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Birkett, William Norman, MP, 1st Baron
1883-1962

He was born into a staunch WM family in Ulverston on 6 September 1883. Leaving school at 15 he worked in his father's drapery business and became a local preacher. At 21 he spent a year studying at home, with a view to entering the WM ministry, then went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, studying history, law and theology and becoming President of the Union in 1910. Called to the Bar in 1913, he became a K.C. in 1924, was a Judge of the King's Bench Division 1941-1950 and a Lord Justice of Appeal, 1950-1957. He gained a high reputation as a persuasive council for the defence, served on the Nuremberg Tribunal and was in much demand as a public speaker. He received several honorary doctorates, including one from Cambridge (1958). He was a Liberal MP in 1923-1924 and 1929-1931, was knighted in 1941 and entered the House of Lords in 1958. His final triumph in the Lords was the defeat of Manchester's plans to use Ullswater as a reservoir. Though he described himself as a Christian agnostic, he acknowledged his indebtedness to his WM upbringing and to the hymns of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. He died in London on 10 February 1962.

Sources

  • Times, 13 Feb 1962
  • Methodist Recorder, 22 Feb 1962
  • H.M. Hyde, Norman Birkett (1964)
  • Oxford DNB

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Person

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