How the Loring family rediscovered the history of Goldsmiths’ first Warden

Loring bust and portrait

William Loring, cast in bronze at Goldsmiths accommodation office, and captured in photographic ink

William Loring was almost lost to his descendants.

After his death, William was never talked about in the family home, no photographs of him hung on the wall.

William’s grandson David Loring said ‘It was as if he didn’t exist.’

Loring was the first Warden of Goldsmiths.

In 1915, at the age of 50, he fought in the Gallipoli campaign.

He was shot by a sniper and died from gangrene on a hospital ship that was taking him back to his wife and son in England.

Growing up, David knew little of his grandfather.

He believes his own father, John Henry Loring, found the loss too painful to discuss.

David said:

[My father] was proud of the fact that William was warden of Goldsmiths but because it brought back the memory of his death it didn’t really get talked about.

I think he was hurt. I think it made a big impact on him.

David re-discovered his grandfather in boxes of letters and photographs that had lain untouched in the attic for 20 years.

He started a blog and began publishing the forgotten sepia pictures and handwritten correspondence.


Standing: Harry St. John Thackeray; middle, seated from left: William Loring, Francis St. John Thackeray; front, from left: Lucy Thackeray, Rachel Thackeray, John Loring, Theo Loring.


By chance, David’s re-discovery of his grandfather coincided with an event being held at Goldsmiths marking 100 years since Loring’s death.

Loring was one of 109 students or workers of Goldsmiths who were killed in the First World War.

Shared ideals

William Loring’s son, John, felt not only the pain of losing his father but also a clash of ideals.

Before fighting at Gallipoli, Loring had served in the South African war of 1899-1902.

By contrast, John ‘did not hold any militaristic tendencies at all’, said David, and therefore would not ‘glory’ in the career of his father.

Goldsmiths, too, found that Loring’s military prowess sat uneasily with its own pacifist ideals.

It is only with the passing of time, according to Goldsmiths’ current warden Pat Loughrey, that Loring has been understood to embody the ideals of the college: honour, philosophy, faith, valour.



Loring served in the South African war of 1899-1902



David has bequeathed his grandfather’s letters and photographs to Goldsmiths, where they can be viewed at the Special Collections and Archives Department.


David conceded that he will miss ‘the awe at handling letters from 100 years or more ago […] the smell of the paper. […] It reminded me vividly of my father’s study at home.’

His research into his grandfather has, however, brought him closer to other members of his family, with whom he’d lost contact.

David’s cousin Ruth Thackery and sister Theo Smith also visited Goldsmiths during the commemoration of Loring’s death.


David wishes to thank Joe Breeze, a researcher who has published online her stories about participants of the First World War.

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