Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 20, 2016.
Webpage updated: March 20, 2016

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Mr James Clifford Tozer was born on Monday October 21st 1889 to Mr James Clarke Tozer and his wife, the former Miss Henrietta Matthews.  His father was the founder of Messrs J C Tozer Ltd, the Devonport drapers and house furnishers.

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 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.  In 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.

In 1935 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 Second World War 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.  Their only son, Mr James Alfred George Tozer joined the forces and their only daughter, Miss Jean Tozer, gained a commission in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).  Lady Tozer played a valuable part on the War Aid Depot.

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 served as Lord Mayor of Plymouth in 1953-54, having already been Mayor in 1930.

It was in 1967 that Alderman Tozer retired from the Council, after serving 46 years on the Council and 30 of them as Alderman.

Sir James Clifford Tozer passed away on Monday June 8th 1970.  At that time he was the last Freeman of Plymouth except for HRH 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

Lady Gwendoline Mary Tozer died at 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 George Tozer and Miss Jean Tozer.