Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 29, 2017.
Webpage updated: October 29, 2017

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The founder of the Plymouth Business House of Messrs J C Tozer was Mr James Clark Tozer.  Born in 1860, he was the only child of Mr James Thomas Solomon Tozer, a licensed victualler, and his wife, formerly Miss Susan Beer Clark, whom he had married at Plymouth's Saint Andrew's Church on April 26th 1859.  She died at or soon after the birth.

At the time of the census in 1871 father and son, then 11-years-old, were living at West Ham Terrace, in the parish of Pennycross.  24-years-old Miss Ellen Strongman was their domestic servant.

It was claimed in 1959 that the business commenced on Friday May 13th 1887 in a small shop at number 84 Fore Street, Devonport, and that the first day's takings were 13.  However, this may have been a publicity gimmick because their first advert was in fact published in the Western Morning News on the morning of Thursday May 12th 1887 and the wording stated that: 'J C Tozer, drapery, millinery and mourning warehouse, is at The Tram Terminus, Devonport', implying that it was either already open or was opening that day.  The next advert appeared on the Saturday morning.

Even in those opening adverts Mr Tozer used the abbreviation for which he was to become well-known: SPQR - 'Small Profits, Quick Returns".

Less than a year later, at the beginning of 1888, Mr James Clark Tozer married Miss Henrietta Matthews at Saint German's, in Cornwall.

Their first child, and eldest son, James Clifford Tozer, was born October 21st 1889.  He was followed in 1894 by Miss Dorothy May Tozer and in 1895 by Horace Gordon Tozer.

So successful was the enterprise that in 1902 Mr Tozer was selected to be Mayor of Devonport.

Major James Clifford Tozer, who had served in the Inns of Court Officers' Training Corps during the Great War, married Miss Gwendoline Mary Shannon at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on January 3rd 1918.

By 1935 there was 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).

The entire store and stock were destroyed on Monday April 21st 1941, during the Devonport Blitz.

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.

In addition to losing their business premises the family also lost their home at Penlee Gardens, Stoke.  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.

The branches 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.

88-years-old Mrs Rosie Hammond performed the opening ceremony.  She 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 George Tozer, was merchandise director.

After more then eighty years of trading the end came rather swiftly for Messrs J C Tozer's Ltd.  On Monday June 8th 1970 Sir James Clifford Tozer passed away at his home, Delgany, Crownhill.  On Friday April 30th 1971 the announcement came that the business was to cease trading on Saturday May 29th 1971.