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

MAYORALTY:- November 9th 1848-1849.
FIRST ELECTED TO COUNCIL:- December 26th 1835.
WARD:- St Paul
FIRST ELECTED ALDERMAN:- 1st January 1836.
RESIDENCE:- Elm Grove Southsea.
DECEASED:- January 8th 1874.
BURIED:- Highland Road cemetery.
Alderman Doctor G.J. Scale was an original member of the reformed council and a much respected local surgeon. He was the second of his profession to be selected for mayoral office.
At the electoral meeting Alderman Bramble nominated Alderman Scale for next mayor. This was seconded by Alderman Robbins. Cllr Childs rose intimating he was a little disturbed to learn that a private ad hoc meeting had taken place at Bramble's home to promote the candidature of Alderman Scale. These matters should be openly discussed in Council and not behind closed doors argued Childs. Bramble replied that the reason for the meeting was to obviate rancorous public debate in chamber. No further discussion took place and Scale was thus elected unanimously.
By comparison this was a quiet year but there were still official duties for the mayor to perform. Justice had to be dispensed. Petty theft and insobriety etc often featured among the cases tried. Interesting is perhaps is the following matrimonial dispute:- (2) Sitting with Cllr J.O. Travers the mayor presided on a case which the Hampshire Telegraph headlined as 'Aggravated Tongue.' The paper reported that a Mr James Chinowith, "Was charged by his better half with having beaten her and giving her a black eye. The defendant pleaded that his wife was always aggravating him and the woman whereupon gave the Court a specimen of what she could do with her unruly member. Chinowith admitted the assault, for which he was fined 2/6d with 9d costs or five days in default. The Bench gave the lady some wholesome advice for which she seemed not very grateful."
In January 1849 Portsmouth MP Francis Baring was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. As this was an office under the Crown he was, according to prevailing rules, required to vacate his seat and resubmit himself to the burgesses of Portsmouth. This he did in February. The mayor was thus called upon to function as Returning Officer. Scale took the oath that he would make a true return and the Bribery & Corruption Act was duly read. The officials then proceeded to the Hustings in St George's Square where Baring was nominated. Given that there were no other candidates he was declared elected.
In February also the council discussed appointing an Inspector of Weights and Measures with real Power to enforce the legislation. It was pointed out that they already had one - a Mr Bishop whose salary was 60.00 p.a. It was claimed years in fact the post was a sinecure. It was retorted that Bishop had not been paid for two years in any case.
The council continued to experience fiscal difficulties. The root of the problem was lax financial management and Mayor Scale consequently had to chair a number of difficult meetings. It had been hoped the revenues generated by the Camber Docks would offset other council financial liabilities such that the rate burden on the property owners would be minimal. The Mayor, as Chairman of the Finance Committee, reported to the council that this was not happening. It was disclosed that the Wharfinger was responsible for collecting harbour dues and remitting them to the Treasurer. However, there was no supervision and irregularities were suspected. Even the Wharfinger himself admitted he could pay in what he liked and eventually he resigned before further action was taken. Later it was revealed there had been no audit for five years.
The Hampshire Telegraph commented that the Municipal matters of the Borough were the laughing stock of the Kingdom. The paper went on, "For years we had been told the Camber revenues would eventually preclude the necessity for a Borough rate. This had not been the case and when we see the slack mode of keeping Audit it is therefore no surprise sums are not accounted for. The old Corporation, with all its faults, was more careful than the new." Changes were proposed and this was the start of an affair which the Hampshire Telegraph dubbed, 'The Battle for the Chamberlain.' It was suggested it would be a good idea to elect a new Chamberlain to monitor the collection of all dues. This proved to be no easy matter. Following three abortive attempts it was August before the post was filled. The two main candidates were Alderman William Bilton and Cllr James Silverlock. Each time the voting was Bilton 22, Silverlock 21 - but this was not an overall majority of the 44 councillors attending each meeting. Following the third abortive election the Hampshire Telegraph commented (6), "The proceedings were a repetition of the two previous meetings, the same number of councillors present, same party spirit, same angry feeling and violent personal attacks, indecent clamour ensuing." The matter was finally resolved in August when Alderman Bilton was elected.
July and August saw a return of the Cholera epidemic. Deaths totalled 676 in the three month period. The bishop appointed September 26th 1849 as a day of humiliation and mutual confession in the parishes which had been visited by cholera. The Dockyard was closed and all business suspended for the day. At the conclusion of his mayoralty Scale was accorded the customary vote of thanks for the strict integrity and impartiality he had exhibited during his mayoral year. Scale continued to play a role on the council for the next twenty-five years until his demise in January 1874. He was married and left, at least, one son George John who also trained as a surgeon but lost his sight in early years.
Norman Gordon
No obituaries found but reports of funeral, Portsmouth Times, January 13th 1874.
1. Portsmouth Times November 11th 1848.
2. Hampshire Telegraph 13th January 1849.
3. Portsmouth Times 10th February 1849.
4. Portsmouth Times 17th February 1849.
5. Hampshire Telegraph 20th January 1849.
6. Portsmouth Times 9th June 1849.