William Thomas Charley

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William Thomas Charley
W T Charley.jpg
W T Charley as Common Serjeant of London (1878)
Common Serjeant of London
In office
Member of Parliament
for Salford (UK Parliament constituency)
In office
Preceded by John Cheetham
Succeeded by Benjamin Armitage;
Arthur Arnold
Personal details
Born (1833-03-05)5 March 1833
Woodbourne, County Antrim
Died 8 July 1904(1904-07-08) (aged 71)

Sir William Thomas Charley (5 March 1833 – 8 July 1904) was a British judge and Conservative Party politician.


Charley was born in Woodbourne, County Antrim in the north of Ireland in 1833, and was the youngest son of Matthew Charley and Anne Roberts.[1] He was educated at Elstree House School, Lee, Kent and St John's College, Oxford from where he matriculated in 1856. He enrolled as a law student at the Inner Temple, was called to the bar in 1865, and received a Doctorate in Civil Law in 1868.[1]

He became involved in Conservative politics in the 1860s, and was elected as member of parliament for Salford at the 1868 general election. In parliament he advanced his protestant views on social matters and worked for the protection of children. He was defeated at the 1880 general election, and was an unsuccessful candidate at Ipswich at a by-election in 1883 and the 1885 general election,[1][2] as well as unsuccessfully contesting the East Belfast by-election in 1892 as an Independent Conservative.

In 1878 he was elected as the senior legal office of Common Serjeant by the Corporation of London. The appointment caused controversy, as it was felt to be purely political, and that there was a large number of better-qualified lawyers who should have been considered. As a result, the Local Government Act 1888 removed the right of the city corporation to choose the serjeant, which was vested in the Crown.[1]

In spite of criticism of Charley's performance of his duties, he remained as Common Serjeant until 1892, and was knighted and made a Queen's Counsel in 1880.[1] He became a judge of the Central Criminal Court, and of the Mayor's Court.[2]

He held a commission in the Volunteer Force, eventually reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel, commanding the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers.[1]

Charley was the author of a number of books on law, religion and the constitution in which he defended the status quo. These included The Real Property Acts (1874), The Judicature Acts (1875), The Crusade Against the Constitution: An Historical Vindication of the House of Lords (1895), Mending and Ending the House of Lords (1900) and The Holy City, Athens and Egypt (1902).[1][2]

Charley was an enthusiastic cyclist, and collapsed and died following a cycling trip in East Grinstead, Sussex, aged 71.[2]


He married Clara Harbord in 1890, and they had no children.[3]

EDIT: According to censuses and BMD records, they had two daughters - Clara Noel Charley(1891-1973) and Estelle Dumergue Charley(1894-1939)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g J. B. Atlay, rev. H. C. G. Matthew (2004). "Charley, Sir William Thomas (1833–1904)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 October 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Obituary. Sir William Charley, The Times, 9 July 1904, p. 11
  3. ^  Atlay, James Beresford (1912). "Charley, William Thomas". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Cheetham
Member of Parliament for Salford
With: Charles Edward Cawley 1868–1877
Oliver Ormerod Walker 1877–1880
Succeeded by
Benjamin Armitage
Arthur Arnold