Bodkin, William Henry (DNB00)

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BODKIN, Sir WILLIAM HENRY (1791–1874), legal writer, son of Peter Bodkin, a member of a family long connected with the county of Galway, was born at Islington 4 Aug. 1791. His mother was a Sarah Gilbert of Lichfield. He was educated at the Islington Academy. He was married in 1812 to Sarah Sophia, eldest daughter of Peter Raymond Poland, of Winchester Hall, Highgate. In 1821 we find him hon. secretary to the Society for the Suppression of Mendacity. He was called in 1826 to the bar by the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, of which society he afterwards became a bencher. For several years he went on the home circuit. He practised largely in criminal business at the Middlesex, Westminster, and Kentish sessions, and at the Central Criminal Court. He was made recorder of Dover in 1832. In the intervals of legal employment he busied himself, in his capacity of secretary to the Society for the Suppression of Mendacity, with the poor laws. He wished to encourage the systenatic giving of relief, but at the same time to extirpate the gross abuses to which the poor laws had been liable in his time. At the general election in 1841 he was returned to parliament in the conservative interest as the colleague of Mr. J. Stoddart Douglas in the representation of Rochester, defeating Lord Melgund, afterwards Earl of Minto. by a narrow majority of two votes. He was himself defeated by Twisden Hodges and Ralph Bernal [q. v.] at the next general election in 1847. He twice unsuccesstully contested the city of Rochester, having lost his seat through supporting Sir Robert Peel's free-trade measures. It is to Sir William Bodkin that the statute is due by which irremovable poor are made chargeable to the common fund of unions. Sir William's act was passed for one year only; but it has been continued and extended, and is, in fact, the foundation of the present system. In 1859 he was appointed assistant judge of the Middlesex sessions. In 1865 he married again (his first wife having died in 1848) Sarah Constance, daughter of Joseph Johnson Miles, J. P., of Highgate. In 1867 he was made a knight. Owing to an attack of cancer in the cheek, he resigned his office, some weeks before his death, to Mr. Edlin, Q.C. He died, aged 83, 26 March 1874, at his house, West Hill, Highgate, and was buried in the Highgate cemetery. For many years Sir William Bodkin was counsel to the treasury, and the president of the Society of Arts, of which he was one of the earliest and most zealous members. He was also a deputy lieutenant of Middlesex and chairman of the Metropolitan Assessment Sessions.

He is the author of: 1. 'Brief Observations on the Bill now pending in Parliament to amend the Laws relative to the Relief of the Poor in England,' London, 1821. 2. 'A Speech delivered at a Meeting of the Constituents at the Crown Inn, Rochester,' 8 Sept. 1841.

[Debrett's House of Commons, &c. 1872, p. 423; Cooper's Men of the Time, 8th ed.; Hampstead and Highgate Express, 28 March 1874; Times, 25 March 1874; Brit. Mus. Catal.]

J. M.