Alderson, Edward Hall (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01
Alderson, Edward Hall

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ALDERSON, Sir EDWARD HALL (1787–1857), judge, was the son of Robert Alderson, for many years recorder of Norwich, Yarmouth, and Ipswich. His mother dying in 1791, he was sent to live with his maternal grandfather, Mr. Hurry, and went to school at Scarning, near Dereham. Thence he passed to the Charterhouse in 1804, and after being a pupil of Maltby, afterwards bishop of Durham, at Buckden, Huntingdonshire, entered Caius College, Cambridge, in 1805. He was Browne's medallist in 1807, and in 1809 took a degree, only once equalled (by Brundish, of Caius, in 1773), being senior wrangler, first Smith's prizeman, and first chancellor's medallist, the last honour being then the highest attainable by classical scholarship. He became a fellow of his college, and immediately entered the Inner Temple, where he was a pupil of Chitty . He was called to the bar in 1811, and joined the northern circuit. From 1817 to 1822 he was reporter to the King's Bench (Barnewall and Alderson, Reports of Cases in the Court of King's Bench from 1817 to 1822) [see Barnewall, Richard Vaughan]. In 1823 he married Miss Georgina Drewe, of a family settled near Honiton, Devonshire. He had rapidly got into business, his most conspicuous performance as a barrister being his cross-examination of George Stephenson on the first railway case, that of the Manchester and Liverpool railway. In 1830 he was made a judge in the court of Common Pleas, never having taken silk. In 1834 he was transferred to the Exchequer, and was a baron of that court until his death. The remainder of his life was uneventful. He was a conservative, but never entered parliament, and took little part in politics. He was a strong churchman of moderate tendencies, and wrote three letters, printed with his life, to the Bishop of Exeter (Phillpotts), and to a friend who had thought of leaving the church of England upon occasion of the Gorham case, a step which he deprecates. He was a man of much religious feeling, a humane judge, with a desire to restrict capital punishment; and his literary taste was shown in some playful verses, and in his prolonged correspondence with his cousin, Mrs. Opie, till her death in 1853. His domestic life was happy, and he was the father of a large family. He died in January 1857.

[Selections from Charges and other detached papers, with introductory notice of his Life, by (his son) Charles Alderson, 1858.]