When William Francis Kyffin Taylor retired as a judge in 1948, aged 95, he established a record as the oldest serving judge anywhere in the world.
He was born on the 9th July 1854, the son of clergyman William Taylor, who would become archdeacon of Liverpool. At the time of his birth the family lived at 27 Erskine Street L6 (now demolished). The family moved as William’s parishes changed, living at 61 Everton Road L6 (1861) and 13 Newbie Terrace L5 (1871 – now demolished). One of eight children, he and his two brothers were educated at Liverpool College. He entered Exeter College, Oxford and after taking his degree joined the Middle Temple and was called to the bar in 1879, setting up his chambers at 8 Harrington Street L1. After 4 years practise he married Mary Fleming née crooks and they settled down at 28 Devonshire Road L8.
By 1894 it was recorded that he was generally considered as the leader of the local bar and in 1895 he became one of the first specifically Liverpool barristers to take silk and become a Queen’s Counsel. Appointed Recorder for Bolton in 1901, in 1903 he was appointed Presiding Judge of the Liverpool Court of Passage. This dated back to the days of King John, originally a market court, the ‘passage’ possibly referring to the fee for entering the Liverpool Market. Its role was to try civil disputes.
Taylor was held in high regard by his fellow lawyer, a testament being his appointment as Treasurer of the Inner Temple in 1926, probably the most prized position barristers can hold. He is often cited as having given the shortest summing up by a judge in legal history. In a dull, hopeless case, he merely turned to the jury, cocked an eyebrow and said in his quiet voice “Well, gentlemen ?”.
Taylor owned a country house, Gadlas Hall in Shropshire, which he rented to General de Gaulle’s family during their English exile in the Second World War. His neice was the BBC writer and director Nesta Pain.
In the Birthday Honours List of 1948, at the age of 94, he was raised to the Peerage with the title of Baron Maenan of Ellesmere, the oldest man ever to be elevated to the House of Lords. He died on 22nd September 1951 aged 97.
This photo from the 1960s shows typical houses in Erskine Street, the Taylor family home at the time of William's birth in 1854.
The Taylor family home in 1861
Taylor's home after his marriage .
The Wikipedia entry gives a brief outline. However, the best source is the pen-picture by Graeme Bryson in the book A Century of Liverpool Lawyers [2002 Liverpool Law Society].
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