Joseph Turner Hutchinson (1850-1924)

Joseph Turner Hutchinson

Written by Kevin Grice

Occupation: Judge
Location: Braystones

Background & Education

Joseph Turner Hutchinson was born on 28th March 1850 in Braystones, a hamlet on the west coast of Cumberland just over 3 miles south of Egremont and described in 1861 as ‘a few farmhouses pleasantly situated by the sea’. His father was Isaac Hutchinson (1815-1898) who was classified in 1847 as a yeoman farmer although in view of his son’s later career it is informative to find him also described in his obituary as a land agent and ‘a highly-respected arbitrator of agricultural disputes in West Cumberland’. The Hutchinsons had farmed in and around Braystones for generations; the St Bees Parish Registers record the baptisms, marriages and burials of the family from at least 1590. Isaac is noted as farming about 200 acres employing 6 men and 1 girl as well as 5 resident house servants in 1861 and Isaac’s sister Sarah farmed next door with other members of the family. Joseph’s mother was Hannah Turner (1817-1893) whom his father had married in 1843. She was the daughter of Joseph Turner (1780-1830) and Ann Bell (1786-1866) both of whom came from well-known Cleator families with backgrounds in the iron working industries in and around that growing town. Isaac and Hannah Hutchinson had a total of 10 children (although 3 died in infancy) and Joseph was their second son (he is erroneously called James aged 1 in the 1851 Census). 

He was educated locally at St Bees School between 1860-1869, before being admitted to Christ’s College, Cambridge on 11th October 1869 with an Exhibition. He later wrote about his time at St Bees in the history of the school and of his affection for and inspiration by the Classics Master Mr Heslop. Accordingly at Cambridge he read Classics, being awarded a Scholarship in his first year before gaining a B.A. in 1873 (being placed 7th in the First Class Classics Tripos that year and Highly Distinguished in the Chancellor’s medals) followed by an M.A. in 1876. Notwithstanding his later legal career, his love of and abilities in the Classics particularly Greek never left him so for example in 1897 he introduced and annotated a text on Euripedes. Whilst at Cambridge in 1875 Joseph Hutchinson was initiated into St Andrews Lodge of the United Grand Lodge of England Freemasons. 

He was admitted to Middle Temple on 20th November 1876 and was called to the Bar on 17th November 1879 at the age of 29. When not at his studies he returned to the family home and is recorded as a resident of Braystones in 1873, his father by then being described as a farmer only, as the farm was by that date being run by Joseph’s elder brother John.


After a period practising as an equity draughtsman and conveyancer from Chambers at 6, New Court, Lincoln’s Inn, during which time he had lodgings in Wimbledon, Hutchinson was appointed Queen’s Advocate for the Gold Coast Colony in April 1888 before being promoted to be the 6th Chief Justice there in January the following year. It was the first of his numerous colonial judicial appointments being followed initially by his temporary appointment as Chief Justice of the Windward Islands in 1894 alongside his work in the Gold Coast. The work in West Africa clearly had its interesting moments and Hutchinson was to recount one episode concerning a true story of theft and a native device for detecting the thief in “A Gold Coast Detective” written in April 1918 after his retirement. He was noted during his tenure of office to have made several journeys into the scarcely explored interior of the colony for the purpose of holding palavers with native kings and chiefs. He was also engaged as Chairman of a Commission which sat for the purpose of inquiring into the constitution and procedure of Native Courts presided over by the various native kings and chieftains. 

He was knighted for these services in the New Year’s Honours List on 1st January 1895, an honour appropriately noted in the local press back in his native West Cumberland such as the Millom Gazette for 12th January 1895 under the heading ‘Knighthood for Local Man’. The Honourable Sir Joseph Hutchinson then served as Chief Justice of Grenada (the principal of the Windward Islands) from 1895 until 1897. The Report of his appointment to Grenada rather charmingly reads:

“Sir Joseph T. Hutchinson, late Chief Justice of the Gold Coast, has, after a brief holiday, left England to assume the duties of his new office as Chief Justice of Grenada. He is a stranger to the West Indies, but, if previous success counts for anything at all, he is sure of a brilliant career in the service. At present Sir Joseph Hutchinson is proceeding to Grenada on a less salary than that which he received on the Gold Coast, but the advantage of climate no doubt fully compensates him for the small loss of salary”.

At the conclusion of his period of office in Grenada, Sir Joseph Hutchinson returned to England where on 22nd April 1897 he married Constance Mary Lucas (born 27th May 1855), the daughter of Joseph Lucas, solicitor, of Stapleton House, Upper Tooting in London. His wife had been presented to Queen Victoria in 1875 and her younger sister Margaret had in 1879 married George Augustin Macmillan, the son of Alexander Macmillan the co-founder of the Macmillan publishing empire. In December 1897 Sir Joseph was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Cyprus and he took up the post early the next year. He remained there for 8 years until 1906, writing local legal texts such as ‘The Statute Laws of Cyprus, 1878-1906’. However he clearly also fell in love with the island and its people as in 1907 he co-wrote a guidebook to Cyprus aimed squarely at travellers intending to show them all that he thought they should enjoy when visiting the island. He had by then again returned to Cumberland in 1906 and is once more shown as resident in Braystones that year although he also had a residence in London and was a member of the Reform Club. However on 1st October 1906 he was once more sent overseas, being appointed 19th Chief Justice of Ceylon, a post he held from later that month until 1st May 1911. His tenure there again seems to have been highly thought of by the local inhabitants and it brought to an end a glittering colonial service career as he retired in 1911 aged 61.

Later Life

Upon his retirement Sir Joseph and Lady Constance Hutchinson settled back in Cumberland, initially again to Braystones before in 1913 he bought Lorton Hall near Cockermouth, a 17th century house extensively remodelled in 1889-1890 and now called Winder Hall. They lived there until 1920 when they returned for the final time to Braystones where they resided until finally moving in late 1923 to Newtown near Ravenglass where Sir Joseph shortly died on 20th January 1924, aged 73. He had been appointed High Sheriff of Cumberland for 1918 (in respect of which he had received a patent of coat of arms the previous year) and as a Magistrate in 1921. His first case in the latter capacity was at Millom Police Court on 12th February 1921 and would have been somewhat of a contrast to his prestigious colonial work: he fined one Henry Nicholson 1s for riding a bicycle without lights! He had also become a member of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society in 1913, which Society published an obituary of him as did newspapers regionally and nationally. The family connection with Braystones however remained as his niece Sarah still occupied the adjacent property in 1925. Sir Joseph Hutchinson left estate valued at £12,522 gross, £8,708 net, his widow and her nephew Edgar Lucas being executors of his will. A Memorial Prize for Greek at St Bees School was endowed in his honour by her, which continued to provide awards for many years afterwards. She lived on in Newtown after his death and became known as Dame Constance Hutchinson although she never received a DBE or DCVO and was correctly recorded in both Who’s Who in Cumberland & Westmorland in 1937 and Burke’s Peerage in 1939 merely as Lady Constance. Her view of herself in later life may however perhaps be gauged from her entry in the 1939 Register as ‘Mistress of the House’ at Newtown living with 2 maids and where she remained until her own death on 10th April 1946 aged 90. Her Death Notice refers to her once more as Dame Constance, a title which it seems was adopted locally.


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