The Mayors from 1531-1835 - included on the full list to 2005
The Aldermen (1531-1835) - including the Mayor's Assistants (1531-1628)
The Burgesses (1531-1835) - after 1835 there were too many burgesses to list here.
In his "Extracts from the Portsmouth Records", the author Robert East describes the composition of the Town Council of Portsmouth from the date of its governing charter in 1531 until the enaction of the Municipal Corporations Act in 1836. Particularly relevant to this section of the site is his explanation of the origins and roles of the Burgesses. He says:-
"The term Burgess as applied to members of all ancient Corporations appears to be but imperfectly understood. This name given by charters granted at various times, was not applicable to the payer of Scot and Lot as at present but to an elected member of the Corporation. The burgess held a position in the Corporation somewhat similar to that of the present Councillor, but differing greatly in power and priviledges....
"The ancient Corporation of Portsmouth....consisted of a Bailiff, or Mayor, and an indefinite number of Burgesses: to these twelve mayor's assistants....were added. The mayor and mayor's assistants were elected annually, and the burgesses for life, or during good behaviour.
"By the charter of Charles I, the term Mayor's Assistant fell into disuse, a new designation, that of Alderman, being given. The Aldermen were elected for life, and any vacancy occurring on the Aldermanic bench was filled by a majority of the Aldermen nominating and electing one of the burgesses"
In A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3 compiled in 1908 there appears a slightly different account of the role of Burgesses:-
"The number of burgesses varied considerably from time to time. The privileges granted by Richard I were to be enjoyed only by those who held land or property in or of the town. In the earliest recorded list of burgesses (c. 1575) there are fifty-four names, including that of the mayor, but of these six are marked as deceased; twenty-five burgesses besides the mayor and twelve aldermen are named in the charter of Charles I, and Charles II appointed the same number in 1662 when no fewer than eighty-eight burgesses were disfranchised.
There was evidently no limit to the number of burgesses elected each year, for within five months of the year 1773 no fewer than forty-three were admitted to the freedom of the borough, and in 1834 seventy-eight burgesses were sworn besides nine aldermen.
There was apparently no qualification necessary for a burgess. It was not even needful for him to be a resident, for the following names occur on the list of burgesses:—John White of Southwick, 1553; William Gage of Havant, 1557; William Bennet of Fareham, 1634; and so on throughout the list.
It was possible also for the soldiers in the garrison and officers in the dockyard to become burgesses; thus in 1531 Richard Palshyd, a captain of the garrison; in 1594, Joshua Savour, master gunner; in 1575, Richard Popinjay, government surveyor; and in 1576, William Davison, admiralty-serjeant, were burgesses. Early in the seventeenth century, however, when the relations between the town and the garrison were somewhat strained, it was considered contrary to the customs of the town for a soldier of the garrison to be given the freedom of the borough, and in 1618 Thomas Mondaie, one of the burgesses, was disfranchised because he had bought a soldier's place, and was under the command of the governor.
On the other hand an ordinance had been made in 1545–6, forbidding the captain of the town from receiving any inhabitant as a soldier there. Before the charter of Charles I (1627), burgesses were elected with the common consent of the mayor and burgesses in the borough court. After 1627 till the Municipal Reform Act of 1835 they were chosen by the mayor and aldermen whenever they thought fit. In 1682 an ordinance was made providing against the proposal of any new burgess save in the council in the Councilhouse. Since 1835 every ratepayer has been accounted a burgess."
As there were so many Portsmouth burgesses after 1835 the list on this site is to that date only.
Tim Backhouse, June 2012