Preston, Richard (DNB00)

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PRESTON, RICHARD (1768–1850), legal author, only son of the Rev. John Preston of Okehampton, Devonshire, was born at Ashburton in the same county in 1768. He began life as an attorney, but attracted the notice of Sir Francis Buller [q. v.] by his first work, ‘An Elementary Treatise by way of Essay on the Quantity of Estates,’ Exeter, 1791, 8vo. By Buller's advice he entered in 1793 at the Inner Temple, where, after practising for some years as a certificated conveyancer, he was called to the bar on 20 May 1807, was elected a bencher in 1834, in which year he took silk, and was reader in 1844.

Preston represented Ashburton in the parliament of 1812–18, and was one of the earliest and most robust advocates of the imposition of the corn duties. (See his speeches on the debates of 15 June 1813 and 22 Feb. 1815, Hansard, xxvi. 666, and xxix. 979, and his Address to the Fundholder, the Manufacturer, the Mechanic, and the Poor on the subject of the Corn Laws, London, 1815, 8vo, and other tracts in the Pamphleteer, vols. vii.–xi., London, 1816–18, 8vo). He had invested a large fortune, derived from his conveyancing practice, in land in Devonshire. In law, as in politics, he was intensely conservative, and thought the Fines and Recoveries Act a dangerous innovation; but his knowledge of the technique of real-property law was profound, and his works on conveyancing are masterpieces of patient research and lucid exposition. He was for some time professor of law at King's College, London. He died on 20 June 1850 at his seat, Lee House, Chulmleigh, in North Devon.

Besides the work mentioned in the text, Preston was author of:

  1. ‘A Succinct View of the Rule in Shelley's Case,’ Exeter, 1794, 8vo.
  2. A volume of ‘Tracts’ (on cross-remainders, fines and recoveries, and similar subjects), London, 1797, 8vo.
  3. ‘A Treatise on Conveyancing,’ London, 1806–9, 2 vols. 8vo; 2nd edit., 1813; 3rd edit., 1819–29, 8vo.
  4. ‘An Essay in a Course of Lectures on Abstracts of Title,’ London, 1818, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1823–4, 8vo.

He also edited in 1828 Sheppard's ‘Touchstone of Common Assurances,’ London, 8vo.

[Gent. Mag. 1850, pt. ii. p. 328; Ann. Reg. 1850, p. 236; Warren's Law Studies, 3rd edit. pp. 1215 et seq.; Charles Butler's Reminiscences, i. 62; Lysons's Magna Britannia, vol. vi. pt. ii. pp. 9, 18, 108, 336, 339; Marvin's Legal Bibliography; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.]

J. M. R.