Thomas Sewell

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The Right Honourable
Sir Thomas Sewell
Master of the Rolls
In office
4 December 1764 6 March 1784
Monarch George III
Preceded by Sir Thomas Clarke
Succeeded by Sir Lloyd Kenyon
Personal details
Died(1784-03-06)6 March 1784
Profession Barrister

Sir Thomas Sewell PC KC (c.1710 – 6 March 1784) was an English judge and Member of Parliament, and Master of the Rolls from 1764 to 1784.

Privy Council of the United Kingdom Formal body of advisers to the sovereign in the United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians, who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

The Keeper or Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England, known as the Master of the Rolls, is the second-most senior judge in England and Wales after the Lord Chief Justice, and serves as President of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal and Head of Civil Justice. The position dates from at least 1286, although it is believed that the office probably existed earlier than that.

Sewell was a member of Middle Temple, called to the bar in 1734, and practised in the Chancery courts. He became a bencher of his inn and King's Counsel in 1754, and Treasurer of the Inn in 1765. By 1764, he was thought to be making between £3000 and £4000 a year from his practice, and was popular among religious dissenters as their champion in the courts.

Middle Temple one of the four Inns of Court in London, England

The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known simply as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers, the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. It is located in the wider Temple area of London, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London.

Court of Chancery court of equity in England and Wales

The Court of Chancery was a court of equity in England and Wales that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness of the common law. The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including trusts, land law, the estates of lunatics and the guardianship of infants. Its initial role was somewhat different: as an extension of the Lord Chancellor's role as Keeper of the King's Conscience, the Court was an administrative body primarily concerned with conscientious law. Thus the Court of Chancery had a far greater remit than the common law courts, whose decisions it had the jurisdiction to overrule for much of its existence, and was far more flexible. Until the 19th century, the Court of Chancery could apply a far wider range of remedies than common law courts, such as specific performance and injunctions, and had some power to grant damages in special circumstances. With the shift of the Exchequer of Pleas towards a common law court and loss of its equitable jurisdiction by the Administration of Justice Act 1841, the Chancery became the only national equitable body in the English legal system.


A bencher or Master of the Bench is a senior member of an Inn of Court in England and Wales and Ireland. Benchers hold office for life once elected. A bencher can be elected while still a barrister, in recognition of the contribution that the barrister has made to the life of the Inn or to the law. Others become benchers as a matter of course when appointed as a High Court judge. The Inn may elect non-members as honorary benchers – for example, distinguished judges and lawyers from other countries, eminent non-lawyers or members of the British Royal Family, who become known as "Royal Benchers" once elected.

He stood for Parliament in 1754 at Wallingford and was defeated, despite spending more than £2000 (from the Prime Minister's election fund) in the attempt, but was elected in 1758 as member for Harwich. Harwich was a "Treasury borough", where the government candidate was certain of success, but Sewell had his own interest in the town as well, since his father-in-law, Thomas Heath had been its MP earlier in the century.

Wallingford was a constituency in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Harwich (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom

Harwich was a parliamentary constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Until its abolition for the 2010 general election it elected one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.

However, he made little impact in the Commons and at the next election was not re-nominated at Harwich. He stood instead at Exeter, where he was badly defeated despite Prime Minister Newcastle's support, though this time at his own expense rather than the government's. Nevertheless, later in the year he was returned instead as the government candidate at Winchelsea.

Exeter (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom

Exeter is a constituency composed of the cathedral city and county town of Devon represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament. The constituency has had a history of representatives from 1900 of Conservative, Liberal Party, Independent and Labour representation and has been represented since 1997 by Ben Bradshaw of the Labour Party, who served in government as a Health Minister and as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (2009–2010).

Winchelsea was a parliamentary constituency in Sussex, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1366 until 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act.

In 1761, Sewell was one of two candidates considered for appointment as Solicitor General, but the post went instead to Fletcher Norton. However, in 1764 he was knighted and appointed Master of the Rolls, apparently to the surprise of many including himself, after a number of other candidates had refused the post; he held it until his death twenty years later. He was also made a member of the Privy Council.

Solicitor General for England and Wales one of the Law Officers of the Crown, and the deputy of the Attorney General

Her Majesty's Solicitor General for England and Wales, known informally as the Solicitor General, is one of the Law Officers of the Crown, and the deputy of the Attorney General, whose duty is to advise the Crown and Cabinet on the law. He or she can exercise the powers of the Attorney General in the Attorney General's absence.

Fletcher Norton, 1st Baron Grantley British politician

Fletcher Norton, 1st Baron Grantley PC was an English lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1756 to 1782 when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Grantley.

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Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Wenman Coke
Viscount Duncannon
Member of Parliament for Harwich
With: Wenman Coke
Succeeded by
Charles Townshend
John Roberts
Preceded by
Thomas Orby Hunter
The Earl of Thomond
Member of Parliament for Winchelsea
With: Thomas Orby Hunter
Succeeded by
Thomas Orby Hunter
The Earl of Thomond
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Clarke
Master of the Rolls
Succeeded by
Sir Lloyd Kenyon