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Title: The reform of the testamentary jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, 1830-1857
Author: Hutton, Brian Gerald
ISNI:       0000 0001 3585 504X
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis traces the efforts of successive Governments of both persuasions to reform the ancient jurisdiction of the spiritual courts over the validity of wills of personal property. Those non-partisan efforts spanned three decades and resulted in the 1857 Court of Probate Act. A Royal Commission, reporting in 1832, recommended in effect that the jurisdiction be centralised in London by transferring it from the Province of York and from the diocesan and inferior courts to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury at Doctors' Commons, where the specialist civilian lawyers practised their separate and monopolistic body of law. Because the Real Property Commission preferred a secular solution, the 1832 Report was endorsed by a Commons Select Committee in 1833 and modified by a Lords Select Committee in 1836 to allow a limited non contentious local jurisdiction. Several early attempts to bring in reforming measures based upon the centralising 1832 Report failed because of local opposition, a lack of resolve on the part of Ministers and the pressure of other business. Two Government Bills were introduced during Peel's Second Ministry. The 1843 Bill failed because it pursued a centralising policy. The 1844 Bill failed because it departed from that policy and offered to keep the diocesan courts. The Whig Opposition introduced its own centralising Bill in 1845 but it too failed. After the inactivity of Russell's administration, efforts at reform were resumed in the 1850s by rapidly changing Governments, but were hampered by local opposition, pressure of other business, and the Crimean War. By then the 1854 Report of the Chancery Commission had recommended that the entire jurisdiction should be removed to a secular court, and the debate raged about which practitioners should benefit. Finally, after pressures in the Commons to secure appropriate compensation and district probate offices with extended powers, the 1857 Act ushered in the present system.
Supervisor: Polden, P. ; Lobban, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available