Courtney Kenny (Liberal politician)

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Courtney Stanhope Kenny (18 March 1847 – 18 March 1930) was a British jurist, academic and Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1885 to 1888. He is buried with his family in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Kenny was born on the Wirral, the son of William Fenton Kenny J.P. of Halifax and Ripon and his wife Agnes Ralph, daughter of John Rhodes Ralph J.P. of Halifax.[2] He was educated at the Heath and Hipperholme grammar schools and joined a firm of solicitors in 1863. In 1869 he became a partner but decided to leave and pursue a university education, entering Downing College, Cambridge in 1871. His career at university was particularly brilliant; in 1872 he was awarded a scholarship, in 1874 he was senior in the law and history tripos, won the Winchester Reading Prize, and was elected president of the union. In 1875, he won the chancellor's medal for legal studies.[3]

Kenny was elected a fellow of Downing College in 1875 and was appointed to a lecturership in law and moral science. In three successive years, 1877, 1878, 1879, he submitted an essay which won him thrice the Yorke Prize; the essays were on the history of the law of primogeniture (jointly with Perceval Maitland Laurence), the law relating to married women's property, and the law of charities.

In 1881 Kenny was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn and joined the south-eastern circuit.

Political career[edit]

At the 1885 general election Kenny was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the Barnsley division of Yorkshire,[4] and at the general election of June 1886 he was again returned as a Liberal.[5] While in parliament he introduced bills for the abolition of primogeniture and for the amendment of the law relating to blasphemy, which demanded the repeal of the laws restricting the expression of religious opinion.

Cambridge Professor[edit]

In 1888 Kenny became university reader of English law at Cambridge University, and resigned from parliament[6] to concentrate on work at the university. In 1907 he was elected to replace the recently deceased Frederic William Maitland as Downing professor of the laws of England, a position he held until his retirement in 1918.[7] He died in Cambridge aged 83. Two student residence buildings at Downing College are named in his honour.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • The Law of England on the Effects of Marriage on Property, Yorke Prize 1877
  • The History of the Law of Primogeniture, Yorke Prize 1878
  • The true principles of legislation with regard to property given for charitable or other public uses or Endowed Charities, Yorke Prize 1879?1880
  • A Selection of Cases Illustrative of English Criminal Law, 1901
  • A selection of cases illustrative of the English law of tort, 1908
  • Outlines of Criminal Law, textbook with at least 19 re-editions to 1966,


Kenny married Emily Gertrude Wiseman (2 July 1849 – 27 November 1929) daughter of William Wood Wiseman M.R.C.S. of Ossett, Yorkshire in 1876. They had two daughters, Gertrude (died 9 September 1958) and Agnes (died 11 January 1966); all are buried together in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.[1]


  1. ^ a b A Cambridge Necropolis by Dr. Mark Goldie, 2000
  2. ^ Debretts House of Commons and the Judicial Bench 1886
  3. ^ "Kenny, Courtney Stanhope (KNY871CS)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "B" (part 1)
  5. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 432. ISBN 0-900178-27-2.
  6. ^ Department of Information Services (14 January 2010). "Appointments to the Chiltern Hundreds and Manor of Northstead Stewardships since 1850" (PDF). House of Commons Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  7. ^ P. H. Winfield, Courtney Stanhope Kenny
  8. ^ "Outlines of criminal law", by Kenny, Courtney Stanhope, 1847-1930; Webb, James Henry, 1854-1924. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1907.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Barnsley
Succeeded by
Earl Compton