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BYLES, Sir JOHN BARNARD (1801–1884), judge, was eldest son of Mr. Jeremiah Byles, timber-merchant, of Stowmarket in Suffolk, by his wife, the only daughter of William Barnard, of Holts in Essex. He was born at Stowmarket in 1801. He became a member of the Inner Temple, and, after reading as a pupil in the chambers of Chitty, the great pleader, and for a time practising as a special pleader himself, at 1 Garden Court, Temple, was called to the bar in November 1831. He joined the Norfolk circuit and attended sessions in that county. In 1840 he was appointed recorder of Buckingham, and in 1843 was raised to the degree of serjeant-at-law. When in 1846 the court of common pleas was opened to all the members of the bar, Byles received a patent of precedence in all courts. He rapidly acquired a large and leading practice both on his own circuit, which he led for many years after Sir Fitzroy Kelly became solicitor-general, and also in London. About 1855 he resigned his recordership, and in 1857 he was appointed queen's serjeant, along with Serjeants Shee and Wrangham. This was the last appointment of queen's serjeants (see Pulling, Order of the Coif, 41, 182). Though he never sat in parliament, he was always a strong and old-fashioned conservative. He was once a candidate for Aylesbury, but being a rigid unitarian, and constant attendant at a unitarian chapel, was unacceptable to the church party. Nevertheless he was selected by Lord Cranworth in January 1858, though of opposite politics, for promotion to the bench, and when Sir Cresswell Cresswell retired, he was made a knight and justice of the common pleas. He proved a very strong judge, courteous, genial and humorous, and of especial learning in mercantile affairs; he was one of the judges who won for the court of common pleas its high repute and popularity among commercial litigants. Nevertheless, both as an advocate and a judge his mind was marked by a defect singular in one of his indubitable ability. He displayed a serious want of readiness in his perception of the facts of a case. What, however, he lacked in rapidity of mind, he made up for by extreme accuracy. He was an expert shorthand writer. In January 1873 failure of health and memory and inability any longer to sustain the labour of going circuit compelled him to resign his judgeship. He received a pension, and along with Baron Channell became, on 3 March, a member of the privy council, and for some time, when his presence was required, he continued to attend the sittings of the judicial committee. He continued to reside at Hanfield House, Uxbridge, where and in London he was a well-known figure on his old white horse, and was occupied largely with literary interests until his death, which occurred on 3 Feb. 1884, in his eighty-third year. In the course of his lifetime he published a considerable number of works. Before he was called he delivered a series of lectures on commercial law in the hall of Lyon's Inn, and the first of these, delivered 3 Nov. 1829, he published at the request and risk of friends, and without alteration, under the title of ‘A Discourse on the Present State of the Law of England.’ About the same time he published ‘A Practical Compendium of the Law of Bills of Exchange,’ which has since become the standard work on this branch of law, and has reached a fourteenth edition. The sixth edition he dedicated to Baron Parke, and in the preparation of the ninth he was assisted by his son Maurice. During the long vacation of 1845, while absent from London, he composed a pamphlet called ‘Observations on the Usury Laws, with suggestions for Amendment and a Draft Bill,’ which he published in the October following. A keen protectionist, he wrote in 1849 a work called ‘Sophisms of Free Trade,’ which at once ran through eight editions, and was reprinted by his permission, but without his name, in 1870, with his notes brought up to date, by the Manchester Reciprocity Association. The book expressly disclaims party motives and displays considerable and wide reading. In 1875, after his retirement, he published ‘Foundations of Religion in the Mind and Heart of Man.’ It is non-controversial and didactic, and was written at different times and at considerable intervals. He was twice married, first in 1828 to a daughter of Mr. John Foster, of Biggleswade, who died very shortly after the marriage; second in 1836 to a daughter of Mr. James Webb, of Royston, who died in 1872. He had several children; the eldest son, Walter Barnard, was called to the bar in 1865, the second, Maurice Barnard, in 1866, and was for some years a revising barrister.

[Foss's Lives of the Judges; Davy's Athenæ Suffolcienses, iv. 35; Davy's Suffolk Collections; Add. MS. 19121, pp. 351–2; Men of the Time, ed. 1879; Law Journal, viii. 33; Solicitors' Journal, 9 Feb. 1884; Serjeant Ballantine's Reminiscences, p. 190.]

J. A. H.