Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ker, Charles Henry Bellenden

KER, CHARLES HENRY BELLENDEN (1785?–1871), legal reformer, son of John Bellenden Ker [q. v.], was born about 1785. He was called to the bar in Lincoln's Inn in Trinity term 1814, and obtained a large practice as a conveyancer. Active in promoting parliamentary reform from 1830 to 1832, he was a member of the boundary commission (House of Commons' Papers, 1835, vol. xxxv.), and contested Norwich unsuccessfully in the whig interest. He was a member of the public records commission, and in 1833 he was appointed one of the royal commissioners to report upon the expediency of digesting the criminal law and consolidating the other branches of the statute law. Various bills for the amendment of the criminal law were founded on the reports of the commission. In 1845, with Messrs. Hayes and Christie, Ker drew for Lord-chancellor Lyndhurst a short bill which, when passed into an act (8 & 9 Vict. c. 106), was a most valuable amendment of the law of real property. In 1853 Lord Cranworth appointed Ker head of a board nominated to consider the consolidation of the statute law, and when that board was replaced in 1854 by a royal commission, Ker became the chief working member (Lord Cranworth's Speeches, Ann. Reg. 1853 p. 4, 1854 p. 142; Mr. Ker's First Report, 13 Aug. 1853, App. p. 209; House of Commons' Papers, p. 438; ib. 1854, vol. xv.) The action of the board and commission led to the revised edition of the statutes, the successive Statute Law Revision Acts, the issue of the chronological tables of the statute law, and to the Criminal Law Acts of 1861. Ker also suggested and prepared the useful Leases and Sales of Settled Estates Act of 1856, and Lord Cranworth's act of 1860, which were finally superseded by the Conveyancing and Settled Land Acts, modelled to a great extent upon Ker's work. In 1852 the office of master in chancery was abolished, and that of conveyancing counsel to the court of chancery was instituted. To that post Ker was soon afterwards appointed. For some years he was recorder of Andover.

Ker was an ardent advocate of popular education, and of the diffusion of literature and art. Charles Knight, in ‘Passages of a Working Life,’ ii. 120, 121, says that he was ‘the most fertile in projects of any member of the committee’ of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, and suggested many publishing schemes apart from the society. Two of Eastlake's most beautiful works were painted for Ker. He was himself a contributor of woodcuts as well as lives of Wren and Michael Angelo to the ‘Penny Magazine.’ He was an original member of the Arundel Society, was much interested in the foundation of schools of design, and helped to promote the establishment of the Department of Science and Art. He was one of the first private growers of orchids, and he wrote a series of articles under the pseudonym ‘Dodman’ in the ‘Gardeners' Chronicle.’ He was in early life a fellow of the Royal Society, but resigned his fellowship when in 1830 the Duke of Sussex was chosen president. In 1860 he retired from practice, and lived during the rest of his life at Cannes, where he died 2 Nov. 1871. Charles Knight speaks warmly of his charm in all social relations. He married Elizabeth Anne, daughter of Edward Clarke, a solicitor, but had no issue.

[Authorities cited above; personal knowledge; information from Mr. M. I. Fortescue Brickdale.]

J. S. V.