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Mr Justice Bucknill as caricatured by 'Spy' in 1900

Sir Thomas Townsend Bucknill PC MP QC (April 18, 1845 – October 4, 1915) was an English judge of the late Victorian era, a Member of Parliament and a Privy Councillor.[1]



'Tommy' Bucknill was born at Exminster in 1845, the second son of Sir John Charles Bucknill FRS (1817-1897), a famous mental specialist who was knighted in 1894 in recognition of his services as one of the founders of the Volunteer Movement.[2] Thomas Bucknill was educated at Westminster School and afterwards at Geneva. He was called to the bar in 1868, became a QC in 1885, and a bencher of the Inner Temple in 1891. From 1885 to 1899 he was Recorder of Exeter. He edited The Cunningham Reports and Sir S. Cook's Common Pleas Reports,[2] and was a leading Counsel on the Admiralty Circuit and on the Western Circuit.[2] He sat as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell from 1892 to 1899, in which year he was raised to the bench, succeeding Sir Henry Hawkins, and was knighted. In 1914 he was appointed a Privy Councillor.[1]

Bucknill was a prominent Freemason, having been initiated in 1873 into Lodge of Good Report No.136 and becoming the Provincial Grand Master for Surrey from 1903 to 1915.[3]

Among the notable cases tried before Bucknill was that in 1912 of poisoner Frederick Seddon, who, on being found guilty of murder appealed directly to Bucknill as a brother Mason and in the name of 'The Great Architect Of The Universe' to overturn the jury’s verdict. According to some sources he gave the First Degree sign, according to others the Sign of Grief and Distress, begging for mercy.[3] Bucknill is reported as having said, with some emotion:

"It is not for me to harrow your feelings – try to make peace with your Maker. We both belong to the same Brotherhood, and though that can have no influence with me this is painful beyond words to have to say what I am saying, but our Brotherhood does not encourage crime, it condemns it."[3]

Bucknill died at Epsom on October 4, 1915.

He was the father of Sir Alfred Townsend Bucknill (1880-1963), also a High Court Judge and who became a Privy Councillor in 1945.


  • In the 1981 tv series Lady Killers Christopher Banks played Bucknill in an episode entitled Root of All Evil.[4]


  1. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition
  2. ^ a b c [1] Bucknill in The New York Times January 16 1899
  3. ^ a b c [2] Bucknill in MQ Magazine 16 January 2006
  4. ^ [3] Lady Killers on the Internet Movie Database

External links

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Cubitt
Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell
Succeeded by
William Keswick


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