Fred Tozer – A Determined Boscombe Schoolboy

The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)
The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)

Frederick William Tozer was born on 28th June 1885 in Liskeard, Cornwall, the third son of George Tozer, Superintendent of a Life Insurance Agent and his wife Ellen, who were originally from Plympton in Devon. George’s occupation was Superintendent of a Life Insurance Agent. Shortly after Fred was born, his family moved to Bournemouth and, on 5th April 1891 when the census was taken, they were living at No.1 Eaton Villas in Christchurch Road. Fred, then aged 5, was recorded in the census as a Scholar, as were his two elder brothers Ernest, aged 9, and Walter, aged 7, and his younger brother, Claude, aged 4. However, he was probably not attending the Boscombe British School at this time.

Boscombe British Schools Log Book Entries for June 1893 (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)
Boscombe British Schools Log Book Entries for June 1893 (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)

On 15th June 1893, when Fred was 7 years old, the Log Book of Boscombe British Schools recorded that “a little boy named Fred Tozer had been brought to school some time ago by his brother”. The Headmaster, William Jones, initially put Fred into Standard II and asked the class teacher, Miss Tickner, to report back after a few days on what he could do. After being assessed by both Miss Tickner and Mr Jones, Fred was found to be “backward in Reading and Spelling” and he was told he would have to go down to Standard I.

Some of the boys at Boscombe British Schools in the 1890s (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)
Some of the boys at Boscombe British Schools in the 1890s (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)

Young Fred became very upset; he cried and “declined to go”. Mr Jones asked his brother to leave him at the Infants’ School; however, Fred was determined and continued to turn up at his usual desk in Miss Tickner’s class. Mr Jones told him once again to go down to the lower class, but Fred cried so much and promised to be such a good boy that Mr Jones told the teacher to “enter his name on the Register and let him remain”.

The Sailor's Rest, Fowey, Cornwall
The Sailor’s Rest, Fowey, Cornwall

In 1901, Fred and his elder brothers were still living with their parents at 1 Eaton Villas. Ernest, aged 19,  was working as a “Chemist’s Shopman”and Walter, aged 17, was a “Chemist’s Apprentice” but no occupation was entered for Fred himself, now aged 15. However, by 2nd April 1911, Fred had become a “Mariner/Mercantile”. In the census of that date, he was a boarder at the Sailor’s Rest in Fowey, Cornwall; he was aged 25 and single.

Fast forward to September 1939 and we find Fred, aged 54 and still a “Merchant Seaman”, living with his wife, Ethel, at 29 London Fields West Side in Hackney. However, after all his seafaring, it turns out that in his later years, Fred returned to Bournemouth, where he died, aged 83 at the end of 1968.

Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)
Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

Read more about The Old School House here and read other blog posts hereContact Steph Woods to commission a History of your House or Family: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated then leather-bound. Also, do check out Co-Working at The Old School House; also the Bournemouth 2026 Trust and the present-day charitable work of the BFSS.

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