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Brentford Councillors - Joseph Benjamin Hart

Introduction

Janet McNamara has researched details of the men who served as Brentford Local Board Members and Councillors, see intro page for more details of early local government structure.

Joseph Benjamin Hart (1881 – 1943)

Mr Hart was elected to the Council in March 1924.
His address was given as 50, High Street and he was described as ‘Waterman and Lighterman’. He was nominated by Messrs F Halstead, Charles Edwin Chambers, Horace Thomas Jamieson and Thomas George Partridge. He was seconded by Harry Dear, John Hattie, William Leonard Jamieson and Joseph Clements.

His name is on the stone at Boston Manor House commemorating the opening of the park to the public in September 1924.
All Councillors served on the Works and the General Purposes Committee and in 1924/25 Mr Hart was on the Market, Baths, Maternity and Child Welfare, Metropolitan Water Board joint Committees and was the School Manager for St Pauls Schools. At the end of the year (March 1925 it was reported that he had attended 53 out of a possible 74 meetings.
In 1925/26 he was on the Baths, Maternity and Child Welfare, Water Board Committees and was manager of the New Brentford National School. 1926/27 Baths, Housing and Town Planning,, Maternity and Child Welfare, Parks and Open Spaces, Joint Water Board Committees and manager New Brentford National Schools.

He was up for re-election in March 1927 and was proposed by Messrs Eli Lander, Ernest Edward Castle and Thomas Grant (a serving Councillor at the time) and seconded by W Hall, H Longhurst (of The Barge Aground) and James Foster.
He was described in the Middlesex Independent as coming ‘from an old family of Brentford lightermen and was a well-known and popular personality in Thames-side circles’. He was a member of the Brentford Board of Guardians and on the Old Brentford Burial Board.

The newspaper pointed out that this was important election and that everyone entitled to should vote. ‘… the day is fateful of events, for good or ill, particularly for the future of Brentford which has made the most momentous adventure in its municipal history’. It continued ‘It is, we repeat, the plain and urgent duty of every elector to repair to the polling place in the district indicated, and if this duty is performed there should be no reason for vain regrets afterwards for the vote will have been conscientiously recorded’.
This was the last election to the Brentford District Council before it was amalgamated with Chiswick.

There were 5 men standing for 4 seats and Mr Hart came top of the poll with 980 votes.
He is on the photograph of the final Council on April 2nd 1927 and was a member for Brentford Ward in 1927/8 and 1928/9. In 1929/30 he was member for Brentford Central Ward and due to retire in 1933 which he appears to have done. He was appointed one of the three Alderman for Brentford in 1935/36.

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There is the start of a family tree on ancestry which shows his parents were Benjamin Hart (1826 – 1896) and Mary Ashby (1844 – 1920).
In the 1881 census they were living at 25, The Ham.
Benjamin was 55, a lighterman born in Dartford Kent.
Mary was 40 and born in Linton, Kent.
Their son William (18), born in Faversham, Kent was a lighterman’s apprentice, John (15) was a clothier’s shop boy born in Brentford, Jane (11), Alfred (8) and Elizabeth (5) were all scholars born in Brentford and Joseph was 9 months old.

In 1891 they were still living in the Ham with Benjamin (65) a waterman, Mary (48), John (23) a waterman, Jane A (21) Laundry, Alfred (18) a waterman, Elizabeth (15) a general servant, JOSEPH (10) and Frances aged 6.

Benjamin died aged 70 with his death registered in the June quarter 1896 Brentford 3a 50.

In the 1901 census at 4, The Ham Mary, a widow aged 58 is the head of household, Jane is 31 and an ironer laundress, Joseph 21 is a waterman and lighterman and Frances (16) is an ironer laundress.

In 1911 the address was 4, The Ham. Mary was 68 and in the declaration said the she had had 10 children 7 of whom were still alive.
Joseph Benjamin was 30 and a waterman and lighterman, Frances Mary was married with the surname Hogg and there were 4 Boarders. Matilda Styles was 29, single and a Laundress born in Southall, Joseph Styles (5) born in Brentford, Frances Ellen Hogg (7) and Ada May Hogg (6). All 3 children were scholars.

The marriage of Matilda Styles to Mr Hart is registered in October 1912 December quarter Basford (Notts) 7b 447. A few lines above in the register is a John Styles marrying Miss Tolley Brentford 3a 304.
I think Joseph is Joseph Benjamin’s son and John Styles is Matilda’s brother.

By the time he was an Alderman his address was 14, Netley Road.

An article in the Brentford and Chiswick Times on May 29th 1942 has a report of the life of the watermen during Blitz during the War. There is an interview with Alderman Hart where he told about being caught in an air raid on September 6th 1940.
It seems he was responsible for 2 boats, Uxbridge and Briar with Bill Scaldwell, Bert Berill and his 2 sons. They had delivered to Beckton (I would guess coal from south Wales via Brentford Dock) in the afternoon and as they set off back the air raid siren sounded. Bombs were dropping all around them making the boats swerve, there were too many planes overhead to count them and fires were blazing at wharves and on barges on both sides of the river. They kept steadily on along the centre of the river and had to stay top of the boats to navigate. Mr Hart didn’t have an air raid helmet so held ‘a hand bowl’ over his head. Most other boats were tied up and there was nothing moving until they were nearly swamped at Tower Bridge by the Fire Boats going in to action. The All Clear went as they passed Tower Bridge at 7 o’clock and they reached Brentford at 9.45, two and a half hours late by which time another raid had started.

The following week they were caught in another raid and turned back by the river patrol who suspected that mines had been dropped.
The newspaper reported that during the War boats were forbidden navigation lights and had to steer by the stars at night. In spite of this accidents were almost unknown.
The fleet which plies on these waters is a silent service. There are no communiques about it and the public is barely aware of its existence. But that is performing an essential, and at times dangerous service was publicly recognised in a broadcast describing then men as ‘the heroes of the transport war’.
Their motto nailed to their masts was ‘KEEP MOVING’
.

Alderman Hart died in February 1943.
It seems he had been ill for some time and had had at least one operation at West Middlesex Hospital. His obituary in the Brentford & Chiswick Times mentions his work on the river, Council, the old Board of Guardians and the local friendly society.
He was described as being of a quiet and unassuming disposition and respected by his fellow Councillors.

Other material

Janet has also provided newspaper articles from the Brentford and Chiswick Times following his death in February 1942, to be added as time permits.

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Page published June 2013