Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 28, 2018
Webpage updated: March 28, 2018




William Henry Alger was born on March 14th 1836, the son of Mr John Alger, one of the leading merchants of Plymouth.

He was trained for a business career at the Independent College at Taunton, Somerset, and on completion of his studies joined the firm of Messrs Burnard, Lack & Company, manufacturers of chemical fertilisers.  They were at that time based near Phoenix Wharf, on the Barbican, but later had an extensive factory in Sutton Road, Coxside.

He worked hard and learned the business, gaining responsibility and authority.  In due course he became a partner in the business, when it became Messrs Burnard, Lack & Alger Ltd. 

On October 10th 1865 he married Miss Edith Elizabeth Wills, daughter of Mr Joseph Wills, at Plymouth's Saint Andrew's Church.

Following the sudden death of Mr John Williams Lack on Saturday November 2nd 1872 at the young age of 51 years, the business became Messrs Burnard and Alger Ltd.

Although he was not a member of the Town Council, the Corporation elected him Mayor of Plymouth in 1885-86.  He had a very busy term of office, chairing several important public meetings (one of which formed a Society for the Promotion of Social Purity), a fund raising meeting to provide help for those left destitute by the great fire in Looe Street in which twelve people died, and presided over no fewer than three parliamentary elections in the twelve months.  He also provided, largely at his own personal expense, a banquet for between 120 and 130 distinguished Indian and Colonial guests who were in the country to visit the Great Exhibition at South Kensington.  After the banquet, on Monday July 26th 1886, the guests were taken on tours of the Government and military establishments, including the Breakwater.  In the September he entertained the King of Portugal.

In the meantime the business of Messrs Burnard and Alger was transferred to Cattedown, where, under the authority of the Cattewater Wharves Act 1887, they constructed extensive deep water wharves fully equipped with warehouses and the most modern machinery.  Twice the partnership was forced to enter into litigation with the Plymouth Town Council when plans were put forward that would interfere with their rights, opposing both the Cattewater Extension Bill and the Cattewater Wharves Scheme part of the Plymouth Corporation Act 1905.

Thanks to the success of his year as Mayor he was asked to stand for a second term and this was every bit as grand as the first one had been, including a visit from HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII).  When finally he stood down, on November 9th 1887, the Council passed a special resolution of thanks.

He was honorary treasurer of the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital for 21 years as well as being a member of the Cattewater Board of Commissioners, a Commissioner of Income Tax and, of course, a Justice of the Peace.

Mr William Henry Alger died at his home, number 8 The Esplanade, on the morning of Wednesday February 21st 1912, following a year-long illness.  The funeral took place at Saint Andrew's Church on Saturday February 24th 1912.  It was arranged by Mr Bates of Messrs Popham's.  He was survived by his widow, two out of his three sons, Mr Harold Alger, who was a director of the business, and Mr Archibald Alger, and two daughters; Ethel, the wife of Colonel Arthur Henry Bagnold, CB, of the Royal Engineers, and Edith, the wife of Colonel Charles Cecil Daniel, of the Royal Scots.