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Lieutenant Colonel John Fawcett (1803-1878)

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Lieutenant Colonel John Fawcett, first Mayor of Brighton, 1854.

Lieutenant Colonel John Fawcett

Before the creation of the Borough of Brighton by Incorporation on 19 January 1854 the town was led by Town Commissioners. Several attempts had been made to create a Borough prior to 1854; supporters arguing that the Town Commissioners were extravagant, too numerous and had only limited powers. Those who were anti-incorporation argued that there would be an even greater burden on the town’s rate-payers if incorporation took place.

John Fawcett was born in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1803 and was listed on the 1851 census as ‘retired Major (East India Service)’. Fawcett was elected to Town Commissioner in January 1854 and was an active promoter for the Charter of Incorporation. At the first election of Councillors and was returned second for the newly formed Park Ward behind  William Hallett (who became Mayor of Brighton in 1855).

Brighton’s first Mayor

On 7 June 1854, at the first meeting of the new council, Fawcett was elected Mayor of Brighton. A strong Liberal in politics, he wasn’t without his critics. One newspaper article stated that:

‘The Mayor on his inauguration, addressed the Council in one of his incomprehensible speeches’.

The Brighton Guardian was outraged when the Mayor suggested he should be paid a salary. One figure mooted was £300 per annum. The Brighton Herald was no less shocked, stating that:

‘By once fixing a salary, the door is open to numerous abuses’

The Mayor’s chain was presented to the Fawcett by Jeremiah Pilcher. He had worn it himself when Sheriff of the City of London. The badge was added by ‘some ladies of Brighton’ and the borough arms and motto were selected by Alderman Burrows (Mayor of Brighton in 1857, 1858 and 1871).

Fawcett left Brighton around 1865 and resided in Jersey where he died on 24 March 1878.

Paul Jordan, Senior History Centre Officer