Williams, Joshua (DNB00)

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WILLIAMS, JOSHUA (1813–1881), legal author, was the fifth son and seventh child of Thomas Williams of Cote, Aston, Oxfordshire, and afterwards of Campden Hill, Kensington, and Cowley Grove, Hillingdon, Uxbridge, Middlesex, who was said to be a remote descendant of Sir David Williams [q. v.] He was born on 23 May 1813, and was educated at a private school, and afterwards at the London University (now University College) in Gower Street. At the age of nineteen he was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 31 Jan. 1833 (Registers). After practising for two or three years under the bar as a certificated conveyancer, he was called to the bar in Easter term, on 4 May 1838. His professional success was due to the rare gifts which he possessed as a legal writer. In 1845 he published his ‘Principles of the Law of Real Property’ (which first appeared as ‘Williams on Conveyancing’), a work which has run through eighteen editions. This was followed in 1848 by his ‘Principles of the Law of Personal Property,’ of which the fourteenth edition appeared in 1894. These works proved Williams to be not only a master of his subject in the way of legal learning, but also possessed of a marked faculty for exposition and an uncommon literary gift.

The publication of these books brought Williams an extensive practice as a conveyancer and real property lawyer, and in March 1862 he was appointed by Lord Westbury, the lord chancellor, one of the four conveyancing counsel to the court of chancery. His health suffered from the strain of increasing work. He was made a queen's counsel on 30 March 1865, and during Easter term, on 20 April following, was elected a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. As a queen's counsel he gained most reputation in connection with a series of cases relating to the establishment of rights of common, such as the ‘Commissioners of Sewers v. Glasse’ (more commonly known as the Epping Forest case), ‘Lord Rivers v. Adams,’ ‘Warwick v. Queen's College, Oxford’ (the Plumstead Common case), ‘Hall v. Byron’ (the Coulsdon Common case), ‘Smith v. Earl Brownlow’ (the Berkhampstead case), ‘Peek v. Earl Spencer’ (the Wimbledon case), ‘Earl De la Warr v. Miles’ (the Sussex Forest case), and in fact most of those cases in which there was an attempt by lords of manors to wrest from the commoners the enjoyment of their rights (cf. the Law Reports).

In 1875 Williams was appointed professor of the law of real and personal property to the Inns of Court by the council of legal education, and was annually re-elected to this office until his resignation in 1880. His lectures on the ‘Seisin of the Freehold,’ the ‘Law of Settlements,’ and the ‘Rights of Common’ were afterwards published, 1878–1880. He also edited the fourth edition of ‘Watkins on Descents,’ and wrote ‘Letters to John Bull, Esq., on Lawyers and Law Reform’ (London, 1857, 12mo), and ‘An Essay on Real Assets’ (1861). He died at his residence, 49 Queensborough Terrace, London, W., on 25 Oct. 1881, having married four times. His son by the third wife, Thomas Cyprian Williams, barrister-at-law, has edited all the editions of his father's works since 1881. Williams, who, as the author of the best text-books on the subject, was styled the ‘Gamaliel of real property law,’ was personally one of the most popular barristers of his day. He was exceptionally tall in stature, being 6 ft. 4½ in. high.

[Private information supplied by T. Cyprian Williams, esq.; obituary notices in the Times, Solicitors' Journal, Law Times, and Law Journal, October 1881.]

W. R. W.