part II 93 250-265
1962 G. W. Copeland Devonshire Church Houses: Part III 94 427-439
1963 G. W. Copeland Devonshire Church Houses: Part IV 95 135-155
1964 G. W. Copeland Devonshire Church Houses: Part V 96 202-207
1966 G. W. Copeland Devonshire Church Houses: Part VI 98 157-167
1967 G. W. Copeland Devonshire Church Houses. Part VII 99 263-266
1967 G. W. Copeland More About Devon Dovecotes 99 267-272

Other writings in Transactions

1935 p.228 A report of a paper on Inn Signs read to the Plymouth Branch
1938 p.163 A report for Plymouth Branch of Copeland's investigations
1965 p.81  Abstract of a paper on Antiquarian Fallacies