Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Huddleston, John Walter

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HUDDLESTON, Sir JOHN WALTER (1815–1890), judge, eldest son of Thomas Huddleston, captain in the merchant service, by Alethea, daughter of H. Hichens of St. Ives, Cornwall, was born at Dublin on 8 Sept. 1815. He was educated in Ireland, and matriculated, but took no degree, at Trinity College, Dublin. After some time spent as usher in a school in England, he entered Gray's Inn on 18 April 1836, and was called to the bar by that society on 7 May 1839. He went the Oxford circuit, and attended the Worcester and Staffordshire sessions. He also practised at the Middlesex sessions, where he chiefly argued poor-law cases, and at the Old Bailey. There and on circuit he gradually acquired an extensive criminal practice. He defended Cuffy the chartist in 1848, and secured the acquittal of Mercy Catherine Newton, on her third trial for matricide, in 1859. He was with Cockburn in the Rugeley poisoning case, and was engaged in many other causes célèbres, in which he distinguished himself in cross-examination, and by the lucidity and address with which he presented his points to the jury. He took silk in 1857, and was elected a bencher of his inn, of which he was treasurer in 1859 and 1868.

After unsuccessfully contesting several constituencies, he was returned to parliament for Canterbury, in the conservative interest, in 1865, and in the following year carried through the House the Hop Trade Bill, a useful measure intended to prevent the employment of fraudulent marks in that industry. Unseated at the election of 1868, he contested Norwich unsuccessfully in 1870, and successfully in 1874. He was judge-advocate of the Fleet from 1865 to 1875, when (22 Feb.) he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law, raised to the bench of the common pleas, and knighted. On 12 May he was transferred to the exchequer. On the passing of the Judicature Act of 1875 the court of exchequer became the exchequer division of the high court of justice, and it was decided that the style of baron of the exchequer should lapse on the death of the existing holders of the title. Huddleston's patent was the last issued, and he was accustomed on that account to call himself 'the last of the barons.' On the consolidation of the exchequer with the queen's bench division in 1880, he became a judge of the latter division, still, however, retaining the style of baron. He was greater as an advocate than as a judge, but his charges were always models of lucidity. During the last ten years of his life he suffered from a chronic and painful disease, and heavy cases, like the libel action of Belt v. Lawes in 1882, severely tried his powers. He died at his town house, 43 Ennismore Gardens, South Kensington, on 5 Dec. 1890, and was by his own direction cremated at Woking cemetery on the 12th.

Huddleston was an accomplished man, and well read in French literature. He also spoke French with ease and grace, and in that language made in 1868, as the representative of the English bar, a speech at Paris over the bier of the great French advocate, Pierre Antoine Berryer. He was afterwards entertained by M. Grévy and members of the French bar at a banquet at the Grand Hôtel. Huddleston was also a brilliant conversationalist, a lover of the theatre, and an authority on turf matters. He married, on 18 Dec. 1872, Lady Diana De Vere Beauclerk, daughter of the ninth Duke of St. Albans, who survives him. His widow presented two portraits of him in May 1891 to the judges' common room at the Royal Courts of Justice.

[Times, 6, 9, and 12 Dec. 1890; Law Times, 20 Dec. 1890; Men of the Time, 10th edit.; Inns of Court Cal. 1878; Ann. Reg. 1848, Chron. p. 121; 1850, Chron. p. 39; new ser. 1868, Chron.p.159; Law Reports, 12, App. Cases xvii.; Hansard's Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. clxxxii. 1853; Burke's Peerage, St. Albans; Ballantine's Some Experiences of a Barrister's Life, ed. 1890,p.29.]

J. M. R.