Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Kekewich, Arthur

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KEKEWICH, Sir ARTHUR (1832–1907), judge, born on 26 July 1832 at Peamore, Exeter, was second son of Samuel Trehawke Kekewich of Peamore, the head of an old Devonshire family, and M.P. for Exeter in 1826 and for South Devon in 1858, by his first wife Agatha Maria Sophia, daughter of John Langston of Sarsden, Oxfordshire. His elder brother Trehawke Kekewich (1823–1909) took a prominent part in Devonshire affairs. Sir George William Kekewich, formerly permanent secretary of the board of education and M.P. for Exeter (1906–10), was his half-brother and Major-general Sir Robert Kekewich, K.C.B., the defender of Kimberley, was his nephew. Educated at Eton and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he matriculated on 11 March 1850, Arthur Kekewich was placed in the second class by the mathematical moderators in 1852, and graduated B.A. in 1854 with a first class in literæ humaniores and a second in the final school of mathematics. In the same year he was elected to a fellowship at Exeter College, which he held until his marriage on 23 Sept. 1858, with Marianne, daughter of James William Freshfield. He proceeded M.A. in 1856. Having entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn on 8 Nov. 1854, he was called to the bar on 7 June 1858. His connection through his wife with the great firm of Freshfield & Son, solicitors, gave him an excellent start, and brought him at an early period in his professional career the post of junior standing counsel to the Bank of England; for many years he was in the enjoyment of one of the largest junior practices at the chancery bar. He was made Q.C. on 4 May 1877, and a bencher of his inn on 4 July 1881. Though he possessed a sound knowledge of law and practice, he proved deficient in the qualities of a leader. He never obtained a firm footing in any one of the chancery courts, and his business dwindled to very modest proportions. He unsuccessfully contested, in the conservative interest, Coventry in 1880 and Barnstaple in 1885. There was some surprise in Lincoln's Inn when on the retirement of Vice-Chancellor Bacon [q. v.], in November 1886, Kekewich was appointed by Lord Halsbury to fill the vacancy, and he received the honour of knighthood early in the following year. On the bench Kekewich showed an expedition and despatch not usually associated with proceedings in Chancery; he had a thorough knowledge of the minutiae of equity practice, and was especially conversant with the details arising out of the administration of estates in chancery. But his quickness of perception and his celerity in decision were apt to impair the accuracy of his judgments, and he failed to keep sufficiently in control a natural tendency to exuberance of speech. Most kindly and courteous in private life, he was apt to be irritable on the bench. His judgments were appealed against with uncomplimentary frequency, and though he was occasionally avenged by the House of Lords, it was his lot to be reversed in the court of appeal to an extent which would have been disconcerting to a judge of less sanguine temperament. Several of his juniors on the bench were promoted over his head to the court of appeal; but by the legal profession his shrewdness, sense of duty, and determination to administer justice with the minimum of delay were fully recognised. He died after a very short illness on 22 Nov. 1907 at his house in Devonshire Place; there were no arrears in his court, and he had sent, a day or two before his death, his only two reserved judgments to be read by one of his colleagues. He was buried at Exminster near Exeter. Kekewich was a strong churchman and conservative. A man of fine physique and active habits, a keen shot and fisherman, he became in his later years an enthusiastic golf-player. His wife with two sons and five daughters survived him. A caricature by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1895.

[The Times, 23 Nov. 1907; personal knowledge.]

J. B. A.