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

MAYORALTY: November 9th 1840-1841.
PROFESSION: Druggist/Chemist.
FIRST ELECTED TO COUNCIL: December 26th 1835
WARD: St George
FIRST ELECTED ALDERMAN: August 10th 1840 - on death of Ald Spicer.
RESIDENCE: Queen Street
DECEASED: 2nd December 1852.
Jones was linked with the old regime having been elected Alderman in 1826 and a Burgess in 1833. He was also one of the dozen elected magistrate in January 1836. In its obituary notice of the 4th December 1852 the Portsmouth Times noted that Jones was not a native of Portsmouth coming here, "Fifty years ago - a tall ship young man." He took a job as assistant to Mr Belam - druggist and chemist of the High Street. When Belam died Jones went into partnership trading in Queen Street under the name of Hope & Jones. This he later ran as sole trader until the establishment of the South Hants Bank on the same premises - whereupon Jones became a resident director of the Bank.
The Portsmouth Times obituary reflected on the political situation in the borough prior to 1835 observing:-"For many years Portsmouth Corporation was little more than a family political party having no interest in, and little consideration for, the borough. Every local feeling was lost and everything that ought to have been done by the municipality was effected by strangers and joint stock companies. The whole corporate body was drawn from one family and the Aldermen were relatives. In 1830-1831 (during the lead up to the 1832 Reform Act) it was discovered that the Corporate body was so limited in number that it was in danger of being dissolved altogether as a consequence of the Commission set up by the Crown to enquire into the state of Corporations. To prevent this, on Monday 4th February 1833, at a meeting between the mayor and aldermen - who alone had to power of election - it was agreed that the following missive should be sent to fifty resident inhabitants of Portsmouth:-
'Sir, I am directed by the Mayor and Aldermen to inform you that they have this day thought fit to elect you a Burgess of the Borough and that they will sit in the Council Chambers of the Session Rooms until 4.00 p.m. today for the purpose of admitting the newly elected Burgess.' So concerned were the council that they even agreed to waive the usual registration fee. Thus Jones became one of forty-eight new Burgesses (akin to Freemen) and could now vote in Parliamentary elections.
It was known that Jones had long standing interest in schools and other institutions. On this basis he was nominated by Cllr J. Sheppard (A.S.) and second by Cllr G. Caught (St John). No other candidates were proposed so Jones was elected without contest.
The census showed the population of the Borough to be 63,032. In June 1841 mayor Jones found himself on the 'Hustings'. On the mayor's orders election booths were erected in St George's Square. At the general election Jones, as Returning Officer, declared the sitting members Sir G. Staunton & Sir Francis Baring (Liberals) to be duly elected, but the Tories under Peel formed the government.
There were more contentious issues for the council to deal with. In September 1840 a committee had been set up to review the existing Bye Laws and make recommendations for new ones. The committee reported back in March 1841. They made eleven recommendations in all including, inter alia, the abolition of the use of dogs for draught purposes, (passed August 10th) the imposition of fines for fly posting and graffiti, playing at pitch & toss or chuck-penny in public and the knocking on doors without good reason. In their quest to abate nuisances some members of the council saw this as an opportunity to raise the matter of the abolition of the Free Mart Fair.
This annual Free Mart Fair, held in June, had become a source of petty crime and irritation to some residents. It proved to be a vexed item and split the borough for some time to come. Cllr Slight, a supporter of the event pointed out that the Fair was held under a Charter granted by Richard 1st in 1194 and thus only by special Act of Parliament could it be abolished. He went on that the real nuisance was caused by the use of Vauxhalls and if the Fair were to be proscribed so should the Regattas - which caused just as much mischief. The supporters of the Fair were in a minority and in order to avoid debate they resorted to nefarious tactics within the council chamber. At these, often noisy meetings, when the item was raised some councillors either did not attend or would walk out of the Chamber so that the meeting was no longer quorate (38 was the quorum). Four councillors resigned in disgust at these tactics. Mayor Jones was criticised for allowing this and for not stopping the interruptions and jeers from the public gallery. (3)
There were pleasanter events. In May, in honour of Her Majesty's birthday, the mayor invited the Corporation to dine at the Royal Oak Inn, Portsea. In March support of the local Hebrew population, the council petitioned Parliament for the removal of disabilities on British born Jews. On the 6th October the Gosport railway line was opened - Portsmouth was losing out on commercial possibilities.
In private life Jones was a deacon and trustee of the congregation of the King Street Chapel, Portsea. He was also for many years Secretary to the Hants Dispensary and during the formation of the Portsmouth Hospital was vice-chairman and contributed liberally to its funds. "He died respected by all." Commented the obituary writer. At the following Council meeting Alderman Bramble proposed a letter of condolence be sent to Jones' widow. Carried unanimously.
Obituary P.T. 4th December 1852.
1. Hampshire Telegraph, 16th November 1840.
2. Hampshire Telegraph, March 8th 1841.
3. Hampshire Telegraph, March 29th 1841.
Norman Gordon