Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wigram, James
WIGRAM, Sir JAMES (1793–1866), vice-chancellor, was the third son, by his second wife (Eleanor, daughter of John Watts), of Sir Robert Wigram, a merchant and shipowner, of London and Wexford, who was M.P. for Wexford and Fowey, was created a baronet in 1805, and died on 6 Nov. 1830. His elder brother, the second baronet, assumed the name of Fitzwygram in 1832; another brother was Joseph Cotton Wigram [q. v.] Born at his father's residence, Walthamstow House, Essex, on 5 Nov. 1793, James was educated privately and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. as fifth wrangler in 1815, gained a fellowship two years later, and proceeded M.A. in 1818. Being admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 18 June 1813, he was called to the bar by that society on 18 Nov. 1819, and, attaching himself to the court of chancery, pursued his profession with much industry. In Michaelmas vacation 1834 he attained the rank of king's counsel, and, being invited to the bench of Lincoln's Inn on 15 Jan. 1835, he took his seat as such on 30 Jan. following. Wigram was the author of two legal works, his ‘Examination of the Rules of Law respecting the Admission of Extrinsic Evidence in aid of the Interpretation of Wills,’ first published in 1831, having run through four editions; while in 1836 appeared his ‘Points in the Law of Discovery.’ These useful publications led to an interesting correspondence with some of the American judges, among whom was Dr. Story, the eminent commentator.
On 28 Oct. 1818 he married Anne (d. 1844), daughter of Richard Arkwright of Willersley, Derbyshire, and granddaughter of Sir Richard Arkwright [q. v.], whose family had also considerable property in the neighbourhood of Leominster in Herefordshire. Supported by this family interest, Wigram fought a contested election for Leominster on tory principles in 1837, but was defeated at the poll. He was, however, returned for the borough without opposition at the next general election, on 28 June 1841, but had little opportunity of distinguishing himself as a parliamentary debater; for—having enjoyed a distinguished lead in the courts of equity for several years—on 28 Oct. following he was raised to the bench under the act for the better administration of justice (5 Vict. c. 5), which provided for the appointment of a second vice-chancellor. He was sworn a member of the judicial committee of the privy council on 15 Jan. 1842, and received the customary order of knighthood the same month. Wigram, whose decrees were remarkable for the lucid exposition of the legal principles involved in the cases he had to adjudicate upon, was compelled by ill-health, resulting in the total loss of sight, to retire from the bench in Trinity vacation 1850, when he was granted a pension of 3,500l. a year. He died on 29 July 1866, leaving a family of four sons and five daughters. A crayon portrait by Sir George Richmond, R.A., is at Trinity College, Cambridge.
[Lincoln's Inn Registers; Official Ret. Members of Parl.; Graduati Cantabr. 1800–1884; Law Lists; Foss's Judges of England; Smith's Parliaments of England; Foster's Baronetage; obituary notices in the Law Times, Gent. Mag., and Law Journal.]