Joseph Seward (sometimes recorded as Joseph Seaward) was born in Guernsey about 1829. He first appears in Southampton in late 1857, charged before the borough magistrates with tendering a bad shilling at the Nag’s Head Tap and at a beer shop in Canal Walk. He was arrested “at a lodging house in Blue Anchor Lane, where very suspicious characters lived”. He described himself as a painter (Hampshire Advertiser, 19 December 1857). This was the first of many appearances in the police court, mainly for being drunk and disorderly, until his death, aged 41 years, in 1871. He was buried in St Mary’s on 24 October 1871. Seward – or ‘Mahogany Joe’ as he liked to call himself - would be lost to history were it not for his unlikely intervention in favour of the Liberal candidate Captain Charles Mangles in the by election of December 1862. The election was unexpected, caused by the sudden death of Brodie McGee Willcox, short lived, polling taking but one day, and violent. These were conditions in which a man like Seward thrived. He forced himself on the crowded meeting of Liberal supporters at their central committee rooms in Above Bar Street immediately after Mangles had conceded a most unexpected defeat. The Hampshire Advertiser, a paper decidedly against Mangles, gleefully reported his contribution:
“Mahogany Joe was at the bottom of the stairs awaiting … to get into the committee room to address the electors. If they would only allow him to have his “little-go”, he could tell them how they had lost the election; for instance, ‘suppose as how they had only worked as well as he had done, and not humbugged the Liberals – and he was jolly well proud of being one – they would have been at the top of the tree. He was looking out for the 500 majority [the predicted majority for Mangles], but it was ‘all my eye and Sukey Tucker’. He would only say this, that he hated lying a great deal worse than thieving, and was now disgusted at being linked in with such a shabby lot’” (Hampshire Advertiser, 6 December 1862, reporting events of Friday 5 December).
The official declaration of the poll was made the next day, Saturday 6 December, with Captain Mangles absent. Amidst a welter of barbs and insults issuing from the large, unruly crowd could be heard “If Mr Mangles isn’t here, where’s his bedfellow, ‘Mahogany Joe’? (laughter)” (Hampshire Advertiser, 13 December 1852)
The following Wednesday, 10 December Seward was charged with affray at the White Hart Hotel. The election was his main defence:
“no doubt the magistrates were well aware that he had been engaged in the election contest which had just taken place between the Lord Mayor [William Rose, latterly Lord Mayor of London] and Captain Mangles. He went into Mr Rogers’s house [the White Hart Hotel], where he had before been drinking, and not knowing that it was the Lord Mayor’s Association, there he began to address the working classes on the election, when he was turned out and kicked in the legs. He denied being drunk. [Police Constable] Curtis: You were so drunk that you could not stand. Joe: Yes, because you kicked me. That was the reason I couldn’t stand” (Hampshire Advertiser, 13 December 1862).
The 1871 census records Joseph and his wife Louisa at 1 Castle Gardens in St Michael’s parish. As in 1857 he described himself as a painter. Richard and Ann Hobey were lodgers in the house. Richard was a prize fighter, instantly recognizable through having lost a large part of his lower lip in an assault in 1869. He was, like Seward, an inveterate offender, appearing before the borough magistrates on a an array of charges: abusive behaviour, assaulting a police officer (“He resisted [arrest] so violently that it took several constables to lodge him safely in the Station-house; and this, coupled with the fact that he was known of old at the Station-houses, and Quarter Sessions, procured him the sentence of a fine of 40s and costs, or in default of payment, three months’ imprisonment and hard labour. As he had no money, goods, or chattels, he went to prison” – Hampshire Advertiser, 10 October 1846); use of abusive language and, in July 1878 (aged 53 years and described as a labourer), obtaining monies the property of the Southampton Docks Company by false pretences. He was before Fareham Magistrates in November 1857 charged with breach of the peace for taking part in an illegal prize fight at Sarisbury Common the previous month. The other combatants were John Smith, alias “the Portsmouth Pet”, Robert Hurd, alias “Froom Bob” and James Ray, alias Rogers. Hoby commonly used the alias Richard Obey.


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