Leofric Temple QC (1819-1891)

Written by Kevin Grice

Occupation: Judge

Early Life and Family

Leofric Temple was born in 1819. A number of sources state that he was born in London but in fact he was born near to the River Severn at Llandrinio in Montgomeryshire (now Powys). He was however baptised at St Clement Danes in London on 14th September 1819 so his parents may have been staying in Wales whilst on summer vacation from London before returning there to register the birth. His paternal grandparents were Christopher and Mary Temple and his father was Christopher Temple QC (born in Aldermanbury in Middlesex in 1785 and died London in 1871) County Court Judge and Master of the Bench at Lincolns Inn. His mother was Sarah Barnes (born in Islington in London in 1785 and died in London in 1861) who had married his father on 18th August 1807 at her home church of St Mary’s. They had nine children, five sons and four daughters. Their eldest son was Christopher Temple (1810-1886) who enjoyed a lengthy career as a judge in Ceylon. After education at Shrewsbury School, Cambridge University and then Lincolns Inn, he was Deputy Queen’s Advocate in Ceylon (1840-1845) then Judge of the District Court of Colombo (1845-1854) and finally 18th Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Ceylon (1854-1873) being Senior Puisne Justice from 1863 and Acting Chief Justice for several months in 1869. His eldest child Mary (1840-1918) was therefore born in London but his son Christopher Edmund (1841-1868) was born in Ceylon. Christopher Temple was concurrently Chancellor of the County Palatine of Durham (1851-1871). Their other sons were Robert (born 1816), Thomas (born 1818) who became a Clerk in the State Paper Office, Leofric and Watkin (born 1823) who also studied at Cambridge and then became a clergyman. Their four daughters were Mary-Anne (born 1808), Sarah (born 1812), Elizabeth (born 1824) and Maria (born 1827). After the death of their parents, the three eldest sisters continued to live together in Marylebone in London until their respective deaths; none married. Maria however married Edward Worthington in 1847 and lived with him in Surrey until her death in 1884.

The Temple family lived at substantial residences at Hanover Square in Knightsbridge (1810), Hall Place in Surrey (1823), Dulwich Hall (1841), 12, Upper Gower Street (1851) and finally 15, Upper Bedford Place off Russell Square in Bloomsbury (1861 and 1871). Unlike two of his brothers, Leofric did not go to university but was admitted as a student aged 18 to Lincolns Inn on 22nd November 1837 where he studied for five years before being called to the Bar there on 4th May 1843. He was elected to the Northern Circuit in June of that year.

He married Annie Elizabeth Wilkins in 1884 when he was 65 years of age. They had no children.

Legal career

Leofric Temple practised as a barrister from Chambers in Middle Temple in London throughout his career at the Bar. He was successively a tenant at 1, Essex Court (1845-1860), 1, Temple Chambers in Falcon Court (1860-1875), 1, Tanfield Chambers (1875-1878) and finally 1, Kings Bench Walk (1878-1891). In February 1872 Leofric Temple took silk and in the same year he was made a Bencher of Lincolns Inn. He became a Freemason on 17th June 1876 at the Northern Bar Lodge in London. During these years he resided in rented properties including 64, Rodney Street in Liverpool (1861), 15, Delamere Street in Paddington (1873) and 97, Praed Street in Paddington in London (1881).

As a junior barrister he built an extensive practice in both criminal and civil work, practising mainly in London and Liverpool, both at Liverpool Sessions and the Liverpool Court of Passage. This was  a local court established in 1229 with unlimited jurisdiction in relation to all personal causes within the boundaries of the City of Liverpool and the waters of the Port of Liverpool, in particular the docks. Because the court was speedy and relatively inexpensive it was highly regarded by both lawyer and litigant. It was not abolished until 1971. A snapshot of the range of his work can be gleaned from a newspaper report from 1867. In the course of two days Leofric Temple appeared for both Plaintiffs and Defendants in cases in the Liverpool Court of Passage involving sale and delivery of ships stores, false imprisonment of an employee by an employer in a warehouse, a collision between two carts on the waterfront and an accident involving a carter’s assistant where the claim failed as the Plaintiff was found to have fallen into a ship’s hold whilst drunk and thus been the sole author of his own misfortune. He was retained counsel for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in that case and the Board provided him with a steady stream of work over many years on which he built his reputation.

After he took silk, Leofric Temple continued to appear in high profile cases in both London and on the Northern Circuit. Two examples may suffice. In July 1873 he appeared for the Petitioner wife in the Court of Divorce and Matrimonial Causes where the Queen’s Proctor intervened in the case, alleging collusion in the allegation of adultery on which the divorce petition was based. The Court rejected the allegation and the petition succeeded. Newspaper reports of this ‘Extraordinary Divorce Case’ were sensationalist in the extreme, no doubt aided by the fact that the adultery had been committed with a lady rejoicing in the name of Lavinia Mirabelle Twornwicke. In 1877 he appeared for Josephine Morris at Manchester Assizes where she was acquitted of perjury alleged to have been committed during the earlier trial of her estranged husband for her attempted murder. The case excited great public interest and upon the verdict being pronounced there was loud cheering in the crowded court and a vast crowd outside then witnessed the lady’s triumphant departure. More prosaically he also appeared in a claim in 1875 for commission due after a land sale in Barrow-in-Furness but he seems to have appeared as a barrister in Cumberland and Westmorland only rarely. He was however appointed as arbitrator in a case in 1877 involving an insurance claim following a fire in Buccleuch Street in Barrow-in-Furness, the hearing taking place over five days in Chancery Lane in London. His recommendation for the post by a senior High Court Judge and the agreement of all parties to it evidences the high regard in which he was held both as a lawyer and a man of impeccable judgment.

Judicial Career

Leofric Temple began sitting as a judge initially by the informal route of deputising for his father when the latter was indisposed; the Victorians had a less rigid view of formal appointment procedures in such circumstances. He was only 30 years of age when he sat in Stafford County Court in December 1849, dealing with 170 insolvency cases in two days. He became Assistant (1852-1879) then Deputy (1879-1891) Recorder of Liverpool, sitting on both criminal and civil cases under the Recorderships of John Bridge Aspinall QC (1862-1886) and Charles Henry Hopwood KC (1886-1904). In 1865 he sentenced a girl of eleven to thirty days hard labour and five years in a reformatory for obtaining three books by false pretences, thus demonstrating how Victorian sentencing could seem harsh in the extreme.In 1877 he also became Deputy Recorder of Carlisle and in June 1880, upon the resignation of Farrer Herschell QC in order that he might become Solicitor-General, Leofric Temple QC was made Recorder of Carlisle, a post he also held until his death in 1891. He presided over the quarterly Carlisle Sessions to deal with criminal cases and sat in the County Court to hear civil claims. As soon as the work listed was finished, he was free to return to his work at the Bar so speed of resolution was the order of the day as were long sitting times, including Saturdays. On his first day as Recorder in 1880, the new appointee congratulated the assembly that there were only 16 prisoners for trial and the work was concluded within the week. His salary was paid by Carlisle City Council and was recorded as being £20 per Session or £80 per year in 1887. His last sitting in Carlisle was in October 1890 at the Town Hall where only six prisoners were tried on four indictments. Sadly the appeal of Mr John Dunne, Chief Constable of the county, in the case in which he was convicted of removing cattle contrary to the City of Carlisle Pleuro-pneumonia Regulations was respited to the next Sessions.

Leofric Temple also served for many years from 1846 onwards as a revising barrister in both Lancashire and Yorkshire. This unusual position required him to hold a court of inquiry where anyone sought to alter the electoral roll either by seeking their inclusion upon it or the exclusion of another from it. It was in effect an appeal court from decisions of the local electoral officers for the district. In Liverpool for example only burgesses of the city were entitled to vote in elections and the privilege was closely guarded so hearings were common. In a similar capacity he also revised the list of those entitled to sit on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board from time to time.

Leofric Temple sat as a judge for the last time in Liverpool where he presided over the Sessions in February 1891. He then travelled back to London but had contracted bronchitis and he died after a short illness at home in Middlesex on 6th March 1891. He was 71 years of age


Leofric Temple wrote or edited a number of legal publications, some jointly with Tompson Chitty with whom he shared Chambers in Essex Court over many years. They were Joint Editors of ‘A Practical Treatise on the Law of Carriers of Goods and Passengers by Land, Inland Navigation and in Ships’ (1856) and ‘Chitty’s Precedents in Pleading’ (1857). Leofric Temple was also Editor of the ‘Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Criminal Appeal From Michaelmas Term 1848 to Michaelmas Term 1851’ (1853) and sole author of ‘A Synopsis of the Law Relating to Indictable Offences’ (1854).


  • Census for England 1841-1911
  • Crockfords Directory of the Clergy
  • England United Grand Lodge Freemasonry London Lodges Membership Register 1751-1921
  • England Select Baptisms and Christenings 1538-1971
  • England & Wales Church Records Marriage Index 1837-1915
  • England & Wales Church Records Deaths Index 1837-1915
  • The Law List from 1876
  • London Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1538-1812
  • London Church of England Births and Baptisms 1813-2003
  • London Church of England Marriages and Banns 1754-1932
  • London England City Directories 1736-1947
  • London England Electoral Registers 1832-1965
  • UK City & County Directories 1766-1946
  • Amerasinghe A & Ranjit B The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka: the first 175 years (1986) p 133
  • Foster J Men at the Bar (1885)
  • Northern Circuit Directory 1876-2004 edited by Judge David Lynch
  • Schofield A B  Dictionary of Legal Biography 1845-1945 (1998)
  • Belfast Newsletter 27th January 1871
  • Cumberland Pacquet & Whitehaven Advertiser 9th January 1877
  • Lancashire Evening Post 16th October 1890
  • Liverpool Daily Post 22nd February 1867
  • Liverpool Echo 15th and 16th June 1880
  • Liverpool Mercury 13th February 1865
  • Liverpool Mercury 12th September 1868
  • London Evening Standard 9th February 1872
  • London Gazette No. 21263 14th November 1851 p 2975
  • Manchester Times 21st July 1877
  • Penrith Observer 17th May 1887
  • Sheffield and Rotherham Independent 25th July 1873
  • Soulby’s Ulverston Advertiser and General Intelligencer 25th January 1877
  • Staffordshire Advertiser 29th December 1849
  • Times 1st July 1904
  • Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer 11th March 1891