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

MAYORALTY: 1st January 1836
PREVIOUSLY MAYOR: 1811-1812, 1816-1817, 1820-1821, 1823-1824, 1827-1828.
FIRST ELECTED TO COUNCIL: December 26th 1835
WARD: St Thomas
FIRST ELECTED ALDERMAN: December 31st 1835
OTHER CIVIC POSITIONS HELD: J.P. Senior Magistrate of Borough of Portsmouth
RESIDENCE: 19 High Street
DECEASED: August 11th 1850. Age 65
BURIED: Unitarian Chapel, High Street
If ever a man was destined for the first mayoral chair it was Edward Carter. Indeed, he was no stranger to the office having held the post five times before the Reform Act was introduced. Carter was the last of his family to hold the office of Mayor, the Carters having dominated the politics of Portsmouth for two centuries prior to 1835 and filled the office of mayor on no less than thirty-two occasions.
Edward Carter came to Portsmouth from Horsham where he had married his cousin Mary, the daughter of his uncle, Sir John Carter, by whom he had four sons and two daughters. Edward was educated for the Bar and entered the Temple but was not called. Nevertheless, he gave testimony to the committee of enquiry into the Corporations of England which eventually led to the 1835 Act.
[Section omitted as it duplicates information in the Carter Family article.]
Full of enthusiasm the new Council met on New Year's Day to choose its first mayor under the reformed system. When proceedings opened councillors were required to take the oaths of Supremacy, Allegiance and Abjuration. The next business was the election of mayor. The borough seemed strangely reluctant to abandon the old regime entirely and so with due deference gave Edward Carter the honour of being the first mayor of the newly created Borough of Portsmouth. Nevertheless, he was clearly a popular man. At the inaugural mayoral election he pleaded poor health in an attempt to rule himself out of the contest but to no avail. Following a show of hands and a burst of applause, he was elected unanimously.
In the evening some fifty members of the council dined, at their own expense, at the Fountain Hotel. This event evolved into the annual mayor's banquet. A further custom was inaugurated at this soiree when the Sovereign's health was drunk from the 'Loving Cup' which was passed round by the Town Crier with the Mace Bearer in attendance.
There was much to do in this first year. The Council got down to work straight away. Firstly, the Borough had been charged with the administration of law and order. The requirement was to create a watching system supported by a police force. Consequently a Watch Committee was set up, watch stations were established and the new force was sworn in on the 18th March. This was the beginnings of the Portsmouth City Police Force which remained independent until 1967.
To enforce the law the council needed to set up courts of justice. Portsmouth had originally been granted the privilege of having its own Court of Quarter Sessions by Queen Elizabeth, now, on the 15th January 1836, the council petitioned His Majesty for the continuance of this privilege. The petition was granted and the borough could, by application to the Lord Chancellor, nominate one, or more, of its own number to be added to the register of magistrates - rather than have one imposed upon them. Consequently twelve new J.Ps were created and despite indifferent health Carter was one of them.
In the same year work began on the demolition of the old Town Hall and Market House which, sited in the middle of the High Street, had become a serious obstruction. The Council then voted the magnificent sum of 2,500 to cover the cost of the work and the purchase of a site next to the Dolphin Hotel. [Further information is available at The Town Halls of Portsmouth.]
On the 28th March 1836, possibly reflecting the influence of the sizeable Hebrew population in Portsmouth, the council petitioned Westminster for the removal of all civil and religious disabilities from British born Jews, but nothing was done.
At the conclusion of his mayoral year Cllr. Nathaniel Griffin (St George) paid tribute to Edward Carter for the assiduous way in which he had discharged his duties. At this juncture a custom was established whereby a vote of thanks to the mayor for his services was proposed and carried unanimously. After 1836 Carter took little part in local affairs but nevertheless supported numerous charities. He was at the last regarded as a religious, kind, honest and charitable man. His final public appearance was at the opening of No.2. Steam Basin in the Dockyard in 1848. He died at his home having been in poor health for a number of years.
Norman Gordon
Edited by Tim Backhouse
Obituaries in the Hampshire Telegraph and Portsmouth Times, 17th August 1850.
W.G. Gates. 'The Illustrated History of Portsmouth'.
Hampshire Telegraph 14th November 1836.
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