George Laurence Gomme

(1853—1916) public servant and folklorist

Quick Reference

(1853–1916). Knighted in 1911 for his work on the Metropolitan Board of Works (which he joined in 1873) and the London County Council. He was extremely knowledgeable about London, and published several works on the history of the city as well as being instrumental in seminal initiatives such as the Survey of London (1894 onwards) and the identification and preservation of important buildings. He also lectured at the London School of Economics on municipal organization. Gomme was a key figure in the group who founded the Folklore Society in 1878, and was one of its leading members till his death, serving in various capacities, including Secretary, Director, and President (1890–4). His interests in folklore were broad, but combined with his interest in history and municipal administration, his key field was the development of village and community life, and the idea that ancient racial divisions in the British Isles could be traced in the surviving folklore of the people. This survivals theory formed the basis of several books and important articles, but was challenged at the time by several colleagues, and is now universally discredited. Nevertheless, his legacy lives on in his organizational work in founding the Society, the numerous books and journals edited by him (including Antiquary (1881–8), Camden Library, Archaeological Review (1888–9), and an important series of reprints from the Gentleman's Magazine), and his insistence that folklore be treated as a science and be pursued with scientific rigour. Gomme married Alice Bertha Merck (see A. B. Gomme) in 1875, who was the leading authority on children's games, and their son Allan also served as President of the Society.

Gomme's major books on folklore and ethnology are Primitive Folk-Moots (1880); Folk-Lore Relics of Early Village Life (1883); The Village Community (1890); Handbook of Folk-Lore (1890); Ethnology in Folk-Lore (1892); Folk-Lore as a Historical Science (1908).

From A Dictionary of English Folklore in Oxford Reference.

Reference entries