Benjamin Joseph Jacob became the first Mayor of Deptford on Friday 9th November 1900. He served two consecutive terms (until November 1902). His younger brother Jesse Jacob was Mayor for the municipal year 1906-7.
Benjamin was born on 10 March 1836 and christened at St Pauls Church, Deptford on 13 April. Jesse was born 27 July 1840 and christened at St Pauls on 24 August . Their parents were Benjamin and Sarah Jacob nee Cooper). Benjamin and Sarah had married at St Botolphs, Bishopsgate on 1st July 1833 and Benjamin was their second child and first son, Jesse the fourth child and second son. Benjamin senior was a lighterman. The family lived at various addresses around Creek Road and Deptford Green, but by 1861 had moved to 2 Deptford Bridge. By then there was another boy and two girls.
For many years Sarah's younger brother Will Cooper lived with the family. Will was clerk to the Queen's Proctor. (The Queen's Proctor was a lawyer appointed by the government to intervene in various cases most notably where there was suspicion of collusion between parties in divorce actions.) Another uncle was the Revd Dr Robert Halley (married to Benjamin senior's sister Rebekah) a prominent Congregationalist minister and academic.
Both sons served their apprenticeships as Lightermen and at some point went into partnership with their father as B. Jacob & Sons (later incorporated as B. Jacob & Sons Ltd). Various tugs and lighters were built or bought including a Thames Barge named Jesse in 1865. As well as moving goods on the Thames itself the firm unloaded goods from ships in the river into lighters and delivered to wharves on Deptford Creek.
Benjamin Joseph married Mary Elizabeth Wade in 1861 and Jesse married Ellen Bavin in 1865. Benjamin and Elizabeth had at least six children: Louis, Helen, Walter, Benjamin, Annie May and Reginald. They lived in Warwick Street (near to where Warwickshire Path is now), 64 Lewisham High Road (now Lewisham Way) and finally 29 Pepys Road. Jesse and Ellen had two children Maria Annie and Harry. They lived at 33 Douglas Street (now Douglas Way) and then 52 Florence Road, where Ellen died on 4 October 1888. Jesse and the children then moved to 60 Wickham Road.
Jesse stood for election, apparently unsuccessfully, as a Thames Conservator in 1897. (The Conservators were the forerunners of the Port of London Authority.) During his first term as Mayor Benjamin gave evidence on behalf of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen to the Royal Commission whose findings led to the formation of the Port of London Authority. During he second term he was a guest at the King's Levee in the St James's Palace Garden Party.
During his time as Mayor Jesse was at the Broadway Theatre in New Cross on 16 December 1906 when the Dickens Fellowship Dramatic Society gave a performance of a play based on Dombey and Son in aid of the Lord Mayor's Cripples Fund. Jesse promised a donation of £5 but subsequently donated 5 guineas. A few weeks later Jesse's son Harry died at 60 Wickham Road on New Years Day 1907. The Duchess of Albany visited Deptford on 14 May 1907 and Jesse welcomed her to the Deptford Fund Refuge at St Peter's Hall, Brockley. On 12 July 1907 Jesse attended the centenary festival dinner of the City of London Truss Society. Jesse died at 60 Wickham Road on 27 January 1908, less than three months after his term as Mayor ended.
Mary Elizabeth died on 29 June 1911 and Benjamin Joseph on 24 January 1918.
Benjamin Joseph's son Reginald followed his father onto the river and was Master of The Company of Watermen and Lightermen in 1922.
B. Jacob & Sons Ltd carried on, until going into voluntary liquidation in 1967 and being wound up in 1968, presumably as a result of containerisation.
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