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Tenterden, Charles Abbott

TENTERDEN, CHARLES ABBOTT, 1st BARON (1762-1832), lord chief justice of England, was born at Canterbury on the 7th of October 1762, his father having been a hairdresser and wigmaker of the town. He was educated at Canterbury King's School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, of which he afterwards became fellow and tutor. On the advice of Mr Justice Buller (1746-1800), to whose son he had been tutor, he determined on the legal profession, and entered at the Middle Temple in 1787. For several years he practised as a special pleader under the bar, and was finally called at the Inner Temple in 1796. He joined the Oxford circuit and soon made rapid headway. In 1801 he was appointed recorder of Oxford. In 1802 appeared his Law relative to Merchant Ships and Seamen, a concise and excellent treatise, which has maintained its position as an authoritative work. Its publication brought to him so much commercial and other work that in 1808 he was in a position to refuse a seat on the bench; this, however, he accepted in 1816, being made a judge of the court of common pleas. On the resignation of Lord Ellenborough in 1818 he was promoted to the chief justiceship of the king's bench. In his capacity as chief justice he presided over several important state trials, notably that of Arthur Thistlewood and the Cato Street conspirators (1820). He was raised to the peerage in 1827 as Baron Tenterden of Hendon. Never a great lawyer and with no pretence to eloquence, Tenterden made his way by sound common sense and steady hard work. He was an uncompromising Tory, and had no sympathy with the reform of the criminal law carried out by Romilly; while he strongly opposed the Catholic Relief Bill and the Reform Bill. He died on the 4th of November 1832, and was buried, by his own desire, in the Foundling Hospital, London, of which he was a governor.

Tenterden was succeeded in his title by his son, John Henry Abbott (1796-1870), then by his grandson, Charles Stuart Aubrey Abbott (1834-1882), permanent under-secretary for foreign affairs, who was made a K.C.B. in 1878. In 1882 the latter's son, Charles Stuart Henry Abbott (b. 1865) became the 4th Baron.

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

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