Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Phear, John Budd

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PHEAR, Sir JOHN BUDD (1825–1905), judge in India and author, born at Earl Stonham, Suffolk, on 9 Feb. 1825, was eldest of three sons of John Phear, thirteenth wrangler at Cambridge in 1815, fellow and tutor of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and rector of Earl Stonham from 1824 to 1881, by his wife Catherine Wreford, only daughter of Samuel Budd, medical practitioner, of North Tawton, Devon. Of his two brothers, Henry Carlyon Phear (1826–1880) was second wrangler and first Smith's prizeman in 1849, fellow of Caius College, Cambridge, and a chancery barrister of some eminence, and Samuel George Phear (b. 1829) was fourth wrangler in 1852, and fellow and from 1871 to 1895 Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Educated privately by his father, John entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, on 29 March 1843, graduated B.A. as sixth wrangler in 1847 and proceeded M.A. in 1850. He was elected fellow of Clare College on 23 April 1847, mathematical lecturer in September following, and assistant tutor in 1854. He showed mathematical ability in two text-books, 'Elementary Mechanics' (Cambridge, 1850) and 'Elementary Hydrostatics with Numerous Examples' (Cambridge, 1852 ; 2nd edit. 1857). He left Cambridge in 1854, but retained his fellowship until his marriage in 1865. He was moderator of the mathematical tripos in 1856.

Entering as a student at the Inner Temple on 12 Nov. 1847, Phear was called to the bar on 26 Jan. 1854 and joined the western circuit, subsequently transferring himself to the Norfolk circuit. In 1864 he was appointed a judge of the High Court of Bengal and went out to Calcutta. He was in complete sympathy with the natives of India and they acknowledged his wise and impartial administration of justice. He displayed activity in other than judicial work, was president of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1870-1), of the Bengal Social Science Association, and of the Bethune Society (for social purposes), and closely studied native social life. Leaving Calcutta in 1876, he was knighted on 4 Oct. 1877, and became in the same year chief justice of Ceylon. He revised the civil and criminal code for Ceylon, and the Ceylon bar presented a portrait of him (in oils) to his court in appreciation of his services.

On his return to England in 1879 Phear settled at Marpool Hall, Exmouth, Devonshire, and at once took active part in local public life. He was chairman of quarter sessions from 18 Oct. 1881 till 15 Oct. 1895, and an alderman of the Devon county council from 24 Jan. 1889 till death. An ardent liberal politician, he thrice contested unsuccessfully Devon county divisions in the liberal interest — Honiton in 1885, Tavistock in 1886, and Tiverton in 1892. He joined the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature, and Art in June 1881, contributed among other interesting papers one on manorial tenures, and was president in 1886. A keen sportsman, a good cricketer, and a life member of the London Skating Club, he was a fellow of the Geological Society from 1852.

Sir John died at Marpool Hall, Exmouth, on 7 April 1905, and was buried at Littleham. He married at Madras on 16 Oct. 1865 Emily, daughter of John Bolton of Burnley House, Stockwell. She was a member of the Exmouth school board, and died on 31 Dec. 1898, leaving two daughters and a son. Phear's most important publication was 'The Aryan Village in India and Ceylon' (1880), which embodies the fruit of much intelligent observation. He had previously issued 'The Hindoo Joint Family' (Calcutta, 1867), a lecture at the Bethune Society, 18 March 1867. Phear's other works include ’A Treatise on Rights of Water, including Public and Private Rights to the Sea and Sea-shore' (1859), and 'Observations on the Present State of the Law affecting Title to Land and its Transfer' (1862).

[Private information; The Times, 8 April 1905; records of Pembroke and Clare Colleges and Inner Temple.]

T. C. H.