Patteson, John (1790-1861) (DNB00)

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PATTESON, Sir JOHN (1790–1861), judge, second son of the Rev. Henry Patteson of Drinkstone, Suffolk, by his wife, Sophia, daughter of Richard Ayton Lee, a London banker, was born at Coney Weston, Suffolk, on 11 Feb. 1790. He was at first educated at a school kept by his father's curate, a Mr. Merest, but afterwards went to Eton. His name first appears in the school lists in 1802, and in 1808 he was elected on the foundation. Dr. Sumner, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, was his tutor. At Eton he proved himself not merely a good scholar, but the best swimmer and one of the best scullers and cricketers in the school. In 1809 he went to Cambridge with a scholarship at King's, which, under the then existing privileges of king's scholars, entitled him to graduate without examination. He accordingly graduated B.A. in 1813, and M.A. in 1816. His university career was, however, distinguished. When the Davies university scholarship for classics was established, he was, in 1810, the first to win it, and in 1812 he was elected a fellow of his college. He hesitated for a short time between holy orders, law, and medicine; but in 1813 he came to London and entered at the Middle Temple. In 1815 he went on the midland circuit as marshal to Mr. Justice Chambre, read in the chambers of Godfrey Sykes, an eminent pleader, and of Joseph Littledale [q. v.], afterwards a judge. In 1821 he began practice on his own account as a special pleader, and was called to the bar in the same year. He joined the northern circuit, and there, even against competitors such as Alderson and Parke, came to the front by dint of his skill in pleading. He was soon engaged in assisting Littledale in his work as counsel to the treasury. His progress was rapid. His best argument is said to have been in Rennell v. the Bishop of Lincoln (reported in 7 Barnewell and Cresswell, p. 113). He was one of the legal commissioners on the reform of the Welsh judicature, whose report led to the act of 1830, by which three additional judges were appointed—one in the king's bench, one in the common pleas, and one in the exchequer; and, though he had never been a king's counsel, Lord Lyndhurst, in November, appointed him to the new judgeship in the court of king's bench, and he was knighted. For upwards of twenty years he was one of the strongest, most practical, and most learned judges in that court. He had a vast memory and erudition, a lucid mind, gifts of clear expression and an unfailing courtesy. ‘Take him altogether,’ says Sir Joseph Arnould, he was ‘one of the very best and ablest judges that ever sat in Westminster Hall’ (Life of Lord Denman, i. 419). Deafness at length compelled him to tender his resignation at the end of January 1852. On 2 Feb. 1852 he was sworn of the privy council, and for some years was able to serve as a member of its judicial committee. He also acted as a commissioner to examine into the state of the city of London in 1853, was frequently chosen arbitrator in government questions—such as disputes between the crown and duchy of Cornwall, and between the Post Office and the Great Western Railway—and his award terminated a long-standing rating dispute between the university and the town of Cambridge. Failing health at last put an end to all judicial work, and he died on 28 June 1861 at Feniton Court, Honiton, Devonshire, a seat which he had purchased in 1841.

Patteson was twice married: first, on 23 Feb. 1818, to his cousin Elizabeth, daughter of George Lee of Dickleburgh, Norfolk, by whom he had one daughter; and after her death on 3 April 1820, he married, on 22 April 1824, Frances Duke, daughter of Captain James Coleridge of Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, and sister of Sir John Taylor Coleridge [q. v.], who died on 27 Nov. 1842. One of his sons by her was John Coleridge Patteson [q. v.], bishop of Melanesia.

Patteson edited, in 1824, Serjeant Williams's ‘Notes on Saunders's Reports,’ and the comments which he added are of very high authority.

[Law Magazine, xii. 197; Law Times, xxxvi. 434, 446; Yonge's Life of J. C. Patteson; Foss's Judges of England.]

J. A. H.