Arms and motto of the city of Brighton and Hove
Reproduced with permission of The Mayor, Councillor David Smith

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

a) INCORPORATION: The earliest known attempt to incorporate Brighton as a borough was in 1684 when Charles II apparently favoured a petition and referred it to the Attorney General, but it was not heard of again. By the start of the nineteenth century the town had grown sufficiently for the Prince of Wales to suggest incorporation, but the idea was rejected at a town meeting in July 1806 due to the probable expense. The ‘Great Reform Act’ of 1832 created the Parliamentary Borough of Brighton but municipal government continued in the hands of the town commissioners and the vestry. In April 1848 a town poll again rejected incorporation, but petitions for and against were sent to the Privy Council in 1852 which, after an eleven-day public inquiry, found in favour of the ‘non-incorporationists’.
The supporters of incorporation, who included the parish vestry, maintained that the town commissioners were extravagant, too many in number, unrepresentative, and limited in certain powers (see “Town Commissioners and Town Acts”), and that only an elected and fully representative council could effectively govern the town on behalf of its 70,000 inhabitants. Another petition and Privy Council inquiry in August 1853 was successful and resulted in the award of a charter of incorporation on 19 January 1854; the Municipal Borough of Brighton, governed in virtually all matters by a newly-elected council under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, was officially created on 1 April 1854, the charter arriving in the town two days later. {1,112}

The first elections to the new council were held on 30 May 1854 when thirty-six councillors were returned for three years from the six wards. At their first meeting on 7 June 1854, Lieutenant-Colonel John Fawcett was elected as the first mayor of Brighton and the two councillors who had polled the highest vote in each ward were elected as aldermen to serve for six years. A second election was then held to return twelve more councillors, making a total of thirty-six councillors and twelve aldermen.
Initially, the town commissioners retained a few functions and buildings including the Town Hall and Royal Pavilion, but the 1855 Brighton Commissioners Transfer Act completed the handover of property, powers, privileges and liabilities, and dissolved the town commissioners from 29 May 1855. Incorporation also put an end to parish vestry meetings in their previous form except to discuss specific parochial items such as cemeteries, church maintenance, etc. {7,112}
Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

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