Watson, William Henry (DNB00)

WATSON, Sir WILLIAM HENRY (1796–1860), baron of the exchequer, born at Bamborough in 1796, was the son of John Watson, captain in the 76th foot, by Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Grey of Bamborough, Northumberland. He was educated at the Royal Military College, Marlow, and given a commission in the 1st royal dragoons by the Duke of York on 7 May 1812, serving with his regiment in the Spanish peninsula. When it was reduced in 1814 he exchanged into the 6th dragoons on 13 April 1815, with whom he served in Belgium and France. He was present at the battle of Waterloo and at the entry of the allied armies into Paris.

He was placed on the half-pay list on 25 March 1816, and the next year entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn, and by hard work soon became competent to practise as a special pleader, and continued to do so until 1832, when he was called to the bar in Lincoln's Inn. He joined the northern circuit, where he found work and became popular. In 1841 he entered the House of Commons as liberal member for Kinsale, for which borough he sat till 1847. In 1843 he became a Q.C. and a bencher of his inn. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Newcastle-on-Tyne in the liberal interest, July 1852, but in 1854 he was elected member for Hull, and sat as such until on 3 Nov. 1856 he was created baron of the exchequer, to succeed Sir Thomas Joshua Platt [q. v.] He was knighted on 28 Nov. of the same year. Watson proved himself a judge possessed of clear head and strong mind, but his career on the bench was very short. On the conclusion of his charge to the grand jury at Welshpool, 12 March 1860, he was seized with apoplexy, and died the next day.

Watson married, first, in 1826, a daughter of William Armstrong of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and sister of Lord Armstrong; secondly, in 1831, Mary, daughter of Anthony Hollist of Midhurst, Sussex.

He was distinguished as an advocate by honesty and earnestness rather than eloquence, but was a sound lawyer and the author of two (for a time) standard professional works:

  1. ‘A Treatise on Arbitration and Award,’ London, 1825, 8vo; 3rd ed. 1846.
  2. ‘A Treatise on the Law relating to the Office and Duty of Sheriff,’ 8vo, 1827; 2nd ed. 1848, by William Newland Welsby [q. v.]

[Morning Post; Gent. Mag. 1860, i. 422; Foss's Judges; Law Mag.; Dod's Knightage; Army Lists, 1813–17.]

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