Mayor of Brighton

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Henry Smithers (1807-84), Mayor of Brighton (1861-62)
Owner of Smithers Brewery of Preston, Brighton, Sussex.
[My wife's great great great grandfather]

"Henry Smithers, was born at Preston [Sussex] in 1807. He was a High Constable, and a member of the Commission before the Incorporation. He was a candidate for the Council (West Ward) at the first election of Councilors, but was unsuccessful. He entered the Council in November, 1855, was elected Alderman in November, 1856, and Mayor in 1861. He retired from the Council in November, 1874. He was a member of the Board of Guardians, one of the originators of the West Pier Company, and the first Chairman of the Board of Directors. Alderman Smithers was for many years the principal of the well-known firm of Smithers & Son, North Street Brewery, from which he retired shortly before his death. He was a Governor and hearty supporter of nearly every charitable institution in the town. During his mayoralty he raised £1,000 for the Mansion House Fund on behalf of the distressed Lancashire operatives. He died on 17th November, 1884.

Montpellier Hall, 17, Montpelier Terrace, Brighton, Sussex

He was a wealthy man, a brewer, and owner of several local pubs, but he seems to have rented his family homes. In 1851, he was living at 6, Upper Brunswick Place, Hove, Sussex. In 1856, he lived at Montpellier Hall [see above], when he was Mayor of Brighton. 1871, he lived at 21, Buckingham Place, Brighton, Sussex. In 1881, he lived at 6, Montpelier Villas, Brighton, Sussex. He died on 17.11.1884 at Brighton, Sussex. See: Mayors of Brighton & Montpelier Hall

View from the hills behind Brighton, looking south, c1840.

Brighton about 1840, shortly after the Royal Pavilion was built by John Nash in 1826 for King George IV (1763-1830). Brighton became a fashionable resort in the mid 18th century, due to the discovery of the therapeutic effects of bathing in and drinking sea water. This and the Royal connection soon brought all of 'Society' to Brighton and greatly extended the old fishing town originally known as 'Brighthelmstone'. The extract from a Cassini Reproduction Ordnance Survey Map of c.1813/19 shows how small the town was; see below.

1813/19 map of Brighton showing the Chain Pier', though it was not opened until 1823.
Reproduced here by kind permission of: ©Cassini Publishing Ltd

The West Pier, Brighton, Sussex - The Opening Ceremony in 1866

The Opening Ceremony - West Pier, Brighton, Sussex
from The Illustrated London News

A contemporary scene photographed by the bandstand on the West Pier in 1866. Carte de visite photographs, like this one, were the fore-runners of the modern postcard and were sold to tourists.

The West Pier, Brighton c1866

The West Pier, Brighton c1880

The seafront from the end of the West Pier, Brighton c1880

The entrance booths for the West Pier & looking along the King's Road on Brighton seafront c1880

The West Pier, Brighton 1889

West Pier, Brighton, Sussex c1902
(For further information, see: West Pier, Brighton)

West Pier, Brighton c1920

The burned ruin of The West Pier, Brighton in 2004.
(For further information, see: Brighton's Piers, where you will need to click 'next page' at the bottom several times to see them all)

                                                                              Photo taken by (c) Jon Cowdock November 2014

The burned ruin of The West Pier, Brighton in 2016.
(For further information, see: Brighton's Piers, where you will need to click 'next page' at the bottom several times to see them all)

The older 'Chain Pier', Brighton c1880, which was opened in 1823 and destroyed in 1896.

The Chain Pier, Brighton 1889, shortly before it was destroyed in 1896.

Looking towards the shore from the end of the 'New Pier', Brighton, c1870.
Note the more-numerous square kiosks along its sides compared to the 'West Pier'.


An unknown elderly Dixon (or possibly Compton or Smithers) ancestor.
If you can help to identify him, we would be delighted to hear from you.


Joseph Dixon, Surgeon, of Hove, Sussex.
[My wife's great great grandfather]

Eliza Smithers, the daughter of Henry Smithers, married Joseph Dixon, who is pictured above in the Masonic Regalia of a Grand Officer with the active rank of 'Provincial Senior Warden' for the Province of Sussex.

Their daughter was Sarah Maria Dixon, who married a Non-Conformist Minister, the Rev. William Compton, against her family's wishes. Sadly, especially since she died young, she was 'cut-off' from her family as a result of this marriage:

Sarah Maria Compton (née Dixon), Rev. William Compton & their children

Henry Smither's granddaughter, Sarah Maria Dixon married Rev. William Compton, the founder of the Baptist Church, Stoke Road (now Gosport Waterfront Baptist Church), Gosport, Hants. Sadly, they both died young of Tuberculosis (TB) leaving their young children, Sarah Maria Compton ('May') & William Henry Compton (later Rev.), to be cared for separately by two of his local church families. Their mother had died first, and their father was sent away to Tasmania for 'the cure', but he never returned. Before he died he sent some 'heart rending letters' from the Convalescent Home in Tasmania to his little daughter, whom he knew he would never see again - these letters are still owned and treasured by their family. It is an incredible fact that one third of the deaths during the Victorian period were apparently due to Tuberculosis, then usually referred to as 'Consumption'.

Laying the Foundation Stone in 1909 at Stoke Road Baptist Church, Gosport, Hants.
This new Baptist Church was founded under the leadership of the Rev. William Compton.

Laying the Foundation Stone in 1909 at Stoke Road Baptist Church, Gosport, Hants.
a view slightly to the right of the previous one, taken during the ceremony.

Laying the Foundation Stone in 1909 at Stoke Road Baptist Church, Gosport, Hants.
a third view slightly to the left of the other two, taken during the ceremony.

                      Photo taken by Chris Drakes in January 2011

In January 2011, Stoke Road Baptist Church (see photo above), Gosport, Hants., was for sale after just over 100 years on this site. It was opened in March 1910, having moved from 'The Tin Tabernacle'. In 2012, the Church community had temporarily moved to Unit 21, Cooperage Green, off Weevil Lane, Gosport, Hants., PO12 1FY, then in 2013 to Unit 2, Cooperage Green, off Weevil Lane, Gosport, PO12 1FY, and are now known as 'Gosport Waterfront Baptist Church'.

Henry Smithers' great granddaughter, Sarah Maria Compton (second from left, back row), when a school teacher at Gosport, Hampshire. She later married James Morrison. (see A Military family)