OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 14, 2021
Webpage updated: August 21, 2022

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WHO WAS WHO IN OLD DEVONPORT

JAMES CLIFFORD TOZER (1889-1970)

Alderman Sir Clifford Tozer JP when serving as Lord Mayor of Plymouth, 1952-53.

Mr James Clifford Tozer was born on Monday October 21st 1889 to Mr James Clarke Tozer (1860-1923) and his wife, the former Miss Henrietta Matthews.  His father was the founder of Messrs J C Tozer Limited, the Devonport drapers and house furnishers, in 1887.

Young James was educated at Mr Alonzo John Rider's School, the forerunner of Devonport High School for Boys, and then attended Sherborne College, where he gained his rugby colours.  At the age of 23 years he was elected as a councillor for the Stoke Ward on Devonport Borough Council.  The family were living at Stoke House at that time.  When the Great War broke out in 1914 he joined the Inns of Court Officers' Training Corps and served throughout the War until he was demobbed in 1919 with the rank of Major.  He was mentioned in despatches on several occasions.

He lost his younger brother, Mr Horace Gordon Tozer on October 1st 1915.  He was serving with the Yorkshire Regiment in France and is commemorated at the Loos War Memorial at Loos-en-Gohelle, near Lens, France.

Mr James Clifford Tozer married Miss Gwendoline Mary Shannon, the daughter of a tailor in Fore Street, at the Ancient Parish Church of Stoke Damerel on Wednesday January 3rd 1918.

Devonport had by now been amalgamated with Plymouth and so it was to Plymouth Borough Council that he was elected as a councillor in 1921.

On May 15th 1923 Mr James Clarke Tozer (1860-1923) passed away while he was on a business strip to London and James now took control of his father's business.

During 1923 he became the chairman of the Devonport Conservative Association, which later became known as the Devonport Conservative and National Liberal Association.  At the same time he was a prominent member, and later chairman, of the Devonport Mercantile Association and a member of the executive committee of the Drapers' Chamber of Trade.

Mr Tozer was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1929 and served as Mayor of Plymouth for 1930-31.

By 1935 the business occupied 300 feet of continuous window frontage extending over Fore Street (numbers 34, 35, 36 37, 84, 85, and 86), Tavistock Street (numbers 4, 5, 24 and 25), Marlborough Street and Princes Street (numbers 65, 66, 67, 68, 69 and 70).  In that same year Mr Tozer was chosen to become one of the new 15-man Board of Directors of Plymouth Argyle Football Club and three years later he succeeded Mr Clarence Spooner as chairman.  In 1937 he was selected to become an Alderman of the City Council and on Thursday July 13th 1939 he was knighted by the King at Saint James's Palace for his public and political services in Plymouth.

During the night of Monday April 21st 1941 the family lost their business premises in Fore Street, and their home in Penlee Gardens.  They at first moved to Plympton but then found a permanent home at Dalgeny Villas, Crownhill.  However, within just one week Tozer's resumed trading was in Marlborough Street (numbers 18, 20,25 and 27) and also opened a shop on Mutley Plain.  By 1942 there were branches at number 25 Tavistock Road, Plymouth, as well as at Tavistock and Torpoint.

Lady Gwendoline Mary Tozer when serving as Lady Mayoress of Plymouth, 1952-53.

Lady Tozer played a valuable part at the War Aid Depot while Mr James Alfred Gerald Tozer joined the forces and Miss Jean Mary Tozer gained a commission in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

On the afternoon of Monday September 8th 1952 Alderman Sir James Clifford Tozer, chairman of Plymouth's Reconstruction Committee, was honoured with the Freedom  of the City at the Methodist Central Hall in Saltash Street.  The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman H E Wright, made the presentation.

Sir Clifford Tozer served as Lord Mayor of Plymouth in 1953-54.

The branches of Messrs J C Tozer Limited in Tavistock Road, Plymouth, and Marlborough Street, Devonport, closed on Saturday September 12th 1959 and a new store at numbers 96, 97, 98, 99, 100 New George Street opened on Thursday September 17th 1959.  Built of brick and with a glass frontage, the three-storey building could be entered through the newly-opened Plymouth Pannier Market.  The store had twenty departments within its 16,800 square feet of floor space.  Household drapery, soft furnishings, and clothing for men and women were on the ground floor, part of which was arranged for self-service.  On the first floor were furniture, rugs carpets, other floor coverings, divans, mattresses and the latest hardware novelties.  The staff rest room, stock rooms, offices and customer's toilets were on the second floor.  The official opening was performed by 88-years-old Mrs Rosie Hammond, who had served the Company for 64 years and was one of six past and present employees who had a combined service of more than 250 years.  Sir Clifford Tozer was what they called the governing director and his son, Mr James Alfred Gerald Tozer, was merchandise director.

After serving for 46 years on Plymouth Borough and City Council, thirty of them as Alderman, Sir James Clifford Tozer retired from local government in 1967.

After more than eighty years of trading the end came rather swiftly for Messrs J C Tozer Limited.  It began on Monday June 8th 1970 when Sir James Clifford Tozer passed away at his home, 4 Delgany Villas, Crownhill, Plymouth.  At that time he was the last Freeman of the City of Plymouth except for His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor.

The funeral service was held at the Ancient Parish Church of Saint Andrew on Thursday June 11th 1970.  The service was conducted by the Vicar of Saint Andrew's and Rural Dean, Prebendary John K Cavell, who said of Alderman Tozer:'He was a good man, a man of dignity, unassuming manner, charm, kindness and generous nature, yet with a strong, forceful though never overbearing personality.  He was a man who lived a full life and who had the full enjoyment of a whole life and was greatly respected by all.  Sir Clifford gave a magnificent period of service to Plymouth, for the good of Plymouth and its citizens was his abiding concern'.

In addition to the family members, the Service was attended by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Plymouth, Mr & Mrs Eric Nuttall; the Deputy Lord Mayor, Mr W Ainsworth; the Town Clerk, Mr S Lloyd-Jones; Lord Roborough, the Lord-Lieutenant of Devon; the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe; Mr Gerald Whitmarsh, chairman of Devon County Council; Alderman K G Foster, chairman of Cornwall County Council; and representatives from the armed services, the local newspapers, the Devonport High School Old Boys' Association, Plymouth Argyle Football Club; and innumerable businesses and clubs.

Sir Clifford's body was then cremated at Weston Mill Crematorium.

Then on Friday April 30th 1971 came the announcement that Messrs J C Tozer Limited in New George Street was to cease trading on Saturday May 29th 1971.  Mr James Alfred Gerald Tozer was at that time the chairman and managing director.  He had served his apprenticeship with Messrs Jones and Higgins in Peckham, London, and joined his father's business at the age of 20 years.  Mr Tozer became the merchandise controller and a director, eventually becoming governing director upon the death of his father. 

Lady Gwendoline Mary Tozer died at 4 Delgany Villas, Crownhill, Plymouth, on Saturday February 10th 1979.  She was a founder member of the Devonport Conservative Ladies Luncheon Club and a former president of the Guildhall Working League.  She was survived by their two children, Mr James Alfred Gerald Tozer and Miss Jean Tozer.