The formation of GMS Syndicate Limited was probably unique. It brought together the properties (valued at £430,808) owned by three families that were themselves linked through marriage. From the very beginning the company properties consisted of substantial blocks in Kentish Town, Paddington, Bayswater and Ealing with certain small properties in Croydon, Gospel Oak, Hackney, Tottenham Court Road, the City of London and land in Devon. The make-up of the board reflected the families’ involvement:
Chairman: William Moore, the widower of Constance, who had died in 1923.
Managing director and company secretary: Charles Henry Gibbon, known as CH, husband of Marion.
Board member: George Simpson, husband of Ethel.
Board member: Gerald Moore, son of William and Constance Moore.
Board member: Geoffrey Simpson, son of George and Ethel Simpson.
Many of the properties brought to the company by the Gibbon, Moore and Simpson families had come through the estate of Henry Gibbon, but there were others as well. Some came via the Jacomb line; Mary Jacomb-Hood was the first wife of Henry Gibbon, and Janet Jacomb had married Septimus Gibbon, a brother of Henry Gibbon, and their six children included CH.
The first board meeting took place on December 21st 1925 in Great James Street where the Certificate of Incorporation was produced and the design for the company seal was submitted and approved. The new company had beaten the government deadline under the reform of the law of property – by nine days. It was also agreed the Westminster Bank in High Holborn be appointed bankers, £110,000 5% 1st debenture stock and £260,000 7.5% 2nd debenture stock be issued and a trust deed be made securing the issue.
The day-to-day running of the company is largely reflected in the minutes of GMS, including the ups and downs of a property company; a fire at a property in Old Street for instance; complaints from the district surveyor about the state of a ‘flank wall’ in Prince of Wales Road; a ‘demand’ from Ealing Borough Council that Rosemount Road be made up; a request to remove the top two stories of a property in Queens Road (now Queensway) – which was refused.
By March 31, 1928 – the year the voting age of women was lowered from 30 to 21 – the company’s balance sheet showed a total of freehold and leasehold properties of £492,599 with a rent roll of £70,714. The property market was buoyant, although the bubble was about to burst. Within a few months a ferocious economic depression was about to sweep through the UK, and GMS would face testing times.
CH was Managing Director at GMS for some of the most difficult times in the company’s history. In the great depression of the early 1930s, he managed to keep the company afloat, battling severe financial agonies in Britain and income restricted by the still unrepealed Rent Act.
While all around it, factories and businesses closed by the score, GMS maintained its equilibrium because of a little luck and a good chunk of expertise. Among its properties were many commercial premises where the rent restrictions were not as severe as those on domestic properties that had been fixed back in 1914. Also, many of the grand mansions in the Bayswater area had by now been turned into flats, providing more income.
In fact, despite chaos and confusion in the city and country, the withdrawal of gold from Britain by foreign investors, and unemployment that jumped from one million to two and a half million in one year, GMS quietly went ahead with its business and waited for the better times to arrive.