Taunton, William Elias (DNB00)

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TAUNTON, Sir WILLIAM ELIAS (1773–1835), justice of king's bench, born at Oxford in 1773, was eldest son of Sir William Elias Taunton, town clerk of Oxford and clerk of the peace for the county, by Frances, daughter of Stephen Grosvenor, sub-treasurer of Christ Church, Oxford. He was admitted king's scholar at Westminster school on 15 Jan. 1785, and was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, whence he matriculated 12 June 1789, graduating B.A. 1793, and M.A. 1796. In 1793 he gained the chancellor's prize for the English essay, and next year was admitted student of Lincoln's Inn. He was called to the bar in Easter term 1799 at Lincoln's Inn, and joined the Oxford circuit. In 1801 he became a commissioner of bankrupts, and in 1806 succeeded Charles Abbot (afterwards Lord Colchester) [q. v.] as recorder of Oxford. He was created king's counsel in 1821, and was elected a bencher of his inn in 1822. On 12 Nov. 1830 he was appointed a justice of the king's bench, and was knighted five days later. Taunton soon in his career acquired the reputation of a black-letter lawyer (Foss, Judges, ix. 96); as an advocate he was a somewhat dull and slow speaker who, however, ‘made the monotony of his voice impressive and used his sluggishness as a power’ (Law Mag. 1835, p. 168); as a judge he was appointed too late in life to leave much mark. He died somewhat suddenly in his house in Russell Square 11 Jan. 1835.

Taunton married, 10 Oct. 1814, Maria, youngest daughter of Henry William Atkinson, provost of the Company of Moneyers, by whom he left two sons and four daughters. He wrote ‘Remarks upon the Conduct of the Respective Governments of France and Great Britain in the late Negotiation for Peace’ (1797), and assisted in preparing the edition of ‘Statutes of the Realm’ published by the record commission between 1810 and 1822.

[Barker and Stenning's Westminster School Register; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Gent. Mag. 1835, ii. 431; Times, 13 and 15 Jan. 1835.]

W. C.-r.