Eulalie Catherine ROCCA Françoise Marie Celestine COLOMBERO Mini tree diagram

Luigi Giovan Maria ROCCA

23rd Jan 1869 - 10th Feb 1938

Life History

23rd Jan 1869

Born in San Carlo, Poschiavo, Switzerland.

19th Apr 1903

Married Françoise Marie Celestine COLOMBERO in Peterborough?

5th Apr 1904

Birth of daughter Eulalie Catherine ROCCA in Peterborough, Northants

10th Feb 1938

Died in Leek, Staffordshire, England.


  • Luigi Rocca's family came from Oga, a village near Bormio in the Alta Valtellina, Italy, but his parents lived in San Carlo, Poschiavo where he was born. He was baptised by Don Tomaso Lanfranchi and his Godparents were Luigi Maria Marchesi and Maria Lanfranchi-Giuliani. He derived his Italian nationality from his father, as was the practice then, although he became a naturalised British subject on 9th July 1921. It has been said that the surname was first registered in Como in 1296. Both Oga and San Carlo were poor in those days and most families were engaged in subsistence farming.

    Louis, as he became known in England, came to Broadstairs, England, at the age of about 15 and worked for 5 years without pay to learn the trade of confectioner and pastrycook. In the 1891 Census, he was living and working at 48 Preston Street, Brighton for Hans Semadeni, who helped many young Poschiavini to come to England. He also went to Margate to work for Luigi Longhi. Louis later moved to London to Hatchett's, Gatti's, and Odoni's opposite Victoria Station. He also worked in Bournemouth during these early years in England and it would have been common for a young man to work the season in various places to gain experience. Around this time, Giuseppe and Teresin Marchesi-Lardi opened their Swiss Café at 5 George Row, in Market Square, Northampton and Louis was employed as the cook. Giuseppe was the eldest son of Federico Marchesi who had established a bakery and then a restaurant in Broadstairs in 1886. Louis probably met his future wife Celesta Colombero when he worked at Broadstairs or Margate or Peterborough and they were married in All Souls Church, Peterborough, by Canon Dudley Carey-Elwes.

    They established the Swiss Café in Narrow Street, Peterborough, next to the Maypole Grocery Shop (see photograph ca 1902) and lived above the restaurant in spacious accommodation. They had to work very hard to establish the business, and were helped by Nina, Louis' sister and by Giovanni, his youngest brother who specialised in pastries. Louis became a respected member of the Peterborough business community, and his business was helped by the fact that people knew him through Giuseppe Marchesi's restaurant in Northampton. We have a photograph of Louis wearing the collar of the Independent Order of Buffalo's. We also have his passport issued on 17 September 1921, which describes him as 5ft 6" tall with brown eyes and black hair, turning grey. We can see from the passport, that he frequently visited Poschiavo, a much longer and more difficult journey in those days. In all his photographs he is smartly dressed and his neat and firm signature suggests that he maintained these standards in his business activities. We have his book in which he meticulously recorded his recipes. He helped his sister Nina and brothers Pietro and Giovanni come to England, and they all established restaurants near London. He was a generous man, for his daughter Vera told us that he often gave bread to people in the very poor part of Peterborough.

    Louis and Celesta moved from Peterborough to a shop in Clapham, London, then in 1929, to 136 High Street, Tonbridge and finally Leek in Staffordshire. There, they purchased Robinson's, a restaurant with a patisserie on the ground floor. Local workers bought meat pies for their lunches, at this shop.

    Louis died in Newcastle-under-Lyme, but is buried in Tonbridge, Kent.

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