Thomas Webster (lawyer)

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Thomas Webster (1810–1875) was an English barrister, known for his involvement in patent legislation, and for committee work leading up to The Great Exhibition.



He was born on 16 October 1810, the eldest son of Thomas Webster, vicar of Oakington, Cambridgeshire. From Charterhouse School he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. as fourteenth wrangler in 1832, proceeding M.A. in 1835. [1] [2]

Oakington village in United Kingdom

Oakington is a small rural Anglo-Saxon village 7 miles north-west of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire in England, and belongs to the administrative district of South Cambridgeshire. Since 1985 the village has formed part of the parish of Oakington and Westwick.

Charterhouse School Public school in Godalming, Surrey, United Kingdom

Charterhouse is a boarding school in Godalming, Surrey. Originally founded by Thomas Sutton in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian monastery in Charterhouse Square, Smithfield, London, it educates over 800 pupils, aged 13 to 18 years, and is one of the original Great Nine English public schools. Today pupils are still referred to as Carthusians, and ex-pupils as Old Carthusians.

Trinity College, Cambridge Constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England

Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England. With around 600 undergraduates, 300 graduates, and over 180 fellows, it is the largest college in either of the Oxbridge universities by number of undergraduates. In terms of total student numbers, it is second only to Homerton College, Cambridge.

In 1837 Webster became secretary to the Institution of Civil Engineers. In 1839 he resigned the post, but remained honorary secretary till 1841. In that year he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn, and joined the northern circuit. [1]

Institution of Civil Engineers independent professional association, headquartered in central London

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is an independent professional association for civil engineers and a charitable body in the United Kingdom. Based in London, ICE has over 92,000 members, of whom three-quarters are located in the UK, while the rest are located in more than 150 other countries. The ICE aims to support the civil engineering profession by offering professional qualification, promoting education, maintaining professional ethics, and liaising with industry, academia and government. Under its commercial arm, it delivers training, recruitment, publishing and contract services. As a professional body, ICE aims to support and promote professional learning, managing professional ethics and safeguarding the status of engineers, and representing the interests of the profession in dealings with government, etc. It sets standards for membership of the body; works with industry and academia to progress engineering standards and advises on education and training curricula.

Lincolns Inn one of the four Inns of Court in London, England

The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. Lincoln's Inn is recognised to be one of the world's most prestigious professional bodies of judges and lawyers.

Webster built up a practice in scientific cases, and was recognised as an authority on patent law. He played a major part in the reforming Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852. He had also a parliamentary practice. He was one of the counsel engaged for Birkenhead in the contests over the Liverpool and Mersey docks.

Birkenhead town in Merseyside, England

Birkenhead is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside, England. Historically until 1974 in Cheshire, it is on the Wirral Peninsula, along the west bank of the River Mersey, opposite the city of Liverpool. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 88,818.

Webster was on the governing body of the Society of Arts, a significant member of the reforming group in the Society of the mid-1840s; others were George Bailey, John Bethell, John Scott Russell, Edward Speer, William Tooke, and Joseph Woods. [3] He was in the chair at the meeting of the society in 1845 when the first proposal was made for holding the International Exhibition of 1851, and was a member of initial committee appointed to organise it. [1]

John Scott Russell naval engineer

John Scott Russell FRSE FRS FRSA was a Scottish civil engineer, naval architect and shipbuilder who built Great Eastern in collaboration with Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He made the discovery of the wave of translation that gave birth to the modern study of solitons, and developed the wave-line system of ship construction.

William Tooke FRS (1777–1863) was an English lawyer, politician, and President of the Society of Arts.

Joseph Woods was an English Quaker architect, botanist and geologist born in the village of Stoke Newington, a few miles north of the City of London. A Member of the Society of Antiquaries, and an Honorary Member of the Society of British Architects, he was also elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a Fellow of the Geological Society in recognition of his original research.

Webster was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1847, and in 1865 he was appointed Queen's Counsel. He died in London on 3 June 1875. [1]

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science, and medical science'.

Queens Counsel Jurist appointed by letters patent in some Commonwealth realms

In the United Kingdom and in some Commonwealth countries, a Queen's Counsel during the reign of a queen, or King's Counsel during the reign of a king, is a lawyer who is appointed by the monarch of the country to be one of "Her [His] Majesty's Counsel learned in the law". The position originated in England. Some Commonwealth countries have either abolished the position, or re-named it to eliminate monarchical connotations, such as "Senior Counsel" or "Senior Advocate".


Webster's Reports and Notes of Cases on Letters Patent for Inventions (1844) became a standard textbook. In 1848 he published a handbook The Ports and Docks of Birkenhead. In 1853 and 1857 he republished the reports of the acting committee of the conservators of the Mersey. [1]


Webster married twice. Firstly, in 1839, he married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Richard Calthrop of Swineshead Abbey, Lincolnshire. His second wife was Mary Frances, daughter of Joseph Collier Cookworthy (of Plymouth), and sister of Joseph Cookworthy, a member of parliament in Western Australia. By his first wife he had three sons, the second being Richard Everard Webster, and two daughters; by his second wife he had one son and one daughter. [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Webster, Thomas (1810-1875)"  . Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. "Webster, Thomas (WBSR827T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. Henry Trueman Wright Wood, A History of the Royal Society of Arts (1913), p. 346 note 1;

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : "Webster, Thomas (1810-1875)". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

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