Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/À Beckett, William
À BECKETT, Sir WILLIAM (1806–1869), chief justice of Victoria, was the eldest son of William à Beckett, and brother of Gilbert Abbott à Beckett [q. v.] He was born in London 28 July 1806, received his education at Westminster School, and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1829. Going to New South Wales, he was appointed solicitor-general of that colony in 1841, and subsequently attorney-general. In 1846 he was made a judge of the supreme court for the district of Port Phillip, and he was nominated chief justice of Victoria in 1851, when the colony received a separate organisation. On the latter occasion he was knighted by patent. He retired and returned to England in 1863, and died at his residence in Church Road, Upper Norwood, Surrey, 27 June 1869.
He wrote: 1. ‘The Siege of Dumbarton Castle and other Poems,’ 1824. 2. A large number of the biographies in the ‘Georgian Era,’ 4 vols., 1832–4. 3. ‘A Universal Biography; including scriptural, classical, and mythological memoirs, together with accounts of many eminent living characters. The whole newly compiled and composed from the most recent and authentic sources,’ 3 vols., London [1835?], 8vo, a compilation of little value. 4. ‘The Magistrates' Manual for the Colony of Victoria,’ Melbourne, 1852. 5. ‘Out of Harness,’ London, 1854, containing notes on a tour through Switzerland and Italy. 6. ‘The Earl's Choice and other Poems,’ London, 1863. 7. Legal judgments printed in collections of ‘Reports.’
[Men of the Time (1868); Dod's Peerage (1869), 83; Heaton's Australian Dict. of Dates, 1; Times, 1 July 1869, p. 10, col. 5; Catalogue of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.]