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

MAYORALTY:- November 9th 1879-1880.
PROFESSION:- Pawnbroker
WARD:- St. Paul's
OTHER CIVIC POSITIONS HELD:- Member of 'out-wards' Improvement. Chairman of Board of Guardians. Association. Member of School Board. Magistrate.
RESIDENCE:- 6 Bellvue Terrace. Southsea.
DECEASED:- July 21st 1895, age 74. (1)
BURIED:- Kingston cemetery.
Arthur Cudlipp was one of the great characters of Portsmouth's civic life. On his death W.G. Gales noted:- "He was one who for many years had helped to redeem the Town Council of mediocrity and dullness. His inimitable manner of speech, his fund of quaint anecdotes and his inexhaustible store of appropriate quotations for every subject and occasion made him a general favourite with his colleagues and even with those who least admired his policy of 'let it alone' readily gave way to his genial influence and forgot his foibles in the pleasure which his humorously cynical and amusingly instructive discourses afforded."
First elected to the council in 1865 Cudlipp lost his seat in 1868 but was again elected in 1869. He lost again in 1872 - the first election under the new Ballot Act. Undaunted he stood again for St Thomas in a bye election on the 20th November 1872 against William King following the resignation of Cllr Conway Gordon. He was criticised for being an outsider i.e. not resident in the Ward. He lost. He stood again in 1877 for St Paul's. The sitting member was Mayor William Pink but Pink had lost the support of a number of dockyard workers as a result of injudicious remarks. In a stormy election Cudlipp prevailed and was elected. Cudlipp was clearly a man with a taste for civic life. He served as an 'out-wards' Commissioner and was for a period Chairman of The Board of Guardians - a post regarded by some as being second only to Mayor. It was rumoured that as Chairman he had once been uncivil to George Hopkins who on applying for relief was told that he was able bodied and that he drank his money away. (2)
'The Election of the Three Uncles' The nominees to replace Charles Hellard were: Joseph Whitcombe; H.M. Emanuel and Arthur Cudlipp. Cllr Power, perhaps stretching a point, waggishly commented that all three must be family connected as they were all uncles! (i.e. pawn brokers). Cudlipp topped the poll. (3)
The selection of Alderman Arthur Cudlipp seemed like a stop gap solution. The duties of mayor had become so time consuming that no one really wanted the job. At the electoral meeting Cllr Howell stood noting that it was one of England's great privileges that they, unlike their continental counterparts, were free to chose their own mayors. He therefore nominated Arthur Cudlipp of Bellvue Terrace - politically a known Conservative. Though there was no suggestion of party influence there was some question of protocol that an Alderman should be proposed by an Alderman. Nevertheless, Howell's proposal was seconded. Alderman Chambers then stood to make numerous objections. He questioned that Cudlipp was the fit and proper person. Fitness was a matter of opinion he said. Long service on the council was not always the best criterion.
What were Cudlipp's powers of supervision, did he have the charisma to deal with visiting V.I.Ps.? Chambers did not think bluff speaking Cudlipp had the qualities required. At this point there was uproar, cries of disgraceful, hissing and 'withdraw.' Chambers went on saying that Cudlipp was wanting in business aptitude, lacked energy, tact, courtesy and forbearance. Charnbers added that his feelings were shared by many inhabitants. Uproar ensued. Cllr Richard Ford spoke in support of Cudlipp saying he knew him to be a man of intelligence adding that it would be as well if Chambers would educate himself (laughter). The general feeling of the meeting was that the Mayor should have the full backing of the Council. In the event there were no other nominations.
When the motion was put all stood except Alderman Chambers but after a moment's grudging pause he also stood to make the vote unanimous. The Hampshire Post in a satirical item headed 'Arthur's Seat' commented firstly that in electing Cudlipp the Council had made a virtue of a necessity. The paper went on that though Cudlipp may have his faults no Liberal was prepared to come forward. The paper then noted that it was an on going anomaly that a mayor should also be ex officio Chief Magistrate and be expected to administer justice regardless of his experience or qualifications. Nevertheless, the paper encouraged Cudlipp advising him to:-
  "Stick to common sense and with his foes agree,
  and he'll be the ruler of the municipality." Indeed Cudlipp himself expressed concern at what he had taken on. During the course of his speech at the Mayor's banquet he commented that in becoming Mayor he had ignored the advice of his old grandmother who had exhorted:- "You must never take more on your head than you can kick from your heels."
In the April general election Cudlipp, as Returning Officer had to declare that the Hon T. Bruce and Sir H. D. Wolfe had been elected as members for Portsmouth. In June 1880, for the third time in ten years, the Royal Counties Agriculture Show was held on Southsea Common. Visitors were welcomed via a triumphal arch of imitation granite designed by Mr C.G. Adams the Borough Engineer.
Cudlipp was a man who might be seen as accident prone. On the evening of July 10th while driving down the High Street with his family a cab came out of Barrack Street and collided with the mayors carriage. The horse was knocked down but no one else was injured. At the conclusion of his year it was commented that Cudlipp had discharged the ever increasing duties of mayor with energy, ability and impartiality. A man of rugged independence and described by Alderman Davies as the, 'Most original Mayor we have ever had." He was duly accorded the customary vote of thanks.
As a Conservative supporter he set up, in 1865, the Portsmouth Working Men's Conservative Association. In sport he liked bowls being a member of the North End Bowling Club. In business he was a director of the Clarence Esplanade Pier Coy. He was also a keen Freemason and passed the Chair. Following a short illness Cudlipp died at 10.00 p.m. on Sunday 21st July 1895. He left a widow and three daughters - two of whom were married.
Norman Gordon
1. Obituaries Hants Post July 26th 1895 and Portsmouth Times July 27th 1895. 2. Portsmouth Times, November 16th 1872. 3. Evening News 7th June 1879. 4. Hant's Post 14th November 1879. Portsmouth Times, 15th November 1879 and Hampshire Telegraph, November 12th 1879.