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

MAYORALTY: November 9th 1837-1838, 1841-1842
PREVIOUSLY MAYOR: 29th September. 1818-1819; 1822-1823; 1826-1827; 1830-1831
FIRST ELECTED TO COUNCIL: December 26th 1835
WARD: St George
FIRST ELECTED ALDERMAN: December 31st 1835
RESIDENCE: 28 Bishop Street Portsea.
DECEASED: Farlington February 9th 1850. aged 77. (1)

Another member of the old regime, Daniel Howard first entered the council in 1812. Six years later he was mayor. He served four times under the old regime. As a member of the elected council he served a further twice. W.G. Gates writes that from his youth he was an unflinching advocate of civil liberty. Born in 1773 his political life began at the age of 19 as a devoted reformer when such aspirations, in the light of events in France, were considered dangerously revolutionary. The activities of Howard and his friends attracted the attention of government and consequently they held covert meetings on a boat anchored at Spithead.
At the mayoral election of November 9th 1837 (2) Alderman Casher proposed Cllr Capt Joseph 0. Travers (St John) for mayor. The Captain declined the honour saying that as he was already chairman of the Board of Guardians he had enough to do. However, he added, he would oppose any measure that would tend to elect members of the old Corporation who had for years shared the mayoral office among themselves. He then proposed Cllr John W. Williams. Williams then stood saying he agreed new blood was needed in the mayoral chair but the matter should be debated first. He commented that if the present system were perpetuated it would be years before the 'Old Brigade' were exhausted and new talent would have to wait a long time for its chance to serve. Howard himself then rose to say that despite previous comments he would be honoured to stand. Cllr William Stigant (St Mary) deprecated selecting year after year members of the old Corporation - it was high time for a change he urged. Moreover he scented political machinations here. He argued that Williams, a Tory, had been proposed so that members would vote for Howard - to keep the Tories out whatever. Matters were then put to the vote. The nomination of Capt Travers was put and lost by 29 votes to 12. The nomination of Howard was put and carried by 30 to 13.
On February 17th 1838 John Bonham Carter MP - related to the old ruling oligarchy - died. Sir George Staunton was elected in his stead. The Camber Docks project runs like a thread through early council deliberations and various improvement schemes were drawn up. In November 1837 the council petitioned Parliament for a Bill allowing them to raise money for the construction a commercial docks in the Borough of Portsmouth at a spot called 'The Camber.'
To complement the docks project another significant event occurred in January 1838 when at a public meeting, chaired by the mayor, resolutions were passed favouring the establishment of a railway line from Portsmouth to London. This was a scheme first mooted by Cllr Owen. It was more than just a prestige project. The disadvantage of not having a railway was that Gosport, which did have a railway, was reaping the trade and landing tolls from goods which were to be transported onwards. The railway problem was topography. The direct route via Petersfield would mean tunnelling through the Southdowns - especially Butser. The other two possibilities were the western route via Eastleigh and secondly the eastern route via Brighton or Horsham. Moreover, the Board of Ordnance, who owned most of the land, were adverse to any line into Portsmouth as this would mean breaching the Hilsea defences. Meanwhile the line to Southampton was nearing completion - Portsmouth was losing out to its neighbour. Nevertheless, some progress was made.
In May 1837 a Bill was passed in Parliament permitting the construction of a Floating Bridge across Portsmouth Harbour. (solicitor to the Floating Bridge Company was Cllr James Hoskins). Undoubtedly the festive highlight of the mayoral year was the Coronation of Queen Victoria on June 28th when the mayor led the Borough in a period of general rejoicing. Another significant decision was not to sell the old Civic Plate - as many other boroughs had done. Thus the City has a magnificent collection of historic plate which may be viewed in the Guildhall. At the conclusion of his first mayoral year Cllr W. Stigant moved the customary vote of thanks to Howard which was carried unanimously.
Following his first tenure Howard continued to be active in local affairs. As solicitor to the committee he continued to be associated with the proposal to construct a railway line from Portsmouth to London via Horsham. It was resolved that Parliament should again be petitioned to grant Portsmouth an enabling Bill for this project.
At the election in November Alderman Cooper (3) proposed Howard for a further term This was seconded by Alderman Jackson. Cllr Hay then said that he understood that the mayoral office was to be selected from the wards in rotation. Consequently he proposed Cllr Casher (St Thomas) for mayor. Alderman Garrett then stood saying that though he had high regard for Casher as a person but he could not support him due to his adverse stance on the Camber Docks project. Further his opposition to the project had entailed the Borough in much unnecessary expense. He added Casher was always complaining that under the old regime no improvements were ever made. Now they had the chance to do something positive he was against the whole idea. By contrast Howard was chairman of the Camber Docks project Committee and had been indefatigable in his exertions in support of the development. The motion was put that Alderman Casher was fit person to be mayor. The motion was lost by 34 votes to 10. So Howard gained his second term.
On May 16th 1842 the Victoria Pier was opened. But undoubtedly the high spot of Howard's second mayoralty was the first visit of the young Queen Victoria to the Borough. The real purpose of the Sovereign's journey was to inspect the newly built hundred gun HMS Queen. Her Majesty came to the Borough on the 28th February and after boarding the ship she landed in the Dockyard were she was greeted by the mayor and corporation who presented Her Majesty with an Address - the ceremony closing with the mayor kissing the Queen's hand.
On Howard's death the Town Council passed a resolution:- "That this Council, feeling deeply the loss occasioned by the death of Daniel Howard . . . . are desirous thus publicly to mark and record the esteem in which he was held in public as well as in private life and to express the high opinion which they entertain of his conduct." Howard was also a keen student of history. He left a valuable collection of manuscript notes which are now lodged with the British Museum.
1. Hampshire Telegraph, 16th February 1850.
2. Hampshire Telegraph, 13th November 1837.
3. Hampshire Telegraph, November 15th 1841.
PS Daniel Howard's son John was Town Clerk from 1835 till his death on June 17th 1879. Per W.G. Gates Records of the Corporation 1835-1927.
Norman Gordon