Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (24/Apr/1882) - Death of Frederic Swann, Esq.
Death of Frederic Swann, Esq.
The surviving earlier readers of this journal will, with ourselves, unite in sympathy with the family of the late Frederic Schwann, Esq., on the demise of so worthy a citizen of Huddersfield in its past history of progress : This sorrowful event occurred at his residence, Gloucester Square, Hyde Park, London, on Saturday last, in the 84th year of his age. Mr. Schwann was a native of Frankfort-on-Maine. In about the year 1824 his brother, Sigismand, who had just established a business in Huddersfield, was killed by a fall from his horse, and Mr. Schwann (then travelling for him in Spain) had at once to take up his position, and assume the management of the business here. Unacquainted with the language, and having no personal knowledge of this country, the task was, of course, a very formidable one. He, however, was not a man to be daunted by difficulties. His indomitable perseverance enabled him speedily to acquire a competent knowledge of the English language, and likewise to grasp and retain all the necessary details of manufacturing and mercantile transactions. For seasonable aid and advice at this time he was (as he always cheerfully and gratefully acknowledged) much indebted to the late Mr. Ackroyd, of Halifax, whose friendly counsels were always at his command. Promptitude and energy characterised all his business proceedings, which starting with Huddersfield led to other and larger establishments in Bradford, Manchester, London, &c. Several of our leading foreign houses in Huddersfield have also had their origin in the business staff of his earlier time. He may be said to have originated the Huddersfield Mechanics' Institute by starting a Mutual Improvement Society and Library in his own warehouse, which emerged thence to Outcote Bank School, and became gradually one and the same as what we may perhaps still term the existing Institution. Mr. Schwann gave his assistance to other institutions, as well as the Mechanics', which he believed would form a lever to elevate society. When fully convinced of his duly in that respect he became a total abstainer, and was one of the early presidents of the Huddersfield Temperance Society and a vice-president of the British Temperance League. He was a man of considerable feeling, and had a deep regard for the real needs of the destitute. During the time of the severe Irish famine, multitudes of Irish men, women, and children came over to this country only to find their relations here nearly as poor as themselves, and in Huddersfield, along the walls of the old churchyard, scores of emaciated creatures lined the causeways. Mr. Schwann was foremost in seeing to their relief, personally enquiring into their circumstances, and regularly distributing aid to them with the assistance of his trusted employees. One room of the warehouse, at an appointed day of the week, presented for a time more the appearance of a Union Relieving Office than a merchant's place of business, such was Mr. Schwann's devotion to the rescue of those poor outcasts. He was a man of strong religious convictions, but was not by any means a strong sectarian. His religious views were those of the Lutheran persuasion, in which he was educated, but finding the old Unitarians coming nearest to his own personal views he united with them in worship in the chapel in Bath Buildings, which before that was known as the Hall of Science. Politically, Mr. Schwann was a Liberal, and a thorough Free Trader in the matter of the Repeal of the Corn Laws. He was one of the earliest to subscribe his £500 to the Anti-corn Law League at the first great meeting for its organisation in Manchester, and if we mistake not, the engraving of the leaders of that movement give his well-known figure a prominent place, along with Messrs. Villiers, Cobden, Bright, and others. He was most energetic in this cause, travelling with other adherents and advocates to Wakefield, and in other parts of the then West Riding by waggon, which was their conveyance, and platform for public out-door meetings — carrying with them that contrastive teaching the "Great loaf of Free Trade and the little loaf of Protection” on poles side by side. He was, as might be expected, after the triumph of Free Trade principles, one of the formost to encourage the erection in Huddersfield of a monument to Sir Robert Peel. He also went heart and soul in the promotion of the first International Exhibition in London, making vigorous speeches in the old Philosophical Hall and at other places in its support. The failing health of Mrs. Schwann led to his leaving Huddersfield for the South of England many years ago, since which time — after a few years in Hampshire — he has resided in London where, although his Huddersfield business had long ago passed into other hands, he has always cherished a very lively interest in the welfare of this town and neighbourhood, continuing his name, influence, and subscriptions long after he ceased to have any active connection with many of the institutions.