Berry, William (DNB00)

BERRY, WILLIAM (1774–1851), genealogist, well known from his various works on family history, was in the earlier part of his life, 1793–1809, employed as a writing clerk to the registrar of the College of Arms. On his retirement from that post, he for some time resided in Guernsey, where he published a very able work called ‘The History of the Island of Guernsey, compiled from the collections of Henry Budd,’ 1815, 4to. Previously to this, in 1810, he had brought out a work entitled ‘Introduction to Heraldry.’ Returning to England, he resided at Doddington Place, Kennington, Surrey, and in 1832 commenced ‘A Genealogical Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland.’ It was a carefully compiled family history, with very beautifully engraved coats of arms, but it did not receive much support, and after the issue of the fourth number, which terminated with an account of the dukes of Rutland, no further parts were printed. His ‘Genealogia Antiqua, or Mythological and Classical Tables,’ published in 1816, met with more success, and a second and improved edition appeared in 1840. This work was dedicated to Lord Grenville. His next undertaking was entitled ‘Encyclopedia Heraldica, or Complete Dictionary of Heraldry.’ It was brought out in numbers between 1828 and 1840, and forms four quarto volumes. This is a valuable heraldic work, as it embraces the greater part of the contents of Edmondson and other writers, with much original matter. Perhaps, however, the writings by which Berry is best known are his county genealogies published in small folio volumes, at five or six guineas per volume. These were Kent, 1830; Sussex, 1830; Hampshire, 1833; Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Surrey, 1837; Essex, 1839; and Hertfordshire, 1842. The three latter volumes were printed by means of lithography from the handwriting of the author. The first portion of ‘The County Genealogies, Kent,’ being severely reviewed in ‘The Gentleman's Magazine,’ and objections taken to Berry calling himself on the title-page of that work ‘registering clerk in the College of Arms,’ he brought an action for libel against Messrs. J. B. Nichols & Son, the publishers of the magazine. The trial took place in the court of king's bench before Lord Tenterden on 1 Nov. 1830, when, although the plaintiff was represented by Henry Brougham, afterwards the lord chancellor, the jury, without hearing any rebutting evidence, almost immediately gave a verdict in favour of the defendants. He died at his son's residence, Spencer Place, Brixton, 2 July 1851, aged 77, having survived his wife two months.

[Gent. Mag. August 1829, pp. 99–101; November 1830, pp. 409–16.]

G. C. B.