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Bramwell, George William Wilshere Bramwell

BRAMWELL, GEORGE WILLIAM WILSHERE BRAMWELL, Baron (1808-1892), English judge, was born in London on the 12th of June 1808, being the eldest son of George Bramwell, of the banking firm of Dorrien, Magens, Dorrien & Mello. He was educated privately, and at the age of sixteen he entered Dorriens' bank. In 1830 he gave up this business for the law, being admitted as a student at Lincoln's Inn in 1830, and at the Inner Temple in 1836. At first he practised as a special pleader, but was eventually called to the bar at both Inns in 1838. He soon worked his way into a good practice both in London and the home circuit, his knowledge of law and procedure being so well recognized that in 1850 he was appointed a member of the Common Law Procedure Commission, which resulted in the Common Law Procedure Act of 1852. This act he drafted jointly with his friend Mr (afterwards Mr Justice) Willes, and thus began the abolition of the system of special pleading. In 1851 Lord Cranworth made Bramwell a queen's counsel, and the Inner Temple elected him a bencher - he had ceased to be a member of Lincoln's Inn in 1841. In 1853 he served on the royal commission to inquire into the assimilation of the mercantile laws of Scotland and England and the law of partnership, which had as its result the Companies Act of 1862. It was he who, during the sitting of this commission, suggested the addition of the word "limited" to the title of companies that sought to limit their liability, in order to prevent the obvious danger to persons trading with them in ignorance of their limitation of liability. As a queen's counsel Bramwell enjoyed a large and steadily increasing practice, and in 1856 he was raised to the bench as a baron of the court of exchequer. In 1867, with Mr Justice Blackburn and Sir John Coleridge, he was made a member of the judicature commission. In 1871 he was one of the three judges who refused the seat on the judicial committee of the privy council to which Sir Robert Collier, in evasion of the spirit of the act creating the appointment, was appointed; and in 1876 he was raised to the court of appeal, where he sat till the autumn of 1881. As a puisne judge he had been conspicuous as a sound lawyer, with a strong logical mind unfettered by technicalities, but endowed with considerable respect for the common law. His rulings were always clear and decisive, while the same quality marked his dealings with fact, and, coupled with a straightforward, unpretentious manner, gave him great influence with juries. In the court of appeal he was perhaps not so entirely in his element as at nisi prius, but the same combination of sound law, strong common sense and clear expression characterized his judgments. His decisions during the three stages of his practical career are too numerous to be referred to particularly, although Ryder v. Wombwell (L. R. 3 Ex. 95); R. v. Bradshaw (14 Cox C. C. 84); Household Fire Insurance Company v. Grant (4 Ex. Div. 216); Stonor v. Fowle (13 App. Cas. 20), The Bank of England v. Vagliano Brothers (App. Cas. 1891) are good examples. Upon his retirement, announced in the long vacation of 1881, twenty-six judges and a huge gathering of the bar entertained him at a banquet in the Inner Temple hall. In December of the same year he was raised to the peerage, taking the title Baron Bramwell of Hever, from his home in Kent. In private life Bramwell had simple tastes and enjoyed simple pleasures. He was musical and fond of sports. He was twice married: in 1830 to Jane (d. 1836), daughter of Bruno Silva, by whom he had one daughter, and in 1861 to Martha Sinden. He died on the 9th of May 1892.

His younger brother, Sir Frederick Bramwell (1818-1903), was a well-known consulting engineer and "expert witness."

At all times Lord Bramwell had been fond of controversy and controversial writing, and he wrote constant letters to The Times over the signature B. (he also signed himself at different times Bramwell, G.B. and L.L.). He joined in 1882 the Liberty and Property Defence League, and some of his writings after that date took the form of pamphlets published by that society.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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