Alderman Barnett Marks was born in 1863 to parents Rey and Isidor Marks. He started life in Aldgate, London before moving to South Africa at the age of sixteen to start business as a trader. He moved to Kimberly in 1881 after trouble with the Boers, and dealt with mining claims and shares. A year later, Marks left for Hove in 1882.
Located on 113 Church Road, Marks owned a successful Jeweller and Silversmith business which he ran for 25 years. He was also active in civic affairs, serving on the Council of the Brighton Hebrew Congregation, and was distinguished member of the Freemasonry. Most notably, he maintained a continuous membership of Hove Council for 42 years. In 1910 he was elected as Mayor of Hove and served for three years. In 1913, after the success of his Mayoralty, he was elected to represent the Council on the East Sussex County Council and in 1919 became a Justice of the Peace.
Marks was an enthusiastic sportsman, and was one of the original directors of the Brighton and Hove Albion football club. He also was an avid cricketer.
Marks married Pauline Robinson, from Birmingham, and together they had four children. Their eldest son Arthur Sampson was born in 1885, followed by Albert Edward in 1887 and daughter Ethel in 1891. Ethel was married in March 1910 and his two sons both served in the first World War.
His fourth daughter Vera Marks was well-known in the local community for her elocutionary talents. The following newspaper clipping celebrates her gold medal award for elocution at the London Academy of Music. This award was remarkable, considering her age of eighteen, which was the lowest end of the age category for the competition. The clipping notes that Vera was an active performer in the Brighton area, performing regularly at concerts and functions.
After the outbreak of the first World War, Marks served on a tribunal which dealt with conscientious objectors.
In 1915, he was involved in setting up a fund to help Belgian refugees and later set up an additional fund for Russian refugees. Alongside the Mayor and several notable members of the community, Marks attended a tea and entertainment for the 400 Belgium refugees who were first country to be invaded by the German Army.
In 1917, he was in charge of the Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee of the Hove War Pensions Local Committee. Noted in the West Education Gazette, Marks informed that 2000 pounds was to be added to teachers salaries. That year, together with the Mayor and Bishop, he made a personal donation to the Nurses of Portslade Association of £5.
In 1918 he served as Chairman of the Education Committee, and it was in this capacity that he toured local schools with the Mayor and Mayoress as part of the victory celebrations.
After the first World War, Marks sadly suffered the loss of his eldest son Arthur Sampson who was enlisted in October of 1914 in the 9th Royal Sussex Regiment. Arthur had been sent to France in 1915 and suffered severe shell shock after serving with a trench mortar battery.
He was in various hospitals before being discharged with the honorary rank of lieutenant. Sadly, shortly after, Arthur died of pneumonia in London on 25 October 1918. His body was buried in Brighton in the Jewish Cemetery and the ceremony was conducted by Revd B.B Lieberman.
Barnett Marks later publicly refused to attend an honour dinner of visiting German police in 1935 because of his son’s death, and the appalling treatment of his brethren.
During the research process a resident at Hyman Fine House (a Jewish Care home) who attended the Shalom Sussex project’s reminiscence sessions remembered the Barnett Marks pawn shop in Hove, and confirmed that it was open until the mid-1940s.
A letter found from Eric Holden to D.Spector 28th August 1980 described Marks “as a ‘good man’, who ‘had come up the hard way’ and ‘hence was not a snob’”.
Marks died on 31 May 1944 at the age of 81, and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery on Florence Place, Brighton.