OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: December 17, 2017.
Webpage updated: December 17, 2017

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WHO WAS WHO IN OLD DEVONPORT

ALFRED HENRY SWISS (1852-1928)

Alfred Henry Swiss was born at Woolwich, Kent, in 1852, the fourth son of Mr William Swiss and the former Miss Emma Cox, who had married at the Anglican Church of Saint John the Baptist, Bedminster, Bristol, Somerset, on May 15th 1836.  At the time of the census in 1861, he was a scholar and the family were living at 1 Little George Street, Woolwich, Kent.  His father was an engine fitter in Woolwich Dockyard.  His three older brothers were all working.

He was the first of the Swiss family to settle at Devonport.  He was shown in the 1871 census as lodging at 1 Clarence Place, with William and Mary Ponton, an engine driver in a factory, possibly "the factory" in the Keyham Steam Yard.  Alfred was an iron founder at that time, also, presumably, in the Steam Yard.

Between 1871 and 1881 Alfred Swiss became a Master Printer, Stationer and Book Binder, acquiring the bookselling and stationery business of Mr Edward Couch, at 112 Fore Street.  On June 22nd 1875 he married Miss Elizabeth Margaret Pyke at Stoke Damerel Parish Church.  He and his wife and two children, Florence and Henry, lived at number 3 Berkeley Cottages, Stoke, in 1881.  Between 1880 and 1882 he acquired number 111 Fore Street.

Thus by 1881 Mr William George Swiss was a printer, stationer and bookbinder at 3 Tavistock Street and Mr Alfred Henry Swiss was a printer, stationer and bookseller at 111 and 112 Fore Street.  The bookshop was at number 111 and while stationery, fancy goods and photographs were sold at number 112.  The offices and printing works were at the rear of 111, where the printing machines were driven by a 4-horse-power gas engine.  He was said to have been employing fifty assistants.  The 1891 census shows that Alfred's family, then living at 6 Tamar Terrace, Stoke, had grown to consist of Florence K Swiss, 15; Henry S Swiss, 12; Walter E Swiss, 9; Ethel M Swiss, 7; Fredrick A Swiss, 4; Elsie M Swiss, 3; and newly-born Arthur H Swiss.  Luckily his wife had three domestic servants to help her: Alice Linscott, Louisa Chapman and Nora Sparkes.  Both Florence and Henry were old enough to assist in their father's business but the census does not indicate that they so employed.

Mr Swiss filed for bankruptcy in 1897 due to having borrowed money from a notorious money lender named Mr Gordon at an unaffordable rate of interest.  After extricating himself from that problem he was declared bankrupt again in 1900, when he was ordered by the Plymouth and East Stonehouse Bankruptcy Court to pay his creditors 8s 6d in the 1.  In 1901 the business had a new name, Messrs Swiss and Company, printers to HM Stationery Office, stationers (retail), booksellers, insurance agents, map publishers and relief stampers.

Alfred Henry Swiss became a commercial traveller in stationery but moved to 65 Chelverton Road, Putney, Wandsworth.  He died at Kingston, Surrey, in 1928 and his wife, Mrs Elizabeth Margaret Swiss, passed away in Wandsworth in 1944.