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

MAYORALTY:- November 9th 1887-1888.
PROFESSION:- Solicitor
WARD:- Originally St Thomas changed St Jude.
OTHER CIVIC POSITIONS HELD:- Clerk to the Magistrates 1891.
RESIDENCE:- St Laurence, Queen's Crescent. S'sea.
DECEASED:- May 23rd 1896. Aged 46.
BURIED:- Highland Rd cemetery.
Urbane Portsmouth born Addison commenced his legal training with Thomas Cousins. He was admitted solicitor in 1872 and practised in Portsmouth whilst at the same time turning his attention to civic affairs. Gates comments, "As Councillor, as Mayor, and as Clerk to the Magistrates, he displayed rare qualities as an administrator while his uniform courtesy and kindness to all, without distinction, gave him a foremost place in public esteem." in its obituary notice the Hant's Post commented that he exemplified the truth of the maxim, "Manners maketh man."
Though only a member of the council for six years Albert Addison was thought the fit and proper person to be mayor. As such it was noted he was the third solicitor in five years to be selected. At the election he was proposed by Alderman Richard Marvin and seconded by Thomas Scott Foster who commented that Addison had always been a hard working and diligent committee member. The vote was a formality and at the young age of 35 Addison became mayor.
The Hant's Post (2) commented that Addison had a remarkable year. In both art and literature he evinced great interest so perhaps socially the highlight of his year came in January 1888 with the mayor's banquet in honour of celebrated local author Sir Walter Besant. There was much else to be done.
The drainage system needed to be perfected and streets better lit. The problem was the council acting as the Urban Sanitary Authority, was deeply in debt and the rate had been capped, by Parliament, at 2/6d in the Pound. (3) Also the new Town Hail was under construction. This left little financial scope for further development. Consequently, mayor Addison never laid any foundation stones nor opened any new works yet his was possibly the most important mayoralty since 1836. The reason for this is to be found in the Local Government Act of 1888.
The main thrust of this reform was that boroughs with populations of less than 150,000 would lose their autonomy and be merged with the county. This would have meant Portsmouth would be governed from Winchester. Portsmouth council would become a District Council subordinate to the County and the mayor become a Deputy Sheriff. As originally drafted the Act specified that only boroughs with populations in excess of 150,000 could apply for County Borough status (i.e. virtually a unitary authority). Portsmouth could not match this. With the help of local MP Maj-General Sir William Crossman (who had designed many of the new defence works in C19th Portsmouth) mayor Addison went to London in early April 1888 and persuaded Mr Ritchie, Chairman of the Local Government Board, to reduce the population requirement to 100,000.
A number of other boroughs (e.g. Leeds, Sunderland, Bolton, Brighton) felt the same way about this legislation - but Portsmouth was the prime mover. Addison was successful and thereby Portsmouth remained virtually a self governing authority. The mayor reflected, "We got rid of all the disagreeable parts of the Bill thereby becoming a County Council ourselves." Thus Addison's name, 'Will be forever conspicuous in our Municipal Annals." commented the Hant's Post. (4)
At the close of the mayoral year the customary vote of thanks also mentioned the supportive role played by the Lady Mayoress - and the bells of St Thomas' were rung. Addison retired from the Council in 1891 to take up the post of Clerk (i.e. professional adviser) to the Magistrates. He died suddenly following a chill which led to pleurisy and pneumonia. He left a widow and nine children one of whom, who as a naval officer, was involved in a dramatic sea rescue being awarded the Royal Humane Society medal.
Norman Gordon
Obituaries:- Portsmouth Times 30th May 1896. Hant's Post 29th May 1896. Hampshire Telegraph, 30th May 1896.
1. Portsmouth Times 12th November 1887.
2. Hant's Post 9th November 1888.
3. Evening News 6th April 1888.
4. Hant's Post ibid.