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Sir James Alan Park (1763-1838)

This article was written by John Andrew Hamilton and was published in 1895

Sir James Alan Park, judge, son of James Park, an Edinburgh surgeon, was born in Edinburgh on 6 April 1763. He was brought up in England, whither his father had removed to take up a practice at Newington, Surrey. His education he received at Nottingham grammar school, and eventually he became a student of Lincoln's Inn, read with a conveyancer, and was called to the bar on 18 June 1784. With the encouragement of his friend, fellow-countryman, and patron, Lord Mansfield, he published a ‘Treatise on the Law of Marine Insurance’ in 1787, largely based on Lord Mansfield's opinions and decisions. This proved useful and successful, passed through six editions in his lifetime, and early brought its author into practice, especially in mercantile causes. It reached its eighth edition in 1842.

Though not an eloquent advocate, he was a lucid, earnest, and persuasive one, and his habit of constantly discussing cases with Lord Mansfield gave him considerable learning and experience in the application of principle. In 1791 he was appointed vice-chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in 1795 recorder of Preston, in Trinity vacation 1799 a king's counsel, in 1802 recorder of Durham, and in 1811 attorney-general of Lancaster. When Law left the northern circuit in 1802, to become attorney-general, Park obtained the lead of the circuit; and in London practice for many years Gibbs and Garrow were his only equals.

In public affairs he played a modest part. He joined his friend, William Stevens, treasurer of Queen Anne's bounty, in procuring the repeal of penal statutes against Scottish episcopalian clergy. He was one of the original members of ‘Nobody's Club,’ founded in honour of William Stevens, and published a memoir of him on his death (privately printed, 1812; republished in 1815). Personally a pious churchman, he published in 1804 ‘A Layman's earnest Exhortation to a frequent Reception of the Lord's Supper.’

At length, on 22 January 1816, he was promoted to the bench of the common pleas, and was knighted. He sat in that court till his death, which took place at his house in Bedford Row, Bloomsbury, on 8 December 1838. He was buried in the family vault at Elwick, Durham. As a judge, though not eminent, he was sound, fair, and sensible, a little irascible, but highly esteemed. Some stories of his bad temper are to be found in the memoir of him in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’ He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and received the degree of D.C.L. at Oxford on 10 June 1834. He married, on 1 January 1791, Lucy, daughter of Richard Atherton, a woollen-draper of Preston, one of the original partners in the Preston Old Bank, by whom he had two sons.

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