The chief justice of the Common Pleas was the head of the Court of Common Pleas, also known as the Common Bench or Common Place, which was the second-highest common law court in the English legal system until 1875, when it, along with the other two common law courts and the equity and probate courts, became part of the High Court of Justice. As such, the chief justice of the Common Pleas was one of the highest judicial officials in England, behind only the Lord High Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice of England, who headed the Queen's Bench (King's when the monarch was male).
Initially, the position of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas was not an appointment; of the justices serving in the court, one would become more respected than his peers, and was therefore considered the "chief" justice.
The position was formalised in 1272, with the raising of Sir Gilbert of Preston to Chief Justice, and from then on, it was a formally-appointed role, similar to the positions of Lord Chief Justice and Chief Baron of the Exchequer.When the High Court was created in 1875, each of the three common law courts became separate divisions of it, each headed by the person who had led the respective court before the merger.
When the Lord Chief Justice and Chief Baron died in 1880, the three common law divisions (Queen's Bench, Exchequer, and Common Pleas) were merged, and John Coleridge, the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, became Lord Chief Justice, and the offices of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and Chief Baron were abolished.
|Portrait||Name||Term as Chief Justice||Reason for termination|
|Simon of Pattishall||1190–1214||Died|
|Martin of Pattishall||1217–1229||Retired|
|Sir Thomas of Moulton||1229–1233||Resigned to travel an Eyre circuit|
|William de Raley||1233–1234||Appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench|
|Sir Thomas of Moulton||1234–1236||Retired|
|Robert of Lexinton||1236–1244||Retired|
|Henry of Bath||1245–1249||Stripped of his position after accusations of perverting the course of justice|
|Roger of Thirkleby||1249–1256||Replaced|
|Henry of Bath||1256–1258||Retired|
|Roger of Thirkleby||1258–1260||Died|
|Sir Gilbert of Preston||1260–1267||Resigned to travel an Eyre circuit|
|Martin of Littlebury||1267–1272||Replaced|
|Sir Gilbert of Preston||1272–1274||Died|
|Roger of Seaton||1274–1278||Retired|
|Sir Thomas Weyland||1278–1289||Removed from his position and exiled|
|Sir Ralph Sandwich||1289–1290||Resigned|
|John of Mettingham||1290–1301||Died|
|Ralph de Hengham||1301–1309||Retired|
|Sir William Bereford||1309–1326||Died|
|Hervey de Stanton||1326||Not reappointed by Edward III|
|Sir William Herle||1327–1329||Resigned to travel an Eyre circuit|
|Sir John Stonor||1329–1331||Not reappointed by Edward III|
|Sir William Herle||1331–1333||Resigned to travel an Eyre circuit|
|Sir Henry le Scrope||1333||Replaced|
|Sir William Herle||1333–1335||Retired|
|Sir Sir John Stonor||1335–1341||Removed|
|Sir Sir Roger Hillary||1341–1342||Replaced|
|Sir Sir John Stonor||1342–1354||Retired|
|Sir Sir Roger Hillary||1354–1356||Died|
|Sir Robert Thorpe||1356–1371||Appointed Lord Chancellor|
|Sir William Fyncheden||1371–1374||Died|
|Sir Robert Bealknap||1374–1388||Exiled|
|Sir Robert Charleton||1388–1395||Died|
|Sir William Babington||1423–1436||Retired|
|Sir John Juyn||9 February 1436||20 January 1439||Appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench|
|John Cottesmore||20 January 1439||29 August 1439†||Died|
|Sir Richard Newton||17 September 1439||13 December 1448†||Died|
|Sir John Prysot||16 January 1449||1461†||Died|
|Sir Robert Danby||11 May 1461||1471||Not reappointed by Edward IV|
|Sir Thomas Bryan||1471||14 August 1500†||Died|
|Sir Thomas Wode||28 October 1500||31 August 1502†||Died|
|Sir Thomas Frowyk||30 September 1502||7 October 1506†||Died|
|Sir Robert Rede||1506||7 January 1519†||Died|
|Sir John Ernley||27 January 1519||22 April 1520†||Died|
|Sir Robert Brudenell||23 April 1520||22 November 1530||Retired|
|Sir Robert Norwich||22 November 1530||April 1535†||Died|
|Sir John Baldwin||19 April 1535||24 October 1545†||Died|
|Sir Edward Montagu||6 November 1545||1553||Retired|
|Sir Richard Morgan||September 1553||1554||Removed after going insane|
|Sir Robert Broke||1554||6 September 1558†||Died|
|Anthony Browne||5 October 1558||January 1559||Appointed a justice of the Queen's Bench|
|Sir James Dyer||January 1559||24 March 1582†||Died|
|Sir Edmund Anderson||2 May 1582||1 August 1605†||Died|
|Sir Francis Gawdy||August 1605||15 December 1605†||Died|
|Sir Edward Coke||30 June 1606||25 October 1613||Appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench|
|Sir Henry Hobart, Bt||26 November 1613||29 December 1625†||Died|
|Sir Richard Hutton||December 1625||November 1636||Acting Chief Justice|
|Sir Thomas Richardson||22 November 1626||October 1631||Appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench|
|Sir Robert Heath||October 1631||13 September 1634||Dismissed|
|Sir John Finch||16 October 1634||1640||Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal|
|Sir Edward Littleton||27 January 1640||18 January 1641||Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal|
|Sir John Bankes||29 January 1641||28 December 1644†||Died|
|Oliver St John||1 October 1648||1660||Excluded from public office following the Restoration|
|Sir Orlando Bridgeman, Bt||22 October 1660||May 1668||Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal|
|Sir John Vaughan||23 May 1668||10 December 1674†||Died|
|Sir Francis North||23 January 1675||20 December 1682||Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal|
|Sir Francis Pemberton||January 1683||September 1683||Dismissed|
|Sir Thomas Jones||29 September 1683||21 April 1686||Dismissed|
|Sir Henry Bedingfield||21 April 1686||6 February 1687†||Died|
|Robert Wright||13 April 1687||18 April 1687||Exchanged with Edward Herbert for the position of Chief Justice of the King's Bench|
|Sir Edward Herbert||18 April 1687||1689||Dismissed after fleeing to Ireland with James II|
|Sir Henry Pollexfen||6 May 1689||15 June 1691†||Died|
|Sir George Treby||30 April 1692||13 December 1700†||Died|
|Sir Thomas Trevor |
(Lord Trevor from 1712)
|5 July 1701||14 October 1714||Not reappointed by George I|
|Sir Peter King||27 October 1714||1 June 1725||Appointed Lord Chancellor|
|Sir Robert Eyre||1725||28 December 1735†||Died|
|Sir Thomas Reeve||26 January 1736||19 January 1737†||Died|
|Sir John Willes||28 January 1737||15 December 1761†||Died|
|Sir Charles Pratt |
(Lord Camden from 1765)
|January 1762||30 July 1766||Appointed Lord Chancellor|
|Sir John Eardley Wilmot||20 August 1766||26 January 1771||Resigned|
|Sir William de Grey||January 1771||June 1780||Resigned|
|The Lord Loughborough||June 1780||28 January 1793||Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal|
|Sir James Eyre||11 February 1793||1 July 1799†||Died|
|The Lord Eldon||17 July 1799||1801||Appointed Lord Chancellor|
|The Lord Alvanley||22 May 1801||19 March 1804†||Died|
|Sir James Mansfield||24 April 1804||21 February 1814||Resigned|
|Sir Vicary Gibbs||February 1814||November 1818||Resigned|
|Sir Robert Dallas||November 1818||1824||Retired|
|The Lord Gifford||9 January 1824||5 April 1824||Appointed Master of the Rolls|
|Sir William Best||15 April 1824||June 1829||Retired|
|Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal||9 June 1829||6 July 1846†||Died|
|Sir Thomas Wilde||6 July 1846||15 July 1850||Appointed Lord Chancellor|
|Sir John Jervis||16 July 1850||1 November 1856†||Died|
|Sir Alexander Cockburn, Bt||November 1856||24 June 1859||Appointed Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench|
|Sir William Erle||June 1859||November 1866||Retired|
|Sir William Bovill||November 1866||1 November 1873†||Died|
|Sir John Coleridge |
(Lord Coleridge from 1874)
|November 1873||20 November 1880||Court merged with the Court of Queen's Bench and the Exchequer of Pleas; became the first Lord Chief Justice of a unified Queen's Bench Division.|
|Lord Chief Justice||Title||Created||Current status||Other Judicial Roles|
|Sir Thomas Trevor||Baron Trevor||Extinct 9 September 1824||None|
|Sir Peter King||Baron King||Extinct 31 January 2018||Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain|
|Sir Charles Pratt||Earl Camden||Extant||Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain|
|Sir William de Grey||Baron Walsingham||Extant||None|
|Sir Alexander Wedderburn||Earl of Rosslyn||Extant||Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain|
|Baron Loughborough||Extinct 2 January 1805|
|Sir John Scott||Earl of Eldon||Extant||Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain|
|Sir Richard Arden||Baron Alvanley||Extinct 24 June 1857||Master of the Rolls|
|Sir Robert Gifford||Baron Gifford||Extant||Master of the Rolls|
|Sir William Best||Baron Wynford||Extant||None|
|Sir Thomas Wilde||Baron Truro||Extinct 8 March 1899||Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain|
|Sir John Coleridge||Baron Coleridge||Extant||Lord Chief Justice of England|
The Wetherspoon pub in Keswick, Cumbria is named "The Chief Justice of the Common Pleas".
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