GASCOYNE House, the historic riverside warehouse apartments block at South Quay, is now Worcester's only prominent reminder of a once flourishing city family business.

Hop and seed merchants, G. Gascoyne & Co. occupied an important place on the city's commercial scene for about 70 years and operated from three landmark buildings.

A few months ago, I gave a thumb-nail sketch of this family firm in Memory Lane, but from only very little information. I was under the impression that no descendants of the firm's founder George Gascoyne (1866-1930) were still living in the Worcester area - which would have been the case until just over a year ago.

However, I was contacted by Michael Carter, George Gascoyne's grandson, who has recently returned to live in this area after being away from Worcester for 50 years. By sheer coincidence too, George Gascoyne's great grandson, David Gascoyne also happens to be in Worcester, at the moment, on computer consultancy work, commuting from his home in London.

Naturally, I have taken up the opportunity to meet both of them at Michael Carter's home in Hanbury Park, Droitwich, to glean detailed facts for today's more definitive history of the Gascoynes, enhanced by some of their superb old family photographs.

The firm's founder, George Gascoyne came from the Sheffield area, where he had set up a printing and stationery business but, for some unknown reason, he moved to Worcester in 1891, at the age of 26. He set up home in Malvern Road with his wife Kate Alice, the daughter of a wealthy Sheffield industrialist, and their first two children - George junior and Cyril.

It's believed George originally went to work for Firkins, the hop merchants, who then occupied the South Quay warehouse now known as Gascoyne House. However, armed with a £1,000 loan from his father-in-law, George set up on his own as a hop and seed merchant and, such was his sharp and successful business acumen, that he eventually took over seven established local hop merchant firms including Firkins, Bucklands, Kents, Harringtons, Caldicotts and Allesters.

The Gascoyne family also expanded with the arrival of George's other two children - Barbara in 1894 and Bernard the following year.

In 1895 too, George Gascoyne had a pair of substantial semi-detached properties built in Park View Terrace, occupying one of them - The Elms - as the family home and leasing out the other, Riverlynne. He also had a boat jetty built on the nearby bank of the Severn.

George's blossoming business was clearly prospering, and within another few years he had bought, as his next family home, the magnificent Georgian property Lindisfarne, set in landscaped grounds at Barbourne Terrace. It is now the City Church Centre, having been the County NFU HQ for many years.

His firm's local "empire" had also expanded considerably, occupying not only the South Quay warehouse but also a four-storey warehousing block in Sansome Street and a warehouse off Little Southfield Street, now the offices and furniture store of removal company Lambs.

Interestingly, George Gascoyne's purchase of the South Quay warehouse in 1915, was for the sum of £600 "plus the delivery of one ton of coal annually to the poor of the Parish of All Saints, a further one ton of coal to the poor of the Parish of St Andrew's, and 20 shillings (in lieu of one ton of coal) annually to the poor of St Nicholas." Descendants still have a copy of the original sale document.

George Gascoyne also acquired other land and property in Worcester including shops and buildings around his Sansome Street block, and he went into partnership too with George Haynes, owner of the Crown Hotel in Broad Street, to build the Scala Cinema.

Much wider afield, he also bought a house in Wimbledon, South London, a wide expanse of land near Vancouver, Canada, and a villa at Menton in the South of France, which had views over Monte Carlo.

George clearly enjoyed winter sun holidays to this villa and continued to have Lindisfarne in Barbourne Terrace as his family home until he died in 1930, at the age of 64. His widow Kate Alice remained at Lindisfarne until her death in 1950 at the age of 90, though in the intervening years, most of her late husband's property holdings had been sold off, such as the house in Wimbledon, The Elms and Riverlynne in Park View Terrace, shares in the Scala Cinema, the South of France villa (sold in 1938) and the land at Vancouver (sold in 1944).

Lindisfarne too, was sold after the death of Kate Alice.

It was George and Kate Alice's eldest son George junior, who took over the reins of the family business as chairman and managing director on his father's death in 1930. He was a past pupil of the Worcester Royal Grammar School and had fought through the First World War as an Army major, enjoying the same rank in the Home Guard during the Second World War.

Sadly, however, George Gascoyne junior's life was to be dogged by a seemingly unbearable amount of personal tragedy. He lost all three of his sons, and his first wife also died at a comparatively young age. She was Elsie Sparshott from a then well-known Worcester family.

Elsie and George lived in Battenhall Road and had five children, but their happy family life was first to be struck by sorrow in 1930. That year, their son David died at the age of only four, having succumbed to pneumonia in the wake of a childhood illness. Elsie Gascoyne died just three years after her son, due to complications following the removal of her appendix. She was in her late 30s.

The Second World War then claimed George junior's other two sons, both serving as Flight Sergeants in the RAF. Eldest son, another George, was killed on the "1,000 Bomber" raid over Essen, in June 1942. He was 27 and had not long been awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. Patrick, his 24 year-old brother, was killed in February 1945, also flying on a RAF mission over Germany.

George Gascoyne junior had a lasting memorial placed in Worcester Cathedral to his wife Elsie and their three sons. It takes the form of four stained glass commemorative windows still to be seen in the Cloisters.

In his bitter loss, George junior was, however, able to take comfort and pride in his two daughters, Elizabeth and Sylvia, and he later married again and went to live at Chesterfield, in Wells Road, Malvern.

Like his father before him, George junior was an astute businessman and was widely-respected and highly-regarded in the hop and seed trade. He was "very dedicated to the business" and had "a lot of loyal employees" such as senior salesman and friend Willie Howell. For a time, Alan White, who became captain of the Worcestershire county cricket team, was a Gascoyne employee. George junior was also much involved in local life and with the Cathedral.

He died in 1953, aged 65, and the business was then headed, as chairman, by his First World War compatriot, Colonel Hobson, who was a Redditch solicitor and a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire.

Leslie Cooke, who had for a time been joint managing director with George Gascoyne junior, remained in that post but was then succeeded by Thomas Atkinson and George's second wife Dorothy, who became joint MDs. Russell Clifton was also brought in to head up the seed business.

However, the company fell into decline in the mid-1960s and was finally wound up in 1969, though Russell Clifton continued to use the name of Gascoyne Seeds in setting up his own business, operating for a few years from the South Quay warehouse.

The Worcester Arts Workshop now occupies the site of the former Gascoyne warehousing and offices in Sansome Street, while the Gascoyne House apartments are the present-day use of the company's former South Quay warehouse.

Of George and Kate Alice Gascoyne's other three children - the sister and two brothers of George junior:

n Cyril went to Canada, before the First World War but returned to Europe to fight in the 1914-18 conflict. He married Mabel Field, whose father managed the Lowesmoor Basin for the Worcester-Birmingham Canal Company and lived with his family in a canal-side cottage at Lowesmoor.

Cyril and Mabel remained in Worcester for a time before trying a boarding house venture at Eastbourne, Sussex.

Cyril later returned to Canada and the United States as an accountant, his wife later choosing to return to Worcester, where she lived in Ombersley Road. The couple had two daughters who are still alive - one in Manchester and the other in Eastbourne.

n Bernard Gascoyne was for a time a traveller in the family business and lived at Hawford. A bachelor, he died in 1966.

n Barbara Gascoyne attended the Alice Ottley Girls School and, in 1917, married Frank Carter, who served as a captain in the Worcestershire and Dorset regiments during the First World War. His lifetime career was with the Midland Bank.

Frank and Barbara Carter's entire married life was spent in Worcester, where their homes, in turn, were at Shrubbery Avenue, Lindisfarne and Sunnyside Road.

Frank Carter died in 1956, and his wife in 1986, aged 92.

The couple had two children - Michael now living at Droitwich, and Peggy, who married Scotsman Norman Pringle, an auditor with British Rail.

They lived at Rose Hill, off London Road, Worcester. Norman died in 1970, while Peggy's death in 1991, ended the Gascoyne dynasty's century of continuous presence on the Worcester scene. Her grandfather had, of course, first come to the city from Sheffield in 1891.

n As for George Gascoyne junior's two daughters, Elizabeth and Sylvia, they are still alive and residing in the London area.

Elizabeth married and became Mrs Newham but, following her divorce, her two sons David and Rodney both changed their surname back to Gascoyne.

n David, who was born at Malvern, in 1941, attended the Cirencester Agricultural College before joining the family firm at Worcester, in 1963, progressing through various departments and finishing as executive transport manager.

However, he left the company in October 1968, to follow a new career in computing and, for some years, has run his own IT consultancy company, Malvern Consulting Ltd.

He is currently on a contract working with npower in Worcester.

n His brother, Rodney Gascoyne lives in Toronto, Canada, where he runs his own computer audit business.

n Michael Carter - the only son of Frank and Barbara Carter - was born in Shrubbery Avenue, Worcester, and attended the Worcester Cathedral Choir School. He left the Faithful City in 1951, and has since lived in London, Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey, during a 32-year career with Metal Box and then a long spell with United Glass.

Michael and his wife Jennifer moved into Heron Place, Hanbury Park, Droitwich, in December 2000.

He says he was inspired to return to Worcestershire a couple of years ago, when he came back to give back the eulogy at the funeral of his life-long friend John Brettell, the Droitwich historian, vintage postcard collector and, for several years, managing director and chairman of the Worcester corn and seed merchants, John Barnett & Co.

n I too, knew John Brettell well, and he has figured in a number of Memory Lane features.