Gordon Hewart, 1st Viscount Hewart

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The Viscount Hewart

Gordon Hewart, 1st Viscount Hewart.jpg
Lord Chief Justice of England
In office
8 March 1922 – 12 October 1940
MonarchGeorge V
Edward VIII
George VI
Preceded byThe Lord Trevethin
Succeeded byThe Viscount Caldecote
Attorney General for England
In office
10 January 1919 – 6 March 1922
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded bySir F. E. Smith
Succeeded bySir Ernest Pollock
Solicitor General for England
In office
10 December 1916 – 10 January 1919
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded bySir George Cave
Succeeded bySir Ernest Pollock
Personal details
Gordon Hewart

7 January 1870
Bury, Lancashire, England
Died5 May 1943(1943-05-05) (aged 73)
Totteridge, Hertfordshire, England
Political partyLiberal
Alma materUniversity College, Oxford
OccupationPolitician, judge

Gordon Hewart, 1st Viscount Hewart, Kt PC (7 January 1870 – 5 May 1943) was a politician and judge in the United Kingdom.

Background and education[edit]

Hewart was born in Bury, Lancashire, the eldest son of Giles Hewart, a draper, and Annie Elizabeth Jones. He was educated at Bury Grammar School, Manchester Grammar School and University College, Oxford.

Political and legal career[edit]

Hewart as Lord Chief Justice, by John St Helier Lander.

Hewart began his career as a journalist for the Manchester Guardian and the Morning Leader. He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1902, joining the Northern Circuit. He took silk in 1912.

He was a Liberal Member of Parliament for Leicester from 1913, and, after the constituency was divided in 1918, Leicester East. An advanced Liberal, he was appointed Solicitor General in 1916, receiving the customary knighthood, and was sworn of the Privy Council in 1918. He was Attorney General from 10 January 1919 to 6 March 1922. He was given a seat in the Cabinet in 1921. While in office, he refused offers to become Chief Secretary for Ireland or Home Secretary; at the time, the Attorney General had the right of first refusal for the post of Lord Chief Justice, which was Hewart's ambition.

Lord Chief Justice[edit]

On the resignation of the Earl of Reading as Lord Chief Justice of England in 1921, Hewart asked to succeed him. However, David Lloyd George was reluctant to lose him, and a compromise the 77 year-old Sir A. T. Lawrence (Lord Trevethin from August 1921) was appointed instead as a stop-gap; he was required to furnish an undated letter of resignation to Lloyd George, an arrangement which scandalised many: Lord Birkenhead thought it 'illegal', while judges boycotted the farewell ceremony for Lord Reading.

On 3 March 1922, Trevethin 'resigned' (an event which he learned from The Times), and Hewart was duly appointed Lord Chief Justice of England on 8 March 1922, and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Hewart, of Bury, in the County of Lancaster on 24 March 1922.[1]

In 1929 Hewart published The New Despotism, in which he asserted that the rule of law in Britain was being undermined by the executive at the expense of the legislature and the courts.[2] This book was very controversial and led to the appointment of a Committee on Ministers' Powers—chaired by the Earl of Donoughmore—but its Report rejected Hewart's arguments.

He has been described as "one of the most vigorous and vociferous believers in the impeccability of the English jury system of this or any other century"[3] However, in 1931, Hewart made legal history, when (sitting with Mr Justice Branson and Mr Justice Hawke) he quashed the conviction for murder of William Herbert Wallace, on the grounds that the conviction was not supported by the weight of the evidence. In other words, the jury was wrong.

Lord Hewart was the originator (paraphrased from the original) of the aphorism "Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done."

In 1940 Hewart was asked by telephone by 10 Downing Street to resign; he duly did so on 12 October 1940. On his retirement he was created Viscount Hewart, of Bury in the County Palatine of Lancaster, on 1 November 1940.[4]

He died 5 May 1943 in Totteridge, Barnet, Hertfordshire aged 73.


Lord Hewart married twice; first in 1892 Sarah Wood Riley, daughter of J. H. Riley and secondly in 1934, Jean Stewart, the daughter of J. R. Stewart. With his first wife he had a daughter Katharine and a son and heir, Hugh.[5] When he died in Totteridge, on 5 May 1943, his titles were inherited by his son, Hugh Hewart, 2nd Viscount Hewart.


Coat of arms of Gordon Hewart, 1st Viscount Hewart
Hewart Achievement.png
In front of the trunk of a tree sprouting thereon an owl Proper three crosses patée fesswise Or.
Argent on a fess Sable between two owls Proper in chief and in base a cross patée of the second a fasces Or.
On either side an owl Proper charged with a fasces erect Or.
Nulla Retrorsum. [6]

Notable decisions[edit]


Further reading:
R. Jackson, The chief: the biography of Gordon Hewart, lord chief justice of England, 1922–40 (1959)
R. F. V. Heuston, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, 1885–1940 (1964)
R. Stevens, The independence of the judiciary: the view from the lord chancellor's office (1993)
R. Stevens, ‘Hewart, Gordon, first Viscount Hewart (1870–1943)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)


  1. ^ "No. 32653". The London Gazette. 28 March 1922. pp. 2507–2508.
  2. ^ Lord Hewart, The New Despotism (London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1929), p. 17.
  3. ^ The Killing of Julia Wallace, by Jonathan Goodman (Headline, London, 1987), p.251
  4. ^ "No. 34984". The London Gazette. 1 November 1940. p. 6348.
  5. ^ http://thepeerage.com/p23483.htm
  6. ^ Burke's Peerage. 1949.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Eliot Crawshay-Williams and
Ramsay MacDonald
Member of Parliament for Leicester
With: Ramsay MacDonald
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Leicester East
Succeeded by
George Banton
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir George Cave
Solicitor General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Ernest Pollock
Preceded by
Sir F. E. Smith
Attorney General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Ernest Pollock
Preceded by
The Lord Trevethin
Lord Chief Justice of England
Succeeded by
The Viscount Caldecote
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Viscount Hewart
Succeeded by
Hugh Hewart