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The Right Honourable Henry, Baron Langdale KC PC

Henry Bickersteth

Born 18 June 1783(1783-06-18)
Kirkby Lonsdale
Died 18 April 1851 (aged 67)
Tunbridge Wells
Spouse(s) Lady Jane Elizabeth Harley

Henry Bickersteth, 1st Baron Langdale KC PC (18 June 1783 – 18 April 1851) was an English law reformer and Master of the Rolls.

He was born on 18 June 1783 at Kirkby Lonsdale, three years before his brother Edward Bickersteth. He graduated senior wrangler from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1808 and after training as a physician like his father, he turned to law and was called to the Bar in 1811.[1]

He became a King's Counsel in 1827, and 1836 brought him membership of the Privy Council, appointment as Master of the Rolls and a peerage, which he accepted on condition that he could concentrate on law reform and remain politically independent.

He was determined that the government should provide an adequate Public Record Office and became known as the "father of record reform". As Master of the Rolls he was in effect Keeper of The Public Records. After the Public Records Act of 1838, he and his Deputy Keeper, Francis Palgrave, the full-time working head of the office, started to organise the transfer of state papers from the Tower of London, the chapter house of Westminster Abbey and elsewhere, to one single location.

He and his wife Lady Jane Elizabeth Harley, daughter of his patron the Earl of Oxford, had one daughter.

In 1850 ill health forced him to turn down the chance to become Lord Chancellor and he died the following year, on 18 April 1851, at Tunbridge Wells.

Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Charles Pepys
Master of the Rolls
Succeeded by
Lord Romilly


  1. ^ Bickersteth, Henry in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  • Hugh Mooney, 'Henry Bickersteth, Baron Langdale', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Pierre Chaplais, reviewing The Public Record Office, 1838-1958 (HMSO 1991) by John D. Cantwell, in The English Historical Review (Feb 1995, volume 110, number 435)
  • Revd T.R. Birks, Memoir of the Rev. Edward Bickersteth, New York, 1851, p.1


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