Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
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Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
John Coleridge, the last Chief Justice of the Common Pleas

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.[1] 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.[2]

Chief Justices of the Common Pleas

Portrait Name Term as Chief Justice Reason for termination[3]
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
William Thirning 1396-1413 Died
Richard Norton 1413-1420 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
SirEdwardMontagu.jpg Sir Edward Montagu 6 November 1545 1553 Retired
Sir Richard Morgan September 1553 1554 Removed after going insane
Sir Robert Broke.jpg 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 from NPG.jpg Sir James Dyer January 1559 24 March 1582+ Died
Sir Edmund Anderson from NPG.jpg Sir Edmund Anderson 2 May 1582 1 August 1605+ Died
Sir Francis Gawdy August 1605 15 December 1605+ Died
Edward Coke LCJ.jpg Sir Edward Coke 30 June 1606 25 October 1613 Appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench
Chief Justice Sir Henry Hobart (d.1625), 1st Baronet.jpeg Sir Henry Hobart, Bt 26 November 1613 29 December 1625+ Died
SirThomasRichardsonCrop.jpg Sir Thomas Richardson 22 November 1626 October 1631 Appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench
Sir Robert Heath LCJ.jpg Sir Robert Heath October 1631 13 September 1634 Dismissed
John Lord Finch after Cornelius Johnson.jpg Sir John Finch 16 October 1634 1640 Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal
Edward Littleton, Baron Littleton by Sir Anthony Van Dyck.jpg Sir Edward Littleton 27 January 1640 18 January 1641 Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal
SirJohnBankes.jpg Sir John Bankes 29 January 1641 28 December 1644+ Died
OliverStJohn cropped.jpg Oliver St John 1 October 1648 1660 Excluded from public office following the Restoration
Orlando Bridgeman.jpg Sir Orlando Bridgeman, Bt 22 October 1660 May 1668 Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal
Sir John Vaughan.jpg Sir John Vaughan 23 May 1668 10 December 1674+ Died
Lord Guilford CJ by John Riley.jpg Sir Francis North 23 January 1675 20 December 1682 Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal
Sir Francis Pemberton(1624-1697).jpg Sir Francis Pemberton January 1683 September 1683 Dismissed
Sir Thomas Jones CJ.jpg Sir Thomas Jones 29 September 1683 21 April 1686 Dismissed
Sir Henry Bedingfield by Robert White.jpg Sir Henry Bedingfield 21 April 1686 6 February 1687+ Died
SirRobertWright.jpg 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
Henry Pollexfen.jpg Sir Henry Pollexfen 6 May 1689 15 June 1691+ Died
SirGeorgeTrebyJudge.jpg Sir George Treby 30 April 1692 13 December 1700+ Died
1stBaronTrevor.jpg Sir Thomas Trevor
(Lord Trevor from 1712)
5 July 1701 14 October 1714 Not reappointed by George I
Peter King, 1st Baron King of Ockham by Daniel De Coning.jpg Sir Peter King 27 October 1714 1 June 1725 Appointed Lord Chancellor
Sir Robert Eyre by John Riley.jpg Sir Robert Eyre 1725 28 December 1735+ Died
Amigoni - Portrait of Sir Thomas Reeve.jpg Sir Thomas Reeve 26 January 1736 19 January 1737+ Died
Sir John Willes by Thomas Hudson.jpg Sir John Willes 28 January 1737 15 December 1761+ Died
Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden by Sir Joshua Reynolds.jpg Sir Charles Pratt
(Lord Camden from 1765)
January 1762 30 July 1766 Appointed Lord Chancellor
Sir John Eardley Wilmot by George Dance Yr.jpg Sir John Eardley Wilmot 20 August 1766 26 January 1771 Resigned
Sir William de Grey January 1771 June 1780 Resigned
Lord Loughborough by Mather Brown.jpg Alexander Wedderburn June 1780 28 January 1793 Appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal
SirJamesEyre.jpg Sir James Eyre 11 February 1793 1 July 1799+ Died
John Scott Lord High Chancellor of England 1801-1806 by William Cowen.jpg The Lord Eldon 17 July 1799 1801 Appointed Lord Chancellor
1stLordAlvanley.jpg The Lord Alvanley 22 May 1801 19 March 1804+ Died
Sir James Mansfield CJ.jpg Sir James Mansfield 24 April 1804 21 February 1814 Resigned
Vicary Gibbs NPG.jpg Sir Vicary Gibbs February 1814 November 1818 Resigned
Sir Robert Dallas November 1818 1824 Retired
RobertGifford.jpg The Lord Gifford 9 January 1824 5 April 1824 Appointed Master of the Rolls
1stLordWynford.jpg Sir William Best 15 April 1824 June 1829 Retired
Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal by John Lucas.jpg Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal 9 June 1829 6 July 1846+ Died
Thomas Wilde, 1st Baron Truro by Thomas Youngman Gooderson.jpg Sir Thomas Wilde 6 July 1846 15 July 1850 Appointed Lord Chancellor
Sir John Jervis (1857) engraved by George Salisbury Shury (cropped).jpg Sir John Jervis 16 July 1850 1 November 1856+ Died
Sir Alexander Cockburn LCJ by GF Watts.jpg Sir Alexander Cockburn, Bt November 1856 24 June 1859 Appointed Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench
William Erle by Francis Grant.jpg Sir William Erle June 1859 November 1866 Retired
WilliamBovill1872.jpg Sir William Bovill November 1866 1 November 1873+ Died
Lord Coleridge LCJ by EU Eddis.JPG 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.[2]


The Wetherspoon pub in Keswick, Cumbria is named "The Chief Justice of the Common Pleas".


  1. ^ Kiralfy, p. 121
  2. ^ a b Lord Mackay of Clashfern (ed.) (2002) Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th ed. Vol.10 (Reissue), "Courts", 603 'Divisions of the High Court'
  3. ^ "Oxford DNB theme:Chief Justices of the Common Pleas (subscription needed)". Oxford University Press. 2004. Retrieved .


  • Kiralfy, A. K. R. (1962). Potter's Historical Introduction to English Law and Its Institutions. London: Sweet & Maxwell, Ltd.

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