From The Times, 29 March 1941
Sir Herbert Wilberforce – London Sessions and Lawn Tennis
Sir Herbert Wilberforce, Deputy Chairman of the County of London Quarter Sessions from 1926 until his retirement in 1938, and formerly a Metropolitan Police Magistrate, died at his home in Kensington yesterday at the age of 77. In his day he had also been known as a leading amateur lawn tennis player, and he was for many years President of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
Herbert William Wrangham Wilberforce was the second son of Mr Edward Wilberforce (a Master of the Supreme Court), a great-grandson of the emancipator of the slaves, William Wilberforce, and a great-nephew of Samuel, Bishop of Winchester, and he was educated at the London International College and University College, London. Thence he proceeded to Downing College, Cambridge, where he was an Exhibitioner and Scholar, and where he took a first class in the Law Tripos in 1885 and and LL.B. He was also Law Exhibitioner at London University.
At the same time he achieved distinction in his favourite sport of lawn tennis. In 1883 he was Northern Champion, from 1883 to 1886 he represented Cambridge against Oxford, and in 1887 he was Wimbledon doubles champion with the Hon. Patrick Bowes-Lyon.
He was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1888, and practised on the North-Eastern Circuit. At the 1900 election he unsuccessfully contested North Hackney in the Liberal interest. The following year he was elected to the London County Council for North Saint Pancras. He was Chairman of the Local Government Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee. In 1908 he was appointed by Lord Gladstone Stipendiary Magistrate for Bradford, and in 1914, on the resignation of Mr Baggallay, he was transferred to the Metropolitan Bench by Mr McKenna, where he remained until 1923, when he was transferred to Marylebone.
Wilberforce had by this time attained the reputation of being one of the most capable magistrates on the Metropolitan Bench; so in 1925, when a vacancy at Bow Street was caused by the premature death of Mr W.H. Leycester (whose place there during his long illness Wilberforce had filled), it was no surprise when he was promoted to that Court. His tenure of office there, however, lasted but a few months. In 1926, on the death of Mr A.J. Lawrie, K.C., he became Deputy Chairman of the County of London Sessions.
Perhaps his career at Newington did not add materially to the reputation he had acquired as a magistrate, and he was more than once passed over when a new Chairman of the Court was required. It was generally agreed that he was more in his element in deciding cases himself than in directing juries, but there was general regret by the Sessions Bar when the state of his health in 1938 hastened his retirement.
Sir Herbert Wilberforce was appointed President of the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1921. Soon afterwards the club moved from its old grounds at Worple Road to more spacious grounds in another part of Wimbledon, where nearly ten times as many people could be accommodated; and in the years which followed Wimbledon attracted more and more international players. Sir Herbert Wilberforce did much to make these strangers feel at home in a foreign land.
After he had resigned the office of President of the club in 1929 he still continued for some years to carry on the duties of the Chairman of the committee of the club, a task requiring much time and tact. He wrote “Lawn Tennis” in the All England series and various articles on the game in the Badminton Library and elsewhere. With the late Mr Dodd, K.C., he was the author of a book on Private Bill Procedure. He was knighted in 1931.
Herbert Wilberforce married in 1892 Florence, daughter of the later Mr C.J. Monk, M.P. for Gloucester, who died in 1937, leaving two daughters.
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