William Martin (judge)

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The Honourable
Sir William Martin
Martin William, Judge.jpg
1st Chief Justice of New Zealand
In office
5 February 1841 – 12 June 1857
Appointed by William Hobson
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by George Arney
Personal details
Born 1807
Birmingham, UK
Died 18 November 1880
Torquay, UK
Spouse(s) Mary Ann, Lady Martin (nee Parker)

Sir William Martin (1807 – 18 November 1880) was the first Chief Justice of New Zealand, from 1841 until he resigned in 1857.


Originally from the family of the Martins of Long Melford, Suffolk, Martin was born in Birmingham. He was baptised on 22 May 1807 and it is assumed that 1807 is his birth year.[1] He was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Eton, and St John's College, Cambridge.[2] He was appointed Chief Justice by the Colonial Office in January 1841 (warrant under Royal sign manual 5 February 1841; sworn 10 January 1842), and arrived in New Zealand in August 1841.

Mary Ann Martin, Caroline Abraham and Sarah Selwyn

He worked in New Zealand with Henry Samuel Chapman, who in 1843 was appointed Judge for New Munster, the southern province of New Zealand including Wellington and the South Island, and was resident judge at Wellington for eight years to 1852. They produced the 1852 Report on Supreme Court Procedure for New Zealand. Sir William also sat on circuit as a judge around New Zealand.

Martin, the Attorney-General William Swainson and Thomas Outhwaite, the first Registrar of the Supreme Court, were responsible for setting up the New Zealand judicial system. Martin, a friend of George Selwyn was sympathetic to the missionary and evangelical aspirations of the Anglican Church in the South Pacific, and to the Māori. He wrote protests against the Crown's disregard of its moral obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and the invasion of Taranaki.[1]

He resigned on 12 June 1857, and was knighted in 1860. Martin was one of the authors of a book written in support of the native people of New Zealand called Extracts of letters from New Zealand on the war question. He created it with his wife, Mary Ann, George and Sarah Selwyn, Caroline Abraham and her husband. This book was distributed privately after being printed in London in 1861.[3] He returned to England in 1874, dying at Torquay in 1880. Sir William was survived by family, some of whom still live in Dunedin, and the South Island of New Zealand.

As a judge, Sir William Martin was courteous and patient, but firm, impartial, and of unimpeachable integrity.[4]


  1. ^ a b Barton, G. P. "Martin, William - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Martin, William (MRTN824W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ Kirker, Anne. "Caroline Harriet Abraham". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017. 
  4. ^ Sewell, Henry (1980). W. David McIntyre, ed. The Journal of Henry Sewell 1853–7 : Volume II. Christchurch: Whitcoulls Publishers. p. 23. ISBN 0 7233 0625 7. 

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