Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Windeyer, Charles

WINDEYER, CHARLES (1780–1855), first recognised reporter in the House of Lords and Australian magistrate, son of Walter Windeyer, descended from the Swiss family of Wingeyer, canton of Berne, was born in Staffordshire in 1780. He was law reporter to the ‘Law Chronicle,’ and also connected with the ‘Times.’ Even after the House of Commons recognised the press gallery, the lords professed to ignore the presence of reporters, who were debarred the use of paper and pencil. Charles Windeyer was the first reporter ‘who had the courage to rest his notebook on their lordships' bar.’ Lord Eldon, who had strenuously opposed verbatim reporting, ‘proceeding to the bar to receive a deputation from his majesty's faithful commons, caught Mr. Windeyer's notebook with his robe, and it fell within the bar’ (Phonetic Journal, 19 Dec. 1885). The great tory chancellor picked up the scattered leaves (knowing full well what they contained) and courteously returned them with a smile to the young reporter. From that time forth the presence of the press was virtually recognised by the peers.

When Benjamin Disraeli was busy launching the ill-fated ‘Representative,’ he informed John Murray, the publisher, that he ‘had engaged S. C. Hall and a Mr. Windyer (?), sen., both of whom we shall find excellent reporters and men of business; the latter has been on the “Times”’ (Memoir of John Murray, ii. 206).

Charles Windeyer emigrated to New South Wales in 1828, with the intention of taking up land and becoming a settler; but, owing to the lack of officials with legal training and experience, was induced to accept the office of clerk of petty sessions, and afterwards became police magistrate for Sydney. His affairs suffered in the financial crash following 1842; but as a magistrate he was universally esteemed; he converted what was mere chaos into an orderly system, and the cause of public justice in Sydney was greatly advanced by his patient unremitting efforts. On his retirement the legislative council, in recommending a superannuation allowance, passed a vote adverting in high terms to his long and useful career.

Windeyer died in 1855. He married Ann Mary (d. 1864), daughter of Richard Rudd, on 8 Aug. 1805, by whom he had a son, Richard Windeyer [q. v.], the Australian politician. A bust of Charles Windeyer was placed in the central police office, Sydney, as a mark of public esteem.

[The Three Windeyers, Reporters, in Phonetic Journal, 19 Dec. 1885; Henniker-Heaton's Dict. of Australian Dates; private sources.]

A. P. M.