Home Lords Saints Places People Contact

Charles Swain

Charles circa 1833 by William Bradley

With credits to Alan Jennings on Facebook

Charles was born on the 4th January 1803 in Every Street, Manchester to John Swain and his wife Caroline, daughter of Dr. Daniel Nünes de Tavarez. He 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.

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).]

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 was also partnering with George Horrocks as Horrcks & Swain machine makers also of Canal Street. However in March 1827 the partnership as machine makers was dissolved.

Fennel Street was very close to Poet's Corner (The Sun Inn) on Long Mill Gate, where all the literary of the neoghbourhood would meet, and the first offical 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

Read more about the Tavaré family 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 Portait 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.

In 1835, Charles Swain's Uncle, Charles Tavaré died, aged 63. He was buried at St Mary's in Manchester, now titled Parsonage Gardens, alongside Charles Swain's, Mother Caroline (d: 1827). Also with her lay their son Charles Tavare Swain and her brother-in-law Henry Edward Swain.]

Charles Swain had inscribed on his unlce's headstone:

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

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.

Swain also wrote a full-length poem as an epitaph for 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 Horsefields 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.


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


The census of 1861, showed Charles, Ann & three daughters Alice & Clara and Ada living in Prestwich Park, with two servants, and also showed Anne's birthplace as Liverpool. By the census of 1871, Ada had married Charles Martin Gibson a Barrister at Law, Regents Park, London, and moved out.

Charles Swain's last verse was released in 1867, and in 1874 Charles died aged 71 at Carnethie on the 22nd September, as a result of an epileptic fit, Anne died 4 years later. You can see the graves of both the Swain 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

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)

Donate to the upkeep of the St Mary's Churchyard

Your kind donation will go towards tools, or employing professional stone masons to reinstate stonework damaged by time, trees, animals or humans.

what's that all about?

Take a tour of St Mary's Graveyard