Anthony Cleasby

Anthony Cleasby

Sir Anthony Cleasby (1804–1879), British judge.


Cleasby was born 27 Aug. 1804. His father, Stephen Cleasby, was a Russia broker, who carried on a prosperous business at 11 Union Court, Broad Street, in the city of London, and died at Craig House, Westmoreland, 31 Aug. 1844; having married, 4 Feb. 1797, at Stoke Newington, Mary, second daughter of George John of Penzance. His brother was the philologist Richard Cleasby.

Anthony was educated at Brook Green, Hammersmith, and then at Eton, 1820–3; he abandoned an intention of entering the army, because of an illness in 1819 which rendered him lame for life. He matriculated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1823, was third wrangler and B.A. in 1827, fellow of his college 1828, and M.A. 1830. He was admitted a student of the Inner Temple 30 Jan. 1827, and called to the bar there 10 June 1831, and then went the northern circuit.

He soon became known as a most accurate and careful junior; he was a master of the science of special pleading, and learned in all branches of the law. He was not, however, a successful "nisi prius" advocate, but obtained a large practice as a junior. His opinion was sought by commercial clients in patent cases, mercantile disputes, and real property cases.

In 1852 and again in 1859 he was an unsuccessful conservative candidate for East Surrey. He had previously purchased an estate called Ledgers, six miles east of Croydon. He was appointed a queen's counsel on 22 Feb. 1861, and in the same year became a bencher of his inn. In Feb. 1868 he contested the university of Cambridge without success against Mr. Beresford Hope.

Cleasby became a baron of the court of exchequer on 25 Aug. 1868, was nominated a serjeant on the same day, admitted on 2 Nov., and on the 9th of the following month was knighted. As a judge he was so cautious and diffident that he won little popular applause. In the criminal courts he was never quite at home. The juries were puzzled by his extremely conscientious efforts to explain the whole law. In his written judgments, however, he spared no pains, and they were always thorough and exhaustive. He retired on a pension in October 1878; went to his country house, Penoyre, near Brecon, which he had purchased after his elevation to the bench; and died on 6 Oct. 1879.

He married, on 26 March 1836, Lucy Susan, youngest daughter of Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall, Yorkshire.


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