Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Skinner, Matthew

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SKINNER, MATTHEW (1689–1749), serjeant-at-law, great-grandson of Bishop Robert Skinner [q. v.], was the third and youngest son of Robert Skinner of Welton, Northamptonshire, and of the Inner Temple, judge of the Marshalsea court, and ‘law reporter.’ Born on 22 Oct. 1689, Matthew entered Westminster school at the age of fourteen, and, being elected to a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, matriculated on 18 June 1709, and entered himself a student of Lincoln's Inn two days afterwards. Having been called to the bar on 21 April 1716, he joined the Oxford circuit, and was chosen recorder of Oxford on 30 May 1721. In 1719 he purchased from Simon Urling (afterwards recorder of London), the place of one of the four common pleaders of the city of London, who then enjoyed the exclusive right and privilege of practising in the lord mayor's court; but this position he surrendered in 1722 to Thomas Garrard (afterwards common serjeant of London). So rapidly did his practice increase that he was called to the rank of serjeant-at-law in Easter term, 1 Feb. 1724, was made one of the king's serjeants on 11 June 1728, and became his majesty's prime (or first) serjeant by letters patent on 12 May 1734. He served as treasurer of Serjeants' Inn in 1728, and the same year published his father's ‘Reports of Cases decided in the Court of King's Bench, 33 Charles II to 9 William III.’ After making an unsuccessful attempt to enter parliament for Andover in 1727, Skinner, who resided at Oxford (1722–1739), was chosen member for that city at the general election of 1734, but on 26 Nov. 1738 vacated his seat on being appointed chief justice of Chester, and of the great sessions for the counties of Flint, Denbigh, and Montgomery, which judicial position, together with the recordership of Oxford, he occupied until his death. He was the second counsel for the crown in the prosecution of the rebels on the northern circuit in July 1746, and led for the crown at Lord Balmerino's trial in the House of Lords the same year.

Skinner married, in 1719, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Whitfield of Watford Place, Hertfordshire, and, dying at Oxford on 21 Oct. 1749, was buried in the cathedral. His eldest son died on 8 April 1735; while another son, Matthew Skinner, was also a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, and was invited to the bench of that society on 28 Nov. 1782, but does not appear to have sat.

[Welch's Alumni Westm.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Woolrych's Serjeants-at-Law; Official Returns of Members of Parliament; Smith's Parliaments of England: Gent. Mag. 1749, p. 476; Ockerby's Book of Dignities.]

W. R. W.