Garth was born Richard Lowndes at Morden, Surrey (now south-west London), the son of the Reverend Richard Lowndes (1790 – 30 January 1862) and his wife Mary Lowndes (née Douglas). Rev. Lowndes was, through his mother, the grandson of Richard Garth (d. 1787), Lord of the Manor of Morden. On the death of his mother, Rev. Lowndes inherited the manor and, in accordance with the requirements of his grandfather's will, he changed his and his family's surname to Garth by royal licence in 1837.
Garth was educated at Eton College and attended Christ Church College at the University of Oxford, where he was captain of the university cricket team in 1840 and 1841. He also played cricket for Marylebone Cricket Club, Hampshire and Surrey between 1839 and 1844. He received his MA from Oxford in June 1845.
The Garths had seven children:
- Richard Garth, b. 1848
- George Douglas Garth, 1852–1900
- William Garth, b. 1854
- Charles Garth, b. 1870
- Mary Eliza Garth, d. 1932
- Helen Frances Garth
- Evelyn Selina May Garth
When his father died in 1862, Garth inherited the manor and its estate at Morden Hall. Garth sold the manor in about 1872. He was also instrumental in the early planning of parts of Raynes Park, on land he owned in the neighbouring parish of Merton.
Garth practised commercial law in London, often appearing at the Guildhall. On 23 July 1866, Garth was made a Queen's Counsel and, two days later, became a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. At a by-election on 17 December 1866, he became one of the two members of parliament for Guildford, Surrey, replacing Sir William Bovill. His period as an MP ended at the 1868 general election when, as a consequence of the 1867 Reform Act, Guildford's second parliamentary seat was abolished.
On 2 March 1875, Garth was made Chief Justice of Bengal. He received a knighthood on 13 May 1875. Garth's legal opinions often brought him into conflict with the Indian and Bengal administrations, particularly with the Viceroy, the Marquess of Ripon, over the Bengal Tenancy Act and the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Bill (the Ilbert Bill), both of which Garth publicly opposed. In May 1883, Garth sentenced Surendranath Banerjea to two months' imprisonment for libel against another of the high court's judges. He remained in the post at Fort William, Calcutta until 26 February 1886. Although he had opposed legislation which would have brought the legal rights of whites and Indians closer together, Garth was a supporter of the Indian National Congress and, in 1888, wrote a pamphlet A Few Plain Truths about India in support of the organisation's aims stating, "for myself I have long been persuaded that many of the abuses complained of are real and serious; and that some of the proposed reforms would be not only of advantage to India, but would materially strengthen the hands of the Government."
- "Deaths". The Times. 3 February 1862. p. 1. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- F.H. Brown; Roger T. Stearn (2004). "Garth, Sir Richard (1820–1903)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33343. Retrieved 3 September 2008.
- www.william1.co.uk – Descendants of William the Conqueror
- 'Morden', The Environs of London: Volume 1: County of Surrey (1792), pp. 361–63
- The London Gazette: . 31 March 1827. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Cricket Archive – Richard Garth
- "University Intelligence". The Times. 6 June 1845. p. 8. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- "Index entry for death of Clara Garth". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- 'Parishes: Morden', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4 (1912), pp. 235–37.
- Raynes Park & West Barnes Residents' Association – history
- The London Gazette: . 24 July 1866. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- The London Gazette: . 21 December 1866. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- The London Gazette: . 5 March 1875. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- The London Gazette: . 18 May 1875. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- The London Gazette: . 26 February 1886. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Quoted in Hansard, 6 December 1888, Questions on the Speech of Marquess of Dufferin. Retrieved on 3 September 2008
- The London Gazette: . 24 February 1888. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- The London Gazette: . 9 June 1903. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Richard Garth
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir William Bovill
|Member of Parliament for Guildford
With: Guildford Onslow
(Second seat abolished)
Sir Richard Couch
|Chief Justice of Bengal
Sir William Comer Petheram