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POWELL, Sir JOHN (1645–1713), judge, was born in 1645 at Gloucester, of which city his father, though a member of a Herefordshire family, was a citizen, eventually becoming mayor in 1663. He was not related to either of the contemporary judges of the same name. Whether he went to a university or not is uncertain; he may well have been either of the John Powells who graduated at Balliol College, Oxford, in 1663 and 1672. In 1664 he became a member of the Inner Temple, and was called to the bar there in 1671. Three years later he was elected town clerk of Gloucester, and sat for that city in the parliament of 1685. In September 1685 he was expelled from his office, but regained it on application to the king's bench in 1687. He was included in the first creation of serjeants after the Revolution, and in May 1691 the king gave orders for his appointment to the bench of the common pleas, but, through the interposition of Sir William Pulteney's friends, the appointment was not completed till the end of October or beginning of November, and then he received a judgeship in the exchequer with knighthood (Luttrell, ii. 303). On 29 Oct. 1695 he was transferred to the common pleas, and on 24 June 1702 was again transferred to the queen's bench. Here he was one of the majority of judges who, on the trial of the celebrated leading case of Ashby v. White (Lord Raymond's Reports, p. 938), arising out of the Aylesbury election, decided against the plaintiff (Luttrell, Diary, v. 358, 380, 519). On 14 June 1713 he died at his house at Gloucester on returning from Bath. There is a monument to him in Gloucester Cathedral, which is figured in Bigland and Fosbrooke's ‘Gloucestershire,’ ii. 134, and the inscription is also given in Archdeacon Rudge's ‘Gloucester,’ p. 89. His judicial character, both for learning and fairness, stood high. He was humane, as is shown by his remark on a charge of witchcraft in the case of Jane Wenham, who was alleged to be able to fly: ‘You may—there is no law against flying;’ and Swift, who met him at Lord Oxford's, writes of him to Stella, 5 July 1711, as ‘an old fellow with grey hairs, who was the merriest old gentleman I ever saw, spoke pleasing things, and chuckled till he cried again.’ He was unmarried. A portrait of him in mezzotint was engraved by William Sherwin in 1711 (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. i. 128, 196).

[Foss's Judges of England; Luttrell's Diary, i. 220, 229; Bigland and Fosbrooke's Gloucester, ii. 149, confuses him with the elder judge, John Powell; so does Britton's Hist. of Church of Gloucester, and also Noble's Biogr. Hist. Engl. i. 168; Rudge's Gloucestershire, p. 89; for his judgments, see Shower's Reports and Lord Raymond's Reports.]

J. A. H.