Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Channell, William Fry

CHANNELL, Sir WILLIAM FRY (1804–1873), judge, was born 31 Aug. 1804. He was of a Devonshire family, and his father and grandfather had been naval officers. His father. Pike Channell, served with Nelson at Copenhagen, and then leaving the navy became a merchant and lived at Peckham. His mother was Mary, stepdaughter of William Fry. Channell's only education was at a private school at Peckham, and he often lamented that he had been so ill taught. Hard private reading, however, repaired this defect; his memory was remarkable, and he was unusually familiar with the English classics. For a short time Baron Bramwell was at the same school. At an early age he was articled to a Mr. Tustin, a solicitor, but soon giving up his articles he entered at the Inner Temple, read with the well-known special pleader Cobner, and was called in Lent term 1827. He at once stepped into considerable practice, both at the Surrey sessions and on the home circuit. In his chambers both Chief-justice Bovill and Sir Montagu Smith were pupils, and on the bench he continued to attach great weight to forms of pleading. In 1840, when the court of common pleas was again declared a close court, the royal warrant which threw it open being null and void, Channell, with four others, received the rank of serjeant, and he and Serjeant Talfourd led the court till it was thrown open in 1846. In 1844, when Sir F. Thesiger became solicitor-general, Channell received a patent of precedence, and after Baron Platt was raised to the bench he led the home circuit for some time. He was a very careful advocate, but after a time lost his nisi prius practice, and was heard chiefly in banco. In 1866, Baron Platt being taken ill, he acted as commissioner of assize on the spring and summer circuits and winter gaol delivery, and on 12 Feb. 1857 he was appointed by Lord-chancellor Cranworth to succeed Baron Alderson in the court of exchequer, and was knighted. Though a conservative, he had never been forward in politics or sat in parliament; in 1862 he issued an address at Beverley, but withdrew on finding how corrupt the borough was. He remained on the bench till January 1873, when, being afflicted with asthma and too feeble for the task of going circuit, he carried out a long-formed intention of resigning. He was nominated a member of the privy council, but never was sworn in, and died 26 Feb. at his residence, Clarendon Place, Hyde Park Gardens, and was succeeded by Mr. Charles Pollock. As a judge he was conscientious, careful, and learned, and very severe to criminals, especially garotters. His judgments in banco are very valuable. In 1834 he married Martha, daughter of Richard Moseley of Champion Hill, Camberwell, Surrey, by whom he had one son, Mr. A. M. Channell, Q.C., of the Inner Temple.

[Law Magazine, N. S. ii. 351; Law Journal, viii. 2; Law Times, liv. 163, 335; Solicitors' Journal, xvii. 179, 351.]

J. A. H.