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Charles Swain

Charles Swain (1801-1874 circa 1833 by William Bradley)

With credits to Alan Jennings on Facebook

Charles was born on the 4th January 1801 in Every Street, Manchester to John Swain and his wife Caroline, daughter of Dr. Daniel Nünes de Tavarez. Charles was baptised at St Ann's in Manchester, and was educated at a school run by Unitarian minister William Johns - with whom the physicist John Dalton tutored and lodged. Johns and Dalton were friends and joint secretaries of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society (founded in the Cross Street Chapel, Manchester).

[Although his grave stone records his birth year as 1803, the church registers records it as 1801]

Charles began work aged 15 as a clerk in a dyeworks, part owned by his uncle Charles Tavaré, an accomplished linguist. In January 1827 he married Ann Glover and the couple went on to have five daughters and a son of whom four daughters survived in to adulthood.

[Upto 1813 his Uncle, Charles Tavaré, had operated a Dye works in Pendleton, in partnership with Roger Smith. he also partnered with Andrew Burgess in Hulme, which is where Charles Tavaré lived. That year both these partnerships were dissolved, however he was still in partnership with George Horrocks, as Horrocks & Tavré (dyers bleachers and finishers) of Factory street (1818-1820). The Nünes Tavaré line originates in the Portuguese Israelite Religious Community for Sephardic Jews in the Netherlands. Sephardic Jews have been living in the Netherlands since the 16th century with the forced relocation of Spanish but above all Portuguese Jews, from their home countries due to the Inquisition. Catherine, the sole surviving daughter of Charles (as of 1880) stated that her grandfather was "Nünes de Tavaez", but that the "de" was dropped by her father when he arrived in England.]

After 14 years, Swain left the dyeworks to become a bookseller, the venture did not last long and two years later he joined Lockett & Co a firm of engravers and lithographers in a workshop on Fennel Street in Manchester. Charles went on to buy the engraving department from the firm and to run it himself. Charles Swain and his unccle Charles Tavaré were both also partnering with George Horrocks as Horrocks & Swain machine makers also of Canal Street. However in March 1827 the partnership as machine makers was dissolved.

Poets Corner Then & Now

Fennel Street was very close to Poet's Corner (The Sun Inn) on Long Mill Gate, where all the literary of the neighbourhood would meet, and the first official meeting of the Literary Society took place there in 1842.

Swain dedicated his 1827 publication of "Metrical Essays on Subjects of History and Imagination" to his dear uncle Charles Tavaré. Charles Tavaré's son & grandson (both called Frederick) were artists.

The Sun Inn (Poet's Corner) 1874 by 1st Cousin once removed - Frederick L Tavare

Follow this link to read more about the Tavaré family of artists.

Print of a Lithograph of Deyne Hall/Rectory, by Charles Swain

[lithograph means "stone print" and works on the principal that oil and water do not mix. First used around 1798. The image is drawn in reverse on limestone(commonly) with greasy crayons. The stone is dampened with water. Then the stone is inked with a massive roller loaded with oily ink which adheres to the greasy areas of the design, but is repelled by the wet areas. The paper is then pressed to the stone and the ink is transferred to the paper.]

[Read more about the Old Deyne Hall]

Charles circa 1833-37[National Portrait Gallery]

Charle's most famous work was " The Mind" written in 1832 which he dedicated to his friend Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate.

Of Swain, Southey said:

"If ever a man was born to be a poet Swain was and if Manchester is not proud of him now, the time will come when she shall be"

Nathanial Hawthorn remarked that many of Swain's songs were household words in America and the dialect poet Ben Brierley described Swain as the Laureate of the North.

Charles Swain's Mother Caroline (d: 1827) and is buried at St Mary's Church in Manchester, now titled Parsonage Gardens. Also with her lay Charles Tavaré Swain (d: 1833 aged 5), the only son of Charles & Anne, and Henry Edward Swain (aged 1) brother of Charles Swain. Charles penned a poem in hour of his son's passing:

On the death of their son

In 1835, Charles Swain's Uncle, Charles Tavaré died, aged 63 and was also buried at St Mary's in Manchester.

Charles Swain had inscribed on his uncle's headstone:

If learning, talent, virtue claim a tear,
Long will thy worth be mourned and honoured here.

In 1838, the Manchester School of Design was opened (along with others around the country) to promote the art of design of textile fabrics, including both ornamental designs and those of human models. The school later decided that life classes had to be discontinued and its chief members formed the United Society of Manchester Artists, and ran classes of their own in an attic over Rose’s china shop, in King Street. Of which, W Brookes, R Crozier, F Tavaré, T Letherbrow (founder of The Letherbrow Club, a private literary and artistic society in Manchester), and a few others were the founding members.

F Tavaré with Messrs Crozier, Brooks & Letherbrow

The above photo shows these four artists in 1856, plus two others unnamed. I think that stood next to Tavaré, numbered 1, is actually his cousin, Charles Swain, the Manchester Poet (and also Lithographer). But the seated man (4) remains a mystery....

By 1845 Charles Swain had also become a member of the Cheetham Society, which had been founded in 1843, and he had the letters MRSL after his name, indicating he was a Member of the Royal Society of Literature.

A Violet In Her Hair

A violet in her lovely hair,
A rose upon her bosom fair!
But O, her eyes
A lovelier violet disclose,
And her ripe lips the sweetest rose
That's 'neath the skies.

The census of 1851 shows Charles and his wife living at Cheetwood Priory, which stood where the extension to HMP Manchester Strangeways stands now. He was listed as an Engraver and Printer (aged 48), Anne was aged 46 and they had 4 children: Isabella (20), Alice (17), Clara (14), and Ada (11), and they had two servants. Visiting them was Henrietta Dyhrenfurth, from Breslow in Germany.

1915 map, showing the locations of Frederick Tavaré's house on Bury New Road, and the Swain house (Cheetwood Priory).

Swain's house of 1851, Cheetwood Priory, painted by FL Tavaré (1920).

The above painting of Cheetwood Priory is dated to 1920, and is Frederick Tavaré's latest know painting. Perhaps Frederick was revisiting his childhood, when the family would have taken a short walk from their home on Bury New Road, to visit his father's cousin, Charles Swain. Even if that was so, Frederick was at least continuing his series of paintings that recorded the soon to be lost buildings of Manchester. The Priory was swallowed up shortly after, and demolished to make way for the expansion of the neighbouring brickworks.

[The Dyhrenfurth family were notable merchants, who lived at Derby Cottage in Cheetwood, along with the Behrens of Northumberland Street. Sir Jacob Behrens, had been born in 1787 in Hamburg, and became one of the wealthiest industrialists in Victorian Britain with a wealth of around £700,000 (£94m today). He supplied funding to help start up Owens College, a university focusing on science. Owens College would later grow to become England's first civic University, the University of Manchester. His Wife was Anna Lucas, the sister of Phillip Lucas who, along with his business partner and nephew Henry Micholls, is considered the first Jew to arrive in Manchester. The Behrens family are buried in their family vault in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prestwich.]

Swain also wrote a full-length poem as an epitaph on the gravestone of the famous Naturalist & Botanist, John Horsefield (d:1854), who also lies in St Mary's Churchyard :

Ye who behold God's works in Nature's ways
And find in flowers mute anthems to His praise
Who read the volume of eternal love
In seeds of earth as in the stars above
Here read a name whose fame shall long endure.
One of poor birth, but Gifted although poor:
God – unlike man – the humblest spirit lifts
Nor asks his wealth before He sends His gifts!
Where'er Botanic science could be learn'd
New links disclosed – new species yet discerned
Where'er by wood or lane or heath or hill
God op'ed the book that taught Botanic skill
There HORSEFIELD's foot from dawn to eve was seen
to learn – to teach – to be what he has been,
An honour to the soil that gave him birth:
Oh, may that spirit for whose loss we grieve
Our God accept – our Saviour Lord receive.

The above epitaph for John Horsefield is noted by English Heritage as an element of their rationale for listing Horsefield's tomb as a Grade II monument. Swain went on to become honorary professor of poetry at the Manchester Royal Institution, and wrote songs as well as lecturing on modern poets.

The blind boy dying (1847)

In respect of this poem, some snow drops have been planted on Charles's grave and can be seen in January/February each year.

Cheetwood Priory was soon to be swallowed up, demolished to make way for the expansion of the neighbouring brickworks, and the census of 1861 showed Charles and Ann with three daughters Alice, Clara and Ada living in Prestwich Park, with two servants. It also showed Anne's birthplace as Liverpool. Their daughter Isabella (born 1831) had married a Merchant, Thomas Gillespie Owen, at Prestwich St Mary's in 1858. By the census of 1871, their daughter Ada had married Charles Martin Gibson a Barrister at Law, Regents Park, London, and had moved out.


Swain's home "Carnethie" on Prestwich Park, now Prestwich Park Road South is the only house in Prestwich with a commemorative plaque. The house was bought for him by friends, who got the same architect that designed Prestwich Hospital to design his house in Prestwich Park. Isaac Holden, of Wellbank on Lowther Rd


Charles Swain was honorary professor of poetry at the Manchester Royal Institution, and in 1856 was granted a civil list pension.last verse was released in 1867, marking 40 years since his first publication, and in 1874 Charles died aged 71 at Carnethie on the 22nd September, as a result of an epileptic fit. He left less than £1,500 (£180,000 today) to Anne, and she died 4 years later. You can see the graves of both Charles Swain and his wife, and Mr Horsefield when you visit St Mary's church, as well as many other famous and interesting graves. Listen to the Tour

The grave of Charles Swain + snow drops

You will find a pebble that someone has placed on the cross that stands on the Swain grave plot. This is a Jewish tradition which shows that you have attended the grave. As the religion follows the maternal line, and Catherine was a Jew, it follows that Charles Swain was actually born a Jew, Though it is unknown if he adhered to the religion during his lifetime.

Other selected works:

"We Live in a Very Strange World"

"Take The World As It Is"
Further Works

To view the Swain/Tavaré family tree on Ancestry.co.uk. click here free account required)

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