Sir Henry Wrenfordsley

Sir Henry Wrenfordsley

Second Chief Justice of Western Australia, 1880-1883

By Dr J M Bennett AM


Of all Chief Justices in Australia in the 19th century none so demeaned the office as did Sir Henry Wrenfordsley, second Chief Justice of Western Australia.

Moving from an indifferent practice as a Dublin solicitor to a very insecure career as an English barrister, Wrenfordsley won notice for his interest in Conservative politics, twice standing unsuccessfully for Parliament. An able public speaker and a companionable guest at gentlemen’s clubs, he obtained a colonial judicial appointment through patronage.

He served in Mauritius before being appointed Chief Justice of Western Australia and then of Fiji. He acted as a judge in Tasmania and Victoria and finally was Chief Justice of the Leeward Islands. In every office he collided with colonial administrators and fellow lawyers and was in constant dispute with the Colonial Office.

A weak lawyer, he was ridiculed as a “journeyman judge” and a “gallery judge” who turned the court into a theatre. His public career was marked by every bad judicial quality – incompetence, duplicity, interference in politics, laziness, uncontrollable temper, chronic insolvency, and overwhelming self-importance, among them.

The Western Australian State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir Archibald Burt, Sir Henry Wrenfordsley and Sir Alexander Onslow is available for $130.00 - to order the WA State Set, click here.


Published 4 November 2004
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862875289
Australian RRP $49.50
International Price $45.00