Richard Webster, 1st Viscount Alverstone

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For other people named Richard Webster, see Richard Webster (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
The Viscount Alverstone
GCMG KC
The Viscount Alverstone
4th Lord Chief Justice of England
In office
24 October 1900 – 21 October 1913
Monarch Victoria
Edward VII
George V
Preceded by The Lord Russell of Killowen
Succeeded by The Earl of Reading
79th Master of the Rolls
In office
9 May 1900 – 24 October 1900
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by Nathaniel Lindley
Succeeded by Archibald Levin Smith
Attorney General for England
In office
27 June 1885 – 28 January 1886
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by Sir Henry James
Succeeded by Sir Charles Russell
In office
5 August 1886 – 11 August 1892
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by Sir Charles Russell
Succeeded by Sir Charles Russell
In office
8 July 1895 – 7 May 1900
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by Sir Robert Reid
Succeeded by Sir Robert Finlay
Personal details
Born Richard Everard Webster
22 December 1842
Holborn, London
United Kingdom
Died 15 December 1915(1915-12-15) (aged 72)
Cranleigh, Surrey
United Kingdom
Resting place West Norwood Cemetery
Lambeth, London
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Barrister, Judge

Richard Everard Webster, 1st Viscount Alverstone, GCMG, QC (22 December 1842 – 15 December 1915) was a British barrister, politician and judge who served in many high political and judicial offices.

Background and education[edit]

Webster was the second son of Thomas Webster QC. He was educated at King's College School and Charterhouse, and Trinity College, Cambridge.[1] He was well known as an athlete in his earlier years, having represented his university in the first Inter-Varsity steeplechase and as a runner, the Cambridge Alverstone Club being named in his honour and the Lord's Prayer being dedicated to him as follows:

Our Lord, who art at Wilberforce, Alverstone be thy name, Thy swaps will come, Thy grass reps will be done, On earth as they are in Chariots, Give us this day our daily banter, And forgive us for our pennying, As we forgive those who penny against us, And lead us all into Cindies, But deliver us from Gardies, For thine is the club, the tie and the track, For ever and ever, Amen.

His interest in cricket and foot-racing was maintained in later life. He refereed races for the early Amateur Athletic Club and set rules for long jump and shot put. He was President of Surrey County Cricket Club from 1895 until his death, and of the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1903.

Legal, judicial and political career[edit]

Webster in the 1890s

Webster was called to the bar in 1868, and became QC only ten years afterwards. His practice was chiefly in commercial, railway and patent cases until (June 1885) he was appointed Attorney-General in the Conservative Government in the exceptional circumstances of never having been Solicitor-general, and not at the time occupying a seat in parliament. He was elected for Launceston in the following month, and in November exchanged this seat for the Isle of Wight, which he continued to represent until his elevation to the House of Lords. Except under the brief Gladstone administration of 1886, and the Gladstone-Rosebery cabinet of 1892–1895, Sir Richard Webster was Attorney-General from 1885 to 1900.

In 1890 he was leading counsel for The Times in the Parnell inquiry; in 1893 he represented Great Britain in the Bering Sea arbitration; in 1898 he discharged the same function in the matter of the boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela. In 1903 during the Alaska boundary dispute he was one of the members of the Boundary Commission. Against the wishes of the Canadians it was his swing vote that settled the matter, roughly splitting the disputed territory. As a result, he became extremely unpopular in Canada.

In the House of Commons, and outside it, his political career was prominently associated with church work; and his speeches were distinguished for gravity and earnestness. In January 1900 he was created a Baronet,[2] but in May the same year succeeded Sir Nathaniel Lindley as Master of the Rolls, being raised to the peerage as Baron Alverstone, of Alverstone in the County of Southampton, and in October of the same year he was elevated to the office of Lord Chief Justice upon the death of Lord Russell of Killowen. He presided over some notable trials of the era including Hawley Harvey Crippen. Although popular, he was not considered an outstanding judge; one colleague wrote after his death that "the reports will be searched in vain for judgments of his that are valuable".

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1902.[3] He retired in 1913, and was created Viscount Alverstone, of Alverstone in the County of Southampton.

Family[edit]

Alverstone caricatured by WH for Vanity Fair, 1913

Lord Alverstone married Louisa Mary, daughter of William Charles Calthrop, in 1872. He commissioned the architect Edward Blakeway I'Anson to build Winterfold House near Cranleigh in the Surrey Hills in 1886, in a classic late Victorian style, and laid out grounds with flowering trees and shrubs. They had one son and one daughter. She died in March 1877. Their only son, the Honourable Arthur died childless in August 1902, aged 28, after an operation for appendicitis. The Arthur Webster Hospital, opened in 1905, was presented to the town of Shanklin, Isle of Wight by Lord Alverstone in memory of his son. The building is still in use as the Arthur Webster Clinic.

Lord Alverstone died at Cranleigh, Surrey, in December 1915, aged 72 and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery under a Celtic cross. His peerages became extinct on his death.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Webster, Richard Everard (WBSR860RE)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27157. p. 512. 26 January 1900.
  3. ^ "Library and Archive catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Hardinge Giffard
Member of Parliament for Launceston
18851885
Succeeded by
Charles Dyke Acland
Preceded by
Evelyn Ashley
Member of Parliament for Isle of Wight
18851900
Succeeded by
J. E. B. Seely
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Henry James
Attorney-General for England and Wales
1885–1886
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Russell
Preceded by
Sir Charles Russell
Attorney-General for England and Wales
1886–1892
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Russell
Preceded by
Sir Robert Reid
Attorney-General for England and Wales
1895–1900
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Finlay
Preceded by
Sir Nathaniel Lindley
Master of the Rolls
1900
Succeeded by
Sir Archibald Smith
Preceded by
The Lord Russell of Killowen
Lord Chief Justice of England
1900–1913
Succeeded by
Sir Rufus Isaacs
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Alverstone
1900 – 1913
Extinct
Viscount Alverstone
1913 – 1915