Webpage created: April 25, 2020
Webpage updated: April 25, 2020
SOLOMON STEPHENS (1864-1950)
Solomon Stephens was born in Plymouth on February 21st 1864, to Mr James Stephens, master baker, and his wife, the former Miss Elizabeth Northmore, whom he married at the Ancient Parish Church of Saint Andrew the Apostle on August 9th 1857. His parents were living in Westwell Street at that time, where his father, Mr Walter Pellow Stephens, was a cabinet maker.
In fact Solomon was his mother's second child to bear that name as her first Solomon, born in 1862, died on April 1st 1863 and was buried at the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Cemetery on April 5th 1863, aged just 15 months. Maybe that is why our Solomon was not baptised until November 11th 1885, the ceremony being carried out at Charles Church. This was clearly to enable him to marry Miss Louisa Scanes, the daughter of a pork butcher, at Ide Parish Church, Devon, on April 27th 1886. Curiously he gave his occupation as 'confectioner' rather than baker.
Solomon followed his father's trade and in 1901 had his business at number 55 Ebrington Street. By that time Louisa had presented him with three sons and four daughters. The household also had three servants.
James Stephens died on January 25th 1905.
In 1901 Solomon entered local politics by standing as a Liberal for a seat in Charles Ward. He was defeated by 30 votes. However, the following year he succeeded Mr Jonathan Marshall in that Ward and continued to represent it until the end of the Great War. After an absence of twelve months he was once again elected to the Council, this time for Laira Ward.
Mr Stephens was chosen to be Mayor of Plymouth in 1922 and held the office until 1924, when he stood, unsuccessfully, as a Parliamentary candidate for the Drake Division. He was elevated to Alderman in 1926 in succession to Sir Thomas Baker (1859-1926).
He lost his first wife, Louisa, on February 16th 1929, at the age of 65 years. After a packed funeral service at the Wesley Methodist Chapel in Ebrington Street on February 20th 1929, she was laid to rest at Efford Cemetery. In October 1931 Mr Stephens married a Scottish widow, Mrs Mary Scott, of Daviot, Aberdeenshire, at Kingston, Surrey. Mrs Scott was very well known in Glasgow as the lady who made it possible for the poorer working-class women of the City to afford flowers for their homes. Her first shop in Great Hamilton Street, Glasgow, attracted crowds of women eager to view her flower displays and the flowers themselves were sold at prices that were well within the working woman's purse. They even bought flowers for weddings and funerals, something not known in the working-class districts before.
The Minister of Agriculture appointed him in 1935 to the Wheat Commission to represent bakers all over the country and he was among those who advised the Ministry of Food on bread production during the Second World War.
In 1937 he was elected as Lord Mayor of Plymouth and during his term of office he greeted HM Queen Mary when she visited the City and Count Grandi, the Italian Ambassador, when he paid a flying visit to inspect the Italian Naval training ships "Vespucci" and "Columbo". Upon the extension of the City boundary Mr Stephens presented the Council with a replica of the famous Warwick vase in commemoration of the event.
During his eventful life he helped found the South Devon and Cornwall Master Bakers' Federation and for many years was president of the Plymouth Master Bakers' Federation. He was at one time president of the National Association of Master Bakers and Confectioners and chairman of their Parliamentary Committee. He retired from that office in 1943 after 31 years service and was entertained to dinner at the Dorchester Hotel, in London. In addition, Mr Stephens was a Justice of the Peace and one-time chairman of the Plymouth Incorporated Mercantile Association. He became leader of the Liberal Party on Plymouth City Council until he retired in 1949. He had served for 46 years.
Mr Solomon Stephens died during the night of Friday October 20th 1950, at the age of 86 years. After a well-attended funeral service at the Plymouth Methodist Central Hall, he was laid to rest at Efford Cemetery on October 24th 1950.