Scott, Benjamin (DNB00)

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SCOTT, BENJAMIN (1814–1892), chamberlain of London, son of Benjamin Whinnell Scott, chief clerk to the chamberlain of London, was born in 1814, and entered the chamberlain's office as a junior clerk. In 1841, on the death of his father, he succeeded him as chief clerk, and remained in the service of the corporation in that capacity during the chamberlainship of Sir James Shaw, Sir William Heygate, and Anthony Brown. On the death of Brown early in 1853, Scott received a requisition, as a liveryman of the Wheelwrights' Company, to stand for chamberlain, the office being in the gift of the liverymen of the various companies. For nearly a century the post had been filled from the ranks of aldermen who had passed the mayoralty chair. Scott had for his opponent Alderman Sir John Key [q. v.], who had been twice lord mayor (in 1830 and 1831). After a four days' poll, in which the expenses of the candidates together exceeded 10,000l., Key was elected by the small majority of 224 votes. At the end of 1853, owing to the continued friction produced by the contest, Scott resigned his appointments under the corporation, and a year later became secretary of the new bank of London, which he had taken part in establishing. In July 1858, on the death of Sir John Key, he again became a candidate for the office of chamberlain, and was elected without opposition.

His knowledge of finance made him especially useful to the corporation. On Black Friday 1866, through his judgment in investments, the corporation lost not a penny, although they had at the time 700,000l. out on loan. In 1888 the common council acknowledged his financial services by a eulogistic resolution and the gift of 5,000l. The presentation addresses which he delivered when honorary freedoms were bestowed by the corporation were marked by dignity and eloquence. In 1884 he published for the corporation ‘London's Roll of Fame,’ a collection of such addresses with the replies during the previous 127 years.

For many years he devoted much spare time to lecturing to the working classes, and in December 1851 was the chief promoter of the Working Men's Educational Union, which was formed to organise lectures for workmen. For this society he wrote and published three ‘Lectures on the Christian Catacombs at Rome,’ two ‘Lectures on Artificial Locomotion in Great Britain,’ and a ‘Manual on Popular Lecturing.’ He was a F.R.A.S., and much interested in the study of astronomy and statistics. In 1867 he published a ‘Statistical Vindication of the City of London.’

He was a staunch nonconformist, temperance advocate, and social reformer; and exerted himself strongly for the abolition of church rates, the promotion of ragged schools, state education, and preservation of open spaces. Towards the endowment of the nonconformist church in Southwark in memory of the Pilgrim Fathers he contributed 2,000l. He worked hard to promote the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, and published an account of his efforts in a pamphlet, ‘Six Years of Labour and Sorrow.’ He died on 17 Jan. 1892, and was buried in Weybridge cemetery with his wife, who predeceased him by three days. He continued the exercise of his official duties till within a short time of his death. He married, in 1842, Kate, daughter of Captain Glegg of the dragoon guards. Four children survived him.

His other publications were: 1. ‘The Pilgrim Fathers neither Puritans nor Persecutors,’ 1866; 2nd edit. 1869. 2. ‘Suggestions for a Chamber of Commerce for the City of London,’ 1867. 3. ‘Municipal Government of London,’ 1882.

[Scott's Memorials of the Family of Scott, 1876; information supplied by J. B. Scott, esq.; Review of Reviews, v. 139; City Press, 12 Dec. 1891 p. 3, 30 Dec. 1891 p. 3, and 20 Jan. 1892 p. 3; Guildhall Library Catalogue.]

C. W-h.