From a fine old Cornish family, descended from Sir Warwick Moorshead, whose crest denotes honourable participation in the Wars of the Crusades, Charles Moorshead came to Portsmouth in January 1858. He arrived aged just 19 years and secured for himself a post with the druggist Charles Woolven at 108 High Street, Portsmouth where he lived for the rest of his life. Charles showed an interest in political matters from almost the moment he arrived in Portsmouth and he employed it to significant effect on behalf of the conservatives for many years. Some 60 years later the Hampshire Telegraph used his anecdotes and memories to tell of a political world which by the 1920s had almost entirely vanished.
One incident concerned the 1859 parliamentary election and the efforts to secure the return of the conservative Member for Portsmouth Sir James Elphinstone who had succeeded two years earlier in overturning a hundred years of tradition during which the borough had been represented in Parliament by the Liberals. The role played by Charles Moorshead was as an agitator whose objective was to undermine the influence of the opposition at the hustings. This would not have been difficult in 1859 when the hustings were erected in St. George's Square and the candidates and their proposers would speak to large, often boisterous, crowds. In this instance the Liberal candidate was Sir Francis Baring and he was proposed by former Mayor, George Sheppard.
According to Moorshead his means of disruption came in the form of a 'lusty throated man' whom he positioned directly in front of Sheppard with specific instructions which the Hampshire Telegraph found 'amusing'. The newspaper went on to describe Sheppard's speech - "Gentlemen, I have the very great honour to propose (Lusty voice: 'A pair of boots') a gentleman whom you know to be a fit (Voice: 'Pair of boots'). Sir Francis Baring has (Voice: 'A pair Of boots') proved himself worthy of (Voice 'A pair of boots') and I feel sure that you will give him (Voice: 'A pair of boots'). The assembly was so convulsed with laughter that proceedings were halted"
Although this was a fairly mild example of political intrigue in mid 19C England it is helpful to bear in mind that this was a period when political corruption of all types was the norm and Moorshead illustrates this with another anecdote which depended for it's potency on the fact that there was no secret ballot at the time. It would have been a simple matter to stand at the Polling Station and watch how each elector cast their votes. This created an atmosphere in which electors could easily be persuaded to vote for the right candidate, their subsequent actions being plain for all to see.
In this instance Moorshead rounded up a crowd of electors from Point, many of whom would have been encouraged to register as electors by their landlords who would also expect them to vote according to the latters wishes. Moorshead encouraged them to vote for Elphinstone though he does not mention whether he did so by means of bribery or coercion, but when they flooded the polling station at the Old Bank in St. Thomas's Street they forgot for whom they were supposed to be voting. On seeing this Moorshead simply shouted "Three cheers for Elphinstone" and the men took their cue.
On the 9th June 1864 Charles married Emma Jane Gravenor. Together they were to raise their family at 108 High Street, a location that was secured the following year when Charles was made a partner in the chemists business with Charles Woolven. In the same year their first child Charles was born whilst Emma gave birth to their first daughter, also called Emma, on 11th February 1867 less than a year after Charles had been elected to his first political position as Overseer on 31st March 1866. On 16th April 1869 the partnership with Charles Woolven was dissolved, leaving Charles Moorshead the sole proprietor of the business which continued to trade as Moorshead and Woolven for a few years before the name of Woolven was dropped for ever.
The census of 1871 recorded Charles and Emma at 108 High street with four children Charles (6), Emma (4), John (1) and Herbert (u/1). Within a few weeks of the census the Hampshire Telegraph was reporting the death of daughter Emma on 19th June 1871. In November the following year the newspaper displayed an advert which indicated that Moorshead the chemist had opened a second shop at 23 The Hard.
By 1873 Charles Moorshead had reached the age of 35 which he must have considered was old enough to put himself forward in the election for Borough Councillor and on 29th October he was elected to represent the Ward of St. Thomas. At the first meeting of the new council he was appointed to the Camber and Finance committees. He remained a staunch supporter of the development of the Camber till his final days.
In August the following year an incident occurred which threw a strange light on Charles Moorshead's approach to politics. The company that owned the Southsea Pier, who considered their facilities were solely for the use of the gentry, built a barricade across the beach so ensuring that their clients would not have to view the general populace, the male members of which frequently bathed naked, from the Pier. This so incensed the locals that, led by Councillors Moah Jepps and Barney Miller, they vowed to tear the offensive structure down. This they achieved but in the course of events the Riot Act had to be read in order to disperse the crowd.
The name of Charles Moorshead does not appear in any article in the Hampshire Telegraph that dealt with the affair but in Portsmouth Paper No. 34, "The Battle of Southsea" the author reported that Moorshead was as complicit as Jepps and Miller, the three being referred to as the "Generals of Division". The surprising element to this is that Jepps and Miller were known as the most extreme of the radicals on the Borough Council and were not therefore natural bedfellows for Moorshead, a dyed in the wool Tory. Seemingly in this instance the principle outweighed political allegiance.
Moorshead was not required to submit himself for re-election in the two years after 1873, but when in 1876 he did so, he lost his seat. We do not know whether this was an after effect of the Battle of Southsea. Undaunted he put his name forward for the 1877 election and was once again elected to represent the Ward of St. Thomas. History repeated itself somewhat when Charles Moorshead stood for re-election in 1880 and lost his seat only to be re-elected the following year, but this time for the ward of St. Matthew. In 1884 he placed his name before the electorate again but not for St. Matthews. He was attempting to regain his seat in the Ward of St. Thomas but was soundly beaten by his erstwhile colleague from the Battle of Southsea, Moah Jepps. He did not stand for election again so ending his time as an elected official at the surpringly early age of 44 years.
Meanwhile, in the 1881 Census Charles Moorshead declared himself and Emma as the parents of Charles (16), John (11), Herbert (10), Lilian (8), Walter (7), Ada (5) and Helen (2). Although his days as a politician were now over, he retained a lifelong interest in political matters, though to some extent they took a back seat to his many other interests. Chief amongst these was his membership of the vestry of St. Thomas's Church, the Victoria Pier Company and the Protestant Institute, but that still left him plenty of time to indulge in his passion for antiquarian pursuits and sports of all types.
He was a member of the Hampshire Cricket Club, and hunted with the Hambledon Hounds for many years but was perhaps best known for his support of the United Services' Rugby team, it being said that he probably had not missed a match for thirty years. Mr. Moorshead was, indeed, well-known to several generations of Service athletes, among whom he was familiarly termed "The Doctor," by reason of the fact that he was always on the spot to attend upon those who were unfortunate enough to be hurt in the course of their strenuous games.
From the mid 1880s onwards the name of Moorshead, when it occurred in the Hampshire Telegraph, more often referred to his children than himself, the girls for their academic prowess and the boys for their regular promotion through the naval ranks.
Charles Moorshead died at the Green row rooms in November 1922. He had just made a speech in proposing a vote of confidence in the election candidate Major HR Cayzer, when after resuming his seat he was seen to sway and fall to the ground. He passed away before a doctor could be summoned. He left four sons and three daughters to mourn his death. His sons were Dr. C. W. Moorshead, of Manchester, Engineer-Admiral Herbert B. Moorshead, C.B.E., Engineer Captain John E. Moorshead, and Paymaster-Commander W. Moorshead
The remains of the late Mr. Charles Moorshead were laid to rest at Highland-road Cemetery. The Hampshire Telegraph reported that "The loss of this old and respected tradesman has been keenly felt in Old Portsmouth, and many townsmen and friends attended the funeral service which was held at noon in St. Thomas's Church."
Portsmouth Paper No. 34
Electoral Roll and Lists of Councillors
Additional material from Carole Carrell