Charles Mozley (1797-1881)

by Joe Wolfman

Charles Mozley (1797-1881) Mayor of Liverpool 1863-1864

There has been a number of Jewish Lord Mayors in Liverpool. The first, in 1899, was Louis S Cohen, nephew and heir of David Lewis, the great shop-keeper. The title of Lord Mayor, however, has existed in Liverpool only from 1893. Before then, the First Citizen was Mayor – and only one Jew has borne that title. He was Charles Mozley, who was chosen for office on 9 November 1863.

Sarah Joseph married in 1785 Morris Lewin Mozley, and they had five children, one of whom died at the age of fifteen. The others were Amelia, born 1786, Lewin, born 1793, Elias Joseph, born 1795 and Charles, born 1797. Amelia married in 1811 Israel Barned, born in Portsmouth, but resident for some years in Liverpool. Lewin married his cousin, Fanny Joseph, in 1829 and Elias Joseph married a cousin-in-law, Rebecca Tobias, in 1830. All these marriages took place in Liverpool.

Charles made a grander match. In 1835, he married Emma Brandon, in the Great Synagogue, London, Chief Rabbi Hirschel officiating. He was nearly twice the age of his bride. The Brandon family had come from the West Indies to settle in London. It was wealthier than the Mozley family or, at any rate, had been when Emma was born in 1815.

After his marriage, Charles played a large part in the Liverpool Jewish community’s affairs. He was Junior Warden in Seel Street Synagogue in 1845-46 and Senior Warden in 1852-53 and 1853-54. He revived the Jewish Mendicity Society in 1853, but this lasted only a few years. Above all, he was involved in the Liverpool Hebrew Educational Institute and Endowed Schools, although he took no part in establishing the original school in 1841. He delivered a key-note speech when the foundation stone of the new building in Hope Place was laid in 1852, in the presence of the Chief Rabbi, Nathan Adler. He was President of the Board of Management of the Schools from 1854-66.

In a reply to the Seel Street Synagogue’s congratulations when elected Mayor, he apologised for not being as devout in his religious practices as he might have been. No doubt this was true, but probably he was no worse than most of the other wealthy “machers” (VIPs) in the community.

Charles’ father was interested in the right of Jews to enter Parliament. This right was opposed by the Tories (with exceptions) and supported by the main body of Liberals. Charles was an active Liberal and appeared in 1825 at an Anti-Corn Law meeting with leading Liverpool Liberals. His speech was largely a statistical look at other countries which did not have duties on corn.

By an Act of 1845, Jews were allowed to become Town Councillors, although in fact a few Jews before than date had served on town councils, the law being ignored. In 1857, 1860 and 1863, Charles was elected to the Council for Rodney Ward. In 1860, he was made a magistrate.

In November 1862, he was proposed as Mayor, but was not elected. The next November, the man who had proposed him, Robertson Gladstone, brother of the famous statesman, again put forward his name. Gladstone called attention to Mozley’s “high position as a banker”, his “high character, socially, morally and commercially”, his history and the “history of Mr Mozley’s family in regard to various matters in which the community of Liverpool are deeply interested”.

The question of religion, said Gladstone, had been raised many times in the past when a Dissenter was proposed as Mayor. Mr Mozley belonged to “a very small sect”, and his election could not harm Christianity. He “supported the Throne and admired most of the institutions of the country”. Mr J Picton, after whom one of the libraries in William Brown Street is named, seconded and, out of 57 votes cast, there was a majority of 5 for Mozley. He “took the oath to the Jewish form”. In his reply of thanks, he asked for the help of “that Supreme Power to whom alike we bend the knee” – surely not an apt metaphor for a Jew.

There was, however, a sensation elsewhere. St George’s Church, which stood where the Queen Victoria Memorial in Derby Square now stands, was the Corporation Church. Its minister was the newly arrived and eccentric James Kelly, who preached against the election of a Jewish Mayor. Mr Mozley would not be welcome in his church.

Mozley’s year was marked by a few outstanding events in which he played a personal part. His greatest success was the way he celebrated Shakespeare’s tercentenary. There was a fancy dress ball at St George’s Hall – a social event for the upper reaches of society – and all the theatres and places of amusement were thrown open free for the benefit of the working class.

Politically, his year of office was as humdrum as that of other mayors. There was disappointment for those who believed that his Jewishness somehow had a magical quality that would bring innovation and betterment in society, or a provide a sparkle and talent for leadership. He failed to use his influence to tackle the terrible conditions that existed in the city. Charles Mozley and his family had reached the zenith. What followed in the next two years brought them tumbling to the depths.

The Barned & Co bank, which Charles and his nephews owned, failed in April 1866, with liabilities of £3.5m. The obvious reason for its failure was the collapse of cotton prices with the ending of the American Civil War, but the blame cannot be thrown on this alone. My own guess is that Charles Mozley, now 68 years old, left the management of the bank to 35 year-old Lewin B Mozley. Frederick B Mozley was 26 years old and had become a director only recently. Be that as it may, Charles Mozley, as Chairman, bore the responsibility. The investigation into the bank’s collapse revealed that nearly all Charles’s private fortune had been mortgaged for an advance of £100,000 to meet a “defalcation” by a member of the family, shortly before the bank went public in June 1865.

After a few months, Charles Mozley and the family, which included the children of his two brothers, left Liverpool. The reign of the Joseph/Mozley family, who had dominated Liverpool Jewry for 90 years, ended. Charles settled in London, where he died on 25 May 1881. His estate was valued in his will at £800. His brother Lewin and his brother-in-law Israel Barned, both of whom died in the 1850s, left estates each valued at £200,000. His widow, Emma, returned to Liverpool on the death of her husband. She was the last Mozley to live here and she died in January 1886. Her estate was valued at nearly £12,000.

Charles Mozley, therefore, did not die in poverty. Only the wealthy lived in Portman Square, London, where he resided. But we must believe, surely, that he lived out his days an unhappy man, exiled from the city of his birth and his dynastic kingdom.


Other Sources
Wolfman, J (1993/4) “Liverpool’s Jewish Mayor” in “Merseyside Jewish Representative Council Year Book 1993-94″, pages 60-67.

Grave References
Charles Mozley (1797-1881): A 05.28
Emma Mozley (née Brandon, his wife; 1815-1886): A 05.29