Charles William Wood, QC. [Obituary]

Trans. Devon. Assoc., 1884, Vol XVI, pp. 68-69.


Rev. W. Harpley, (Ed.).

Prepared by Michael Steer

Mr Wood’s obituary was presented at the Association’s June 1884 meeting at Newton Abbot. He is portrayed in his obituary as a knowledgeable, competent and professionally successful Queen’s Council. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Charles William Wood, Q.C., was the ninth son of the late Mr. John Wood, of Kennington, and was born at Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, on the 7th of May, 1813. At an early age he was apprenticed to a firm of wholesale druggists in Lower Thames Street. When his apprenticeship expired he went ty St John's College, Cambridge, and afterwards to Peterhouse, where he obtained his B.A. degree. He then practised as a special pleader for three years, but was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn on the 14th June, 1843. In 1852 he came into prominence as a very sound lawyer, with special knowledge of ecclesiastical laws, by the indictment he drew up for the Government against the late Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, when the latter assumed the title of Archbishop of Westminster. This, however, was not proceeded with.

By far the greater portion of the well-known book entitled, Petersdorff's Abridgement of the Common Statute Law, was compiled by Mr. Wood. He was employed more than once by the proprietors of magazines, against whom Mr. Bradlaugh brought actions for libel, and was the first to sustain an objection to the customary oath being administered to that gentleman.

Mr. Wood was also specially employed in compensation cases for accidents, and was considered a clever and painstaking lawyer in cross-examination, his opponents not unfrequently complimenting him for his courtesy. He went on the late Home Circuit, and never practised in the criminal courts.

In January, 1872, he was appointed Queen's Counsel, and made a Bencher of Lincoln's Inn. Whilst a junior he was standing counsel to the London and South Western Railway Company, and conducted some important cases against Messrs. Pickford and Co., the well-known carriers. In 1873 he appeared as leader in the first case tried by the New Railway Commissioners, appointed under Chichester Fortescue's Act of 1873; viz., that of Goddard v. South Western Railway Company. This case lasted some days, and, as the Times stated, "raised points of very great and general importance as to the carriage of goods by railway, and concerned chiefly the private carriers of the United Kingdom."

In 1876 he retired from active life, but was always ready to assist his neighbours, both in North Wales and Devonshire, either with sound legal advice in private, or an amusing or interesting lecture in public. He was noted as a reader, and was a thorough master of that very uncommon gift; few public readers have excelled him. He was three times married - in 1842, 1851, and to his wife Frances (nie Crombie) in 1870, who, however, did not long survive her husband. She died at Paignton, June 17th, 1884.

Mr. Wood became a member of the Torquay Natural History Society in 1881; on 12th February, 1883, he delivered a very admirable lecture on Alexandria before that body; and at the time of his decease he had engaged to lecture on Francis Bacon before the same Society.

He took great pleasure in the progress of science as well as in the society of scientific men, and often regretted that his professional avocations had prevented his undertaking original researches.

He joined the Association in 1881, but was prevented by the state of his health from attending an annual meeting. He was greatly interested in the annual volume of Transactions.

He died at his residence, Hill Side, Paignton, from internal cancer, on January 13th, 1884. His remains were interred in the presence of the leading gentry and tradesmen of the neighbourhood, by whom he was much liked and respected, at the New Cemetery, Paignton.