Heath, John (1736-1816) (DNB00)
HEATH, JOHN (1736–1816), judge, was son of Thomas Heath, alderman of Exeter, author of an ‘Essay on Job’ (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ii. 276), and nephew of Benjamin Heath [q. v.] He was educated at Westminster School, and in 1754, at the age of eighteen, he matriculated at Christ Church, and took the degrees of B.A. in 1758 and M.A. in 1762. For a time he filled the office of town-clerk of Exeter. He was admitted a member of the Inner Temple in May 1759, and was called to the bar in June 1762. In 1775 he became a serjeant-at-law and recorder of Exeter; and, being an intimate friend of Thurlow, he was appointed, though he had no great practice at the bar, to succeed Sir William Blackstone in the court of common pleas, 19 July 1780. Here he sat for thirty-six years. He refused to be knighted on his elevation, saying that he preferred to remain ‘plain John Heath,’ but, although chargeable with great judicial severity (see Campbell, Lives of the Chancellors, iv. 33 n., vi. 154), his learning, which was much esteemed by Lord Eldon, and his fairness made him a good judge. He tried the Bishop of Bangor and others for riot, when Erskine procured their acquittal in spite of an adverse summing-up. After being long infirm, on 16 Jan. 1816 he died of an apoplexy, but whether at Hayes or at 36 Bedford Square is uncertain (see ‘Reminiscences’ by R. W. Blencowe in Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. i. 276). He was buried at Hayes in Middlesex, where he had a farm and country house. His tombstone there states his age as eighty-five, but the parish register, with probably greater authority, gives it as eighty. He was not married.
[Foss's Lives of the Judges; State Trials, xxvi. 523; Gent. Mag. 1816, p. 186; Polson's Law and Lawyers, ii. 214; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ii. 11; Woolrych's Eminent Serjeants, p. 691; Foster's Alumni Oxon.]