The Death Of Judge Bacon

On Saturday, 10th June, 1911, Judge Bacon, a man who had become famous in Whitechapel for his witty and acerbic way of dealing with litigants and witnesses who appeared before his at the Whitechapel County Court, died.

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, looked back on his life in its edition of Monday, 12th June 1911:-


The death on Saturday morning, at his residence in Lancaster Gate Terrace, London, of his Honour Judge Bacon, removes from the County Court Bench its oldest occupant as well as one of the wittiest and shrewdest who ever held the position.

He has almost literally died at his work, for when, at his last sitting at the Bloomsbury Court, he announced that he was going to take a holiday, that only meant an exchange of work, for he having undertaken to do duty for his Honour Judge Granger in Cornwall, Judge Granger taking the Bloomsbury and Whitechapel Courts.

A little more than a week ago, he went back to London to resume work in the Whitechapel Circuit, but a cold laid him aside, and, after a very brief illness, he has passed away, in his 80th year.

A photograph of Judge Bacon.
Judge Bacon.


It may said with truth that Judge Bacon enjoyed the work of his judgeship, which many would find a drudgery, and there is no doubt, on the other hand, that his many witticisms enlivened greatly the proceedings of his Courts.

But he was more than a mere judicial wit, for his keen insight and resourceful common-sense solved many a problem presented to him by hard-swearing litigants, and when points of law were raised, notably in connection with the Workmen’s Compensation Act, he was equally successful in disentangling legislative intricacies.

His decisions were seldom appealed against, and some of his judgments, being upheld by the superior Courts, have established the law and practice on difficult points.


Judge Bacon was appointed to the Bloomsbury Court as long ago as 1878, and the Whitechapel Court was added a few months later.

He was the son of the late Vice-Chancellor Bacon, who was also a judicial veteran, remaining at the Bench until he was 86, and he used to claim that he was a Judge even before his father, on the ground that, while he held a revising barristerehip his father was still at the Chancery Bar.


Of his wit and wisdom many a story has been told.

He had a way of dealing directly with practical issues which often saved a good deal of time.

When, as not infrequently happened in Whitechapel, a dressmaker’s bill was disputed on the ground that the garments did not fit, he was accustomed to order that they should be tried on, and many of his humorous obiter dicta had relation to woman’s dress.

Women themselves were often the subject of his most caustic witticisms.


On one occasion, a misfit defence was raised by a male debtor, who showed extreme indignation.

The angry man tore off the offending coat, and threw it on the floor of the court. The waistcoat followed, and the spectators wondered how this outrage on the proprieties of the Court would be rebuked.

But the Judge leaned forward and inquired blandly, “Do the trousers fit?”


Judge Bacon had no patience with mock modesty.

A witness said the other party in the suit had used dreadful words which she could not repeat, and she craved leave to write them down.

“Yes,” said the Judge, “if you know how to spell them.”

Another witness who was so shocked at statements on the other side, said that that she was ready to fall down if she heard more untruths, was assured by the Judge, “If it affected me that way, I should spend my time grovelling on the floor of the Court.”


An accomplishment possessed by the learned Judge, which he found very useful in a County Court district where there were frequently foreign litigants, was his knowledge of European languages.

In many of these he was very proficient, and more than once he was able, by means of that fact, to detect dishonesty and untruth.

Interpreters he thought very little of. “They are persons,” he once said, “who translate a language they do not understand into one of which they know less.”

He had, however, a knowledge of many things, and solicitors have said of him. “Your Honour knows everything.”

Upon one occasion, a plaintiff said that the defendant was drunk and was “holding himself by the wall.” adding, “Your Honour will understand.”

Judge Bacon replied, “I have never heard of such an expression”, but, he added, “I have heard of people trying to hold themselves up by the pattern the carpet.”


The learned and witty Judge will be much missed, and by those who knew him best, his passing away will be genuinely regretted.

The funeral will take place on Wednesday. Service will be held at St. James’s, Paddington, at two o’clock, the interment following in Paddington Cemetery, where the Judge’s father, Vice Chancellor Bacon, was buried.