Political Biographies of the Mayors of Portsmouth (1836-1900)

MAYORALTY:- November 9th 1893-1894. 1900-1901
PROFESSION:- Silversmith
WARD:- St Luke's
FIRST ELECTED ALDERMAN:- 27th December 1893.
RESIDENCE:- Goodwood House, St Edward's Road.
DECEASED:- February 24th 1909. aged 61.
BURIED:- Jewish section Kingston Cemetery.
In the C19th two members of the Hebrew faith filled the mayoral chair of the Borough. Both were called Emanuel - albeit they were not related. Shadowing his late father, Cllr Henry Michael Emanuel, (St George 1867) Abraham Emanuel became twice mayor of Portsmouth and was described by Gates as a "Broad minded and most liberal Jew. He gave generously to educational work, distributing every year a large number of watches to the most successful school children and his beneficence was perpetuated by a legacy bequeathed for this purpose." Man of energy Emanuel was also an anti-slum crusader and as first Chairman of the Health Committee did much work in this and other directions. "He well earned the epithet of 'The worthy Alderman." concluded Gates.
Emanuel was first returned to the council in 1883 following a hard fought contest and upon election resigned from the School Board to concentrate on his council work. By 1893 he had certainly served his apprenticeship. He had been a member of numerous council committees and a magistrate since 1889. Apart from his profession as a silversmith he was also one time President of the Hebrew Society; Counsel for Liberia, Vice President of the Portsmouth Swimming Club - earning a life saving testimonial, member of the Portsmouth Police Rowing Club, a member of the Royal Geographical Society and a keen Freemason being a member of the Prince Edward Saxe Weimar Lodge.
On the 'Ninth' he was nominated by Cllr Ward. The election was a formality perhaps the only noteworthy item was that he took the oath of allegiance to the Crown wearing his hat - as the Hebrew religion required. Within weeks of being elected mayor he was elected Alderman replacing the late Ald Ridoutt.
Nationally this was the year in which the Independent Labour Party was formed. Locally the Mayor opened the Electric Light Station (power station) in Gunwharf Road on the 6th June 1894 - the machinery being started by the mayoress. A grand banquet was given to celebrate the event. The next landmark would be the municipalisation and electrification of the tramways - but already there were complaints about possible unsightly over head wires.
As a mark of appreciation, at the close of his first mayoral year, the burgess of St Luke's subscribed to buy Emanuel his Aldermanic gown.
Despite the fact that mayoralty was the highest honour the town had to offer there was still no surfeit of men willing to apply. The Hant's Post of 12th November 1900 noted that this year, "The office of mayor has been almost begging. The demands of a large and growing business prevented Pink from accepting re-election, and others well qualified have also declined. The office is growing too exacting and too expensive for most councillors." Nevertheless Emanuel allowed his name to go forward and was duly elected unanimously.
On December 31st 1900 the tramways undertaking was transferred to the council at a price of £195,633. Nationally 1901 was marked by the death of Queen Victoria and the accession of Edward 7th - who received the mayor during the year. The Boer War concluded and the mayor welcomed home the sailors from HMS Centurion on August 19th 1901 and on the 11th September hosted a civic banquet for them in the Guildhall. A memorial is to be found in Victoria Park. Fund raising for the Royal Hospital was an evergreen and was this year aided by hero of the Boer War Field Marshal the Earl Roberts (Bobs) who supported a Fancy Fair in Victoria Park. The Freedom of the Borough was conferred on Sir John Baker and Sir Frederick Fitzwygram.
He claimed that he had made his money in Portsmouth and intended that Portsmouth should have the benefit of it. In 1889 he married Miss Syb Nathan daughter of Arthur Nathan merchant of Launceston Australia. He died after a long illness. His funeral in the Jewish sector of Kingston cemetery was attended by some 2,000 mourners.
Norman Gordon
Obituaries Portsmouth Times 27th February 1909. Hampshire Telegraph, 27th February 1909.
1. Hants. Post, 10th November 1893. Portsmouth Times 4th November 1893. Hampshire Telegraph, 11th November 1893.