Edward Holroyd Pearce , Lord

Edward Holroyd Pearce , Lord

b: 9 FEB 1901
d: 27 NOV 1990
From the Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990:

PEARCE, Edward Holroyd, Baron Pearce (1901-1990), lord of appeal, was born 9 February 1901 in Sidcup, Kent, the elder son (there were subsequently three daughters) of John William Ernest Pearce, headmaster of a preparatory school, and his wife Irene, daughter of Holroyd Chaplin. He was educated at Charterhouse and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, of which he became an honorary fellow in 1950. He obtained a first in classical honour moderations (1921) and a third class in literae humaniores (1923). While at Oxford he showed great prowess on the games field. He was called to the bar in 1925 by Lincoln' Inn and the Middle Temple.
In the decade before World War II his promising career as a junior barrister was interrupted by tuberculosis. After a period in Switzerland he was sufficiently cured to enable him to resume his practice, but ever afterwards he had to be particularly careful about his health. Exempt from war service, he continued his practice throughout World War II. Pearce became deputy chairman of East Sussex quarter-sessions in 1947 and was appointed a High Court judge in 1948, with the customary knighthood. He was first assigned to the Probate, Divorce, and Admiralty Division, moving to the Queen's Bench Division in 1954. In 1957 he was made a lord justice of appeal and a privy councillor. From 1962, when he was created a life peer, to 1969, he was a lord of appeal in ordinary. He was a popular and successful judge, with a clear and perceptive mind and friendly manner.
On his retirement in 1969 Pearce took over the chairmanship of the Press Council, which he held until 1974. He constantly emphasized the link between the freedom of the press and its responsibility. At the same time he became chairman of the appeals committtee of the Takeover Panel (until 1976). He had also served on other important commissions and committees, notably (as chairman) the committee on ship-building costs (1947-9) and the royal commission on marriage and divorce (1951-5), of which he was an influential member. He was a leading figure in the committee of the four inns of court which set up a senate to iron out their differences (1971-3). He became a bencher of Lincoln's Inn in 1948 and treasurer in 1966. As past master and past member of the court of the Company of Skinners he was a governor of Charterhouse (1943-64), Tonbridge School (1945-78), and Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse.
Pearce became a household name in 1971 when he became chairman of a commission set up to determine Rhodesia's reaction to a proposed constitutional settlement. The Pearce commission reported in May 1972 that the proposed terms were generally unacceptable and massively rejected by the Africans. The proposals were shelved and the status quo continued.
Pearce was exceptionally hard-working, cheerful, happy, and readily approachable. A distinctly attractive man, Pearce was ever-smiling and good-humoured. About five feet ten inches tall, he kept his light red hair to the end. He used plain language when unravelling problems at the bench and in the Law Reports. His simplicity of expression and manner made him an ideal chairman of committees. He was much in demand as a witty after-dinner speaker. Both he and his wife were talented artists, who held shows together or separately, and he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy. He was also an ardent collector of pictures and sometimes sculpture. He became president ot the Artists League of Great Britain (1950-74) and a trustee of the Chantrey Bequest. At their home in Crowborough he and his wife made a lovely garden. In later years Pearce suffered with trouble to both his hips.
In 1927 he married Erica (died 1985), daughter of Bertram Priestman RA, artist. It was an extremely happy marriage and she did much to encourage his interest in art. They had two sons, both of whom became QCs, the elder of whom died in 1987 and the younger in 1985. Pearce was never a rich man - until the very end. His artistic eye had picked up a sculpture some thirty years beforehand, for about £15. Just before his death, this 'dancing faun' turned out to be the work of a sixteenth-century Italian sculptor and was sold for £6.2 million in a London sale. Pearce died 26 November 1990 in Crowborough, Sussex.

[Personal knowledge] James Comyn

Obituary in The Guardian, 28 November 1990:

Lord Pearce, who died yesterday aged 89, was the next senior Law Lord after Lord Denning. He took silk in 1945 and became a High Court Judge in 1948. In the next 30 years he had as distinguished and varied a career as any lawyer of his generation - and still found time to be a serious, exhibiting landscape painter. He was for twelve years an appeal judge.

In 1969 he began five years as chairman of the Press Council, and from 1969-76 he was chairman of the appeal committee of the panel on takeovers and mergers. But his historic task was the preparation in 1972 of the Pearce Report on Rhodesia. The Commmission had to decide whether proposals made in a constitutional agreement between Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Ian Smith about the route to independence were "acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole". For Smith, and for many at Westminster, this consultation was seen as for the most part a formality. Other observers said that the commisssion would find its task impossible, undertaken, as it was, in chaotic conditions, with the blacks being intimidated from both sides. But Lord Pearce's scrupulous and lucid abalysis concluded that while the proposals were acceptable to the European minority they were emphatically not acceptable to the black majority (who outmumbered the whites by nearly 5 million to 228,000) and that therefore they could not provide a basis for independence. "Mistrust of the intentions of the (Rhodesian) government", the Pearce report said, "transcended all other considerations". After such a report, no further attempt could be made to settle Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's future without direct African participation. WLW & GDT.

Noel Paul, former director of the Press Council, writes: To someone who had the chance to work for him and with him, Edward Pearce brought a constant reminder that humility and humanity need not sacrifice strength of character, resolution in performance of duty and courage in the face of formidable deterrents. In the five years in which he was chairman of the council, we formed a friendship which I shall treasure. We found a mutual devotion to the common law of England, though I was a journalist untutored in the law and he a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. We produced an amalgam of minds when drafting difficult memorandam to such an extent that on many occasions neither of us was able subsequently to identify our own contributions.

It was his understanding of all kinds of people and situations that was most striking. It was not sympathy alone but a total comprehension of human motives and behaviour. Many times I saw people astonished at his understanding of conduct or circumstances which might have been expected to draw stern judicial censure. One great disappointment he did suffer. He believed that he could bring together the editors of the British press to commit themselves totally to the ideal in which we both believed: that self-regulation of the conduct of the press was not only possible but essential to the preservation of its freedom. My experience as a journalist led me to advise him that the necessary commitment could not be achieved. Nevertheless he tried, and I believe he won the respect ot the nation's editors. Certainly, in a world of gossip, I never heard an unkind word spoken of Edward Pearce.

Nicholas Bowlby adds: A month ago Edward Pearce dictated some brief notes on the Pearce family for the benefit of his grandchildren. He wrote: "I had two wonderfully courageous parents and a most wonderful wife and it was like everything else in life a matter of luck and good fortune, but I do inherit from someone a capacity for trying very hard at things". It was his wife who provided the support and down-to-earth consel. When he was sworn in as a judge he and Erica were both invited to appear before the Lord Chancellor at the House of Lords, and he was told to wear the full judicial robes of scarlet and ermine. "She sat in the car beside me," he records, "and as we drove along, she said 'It is funny to think that while you are wearing all that ermine I am wearing the fur of the fox that old Bedwell shot in our chicken run'."

When she died in 1985 it was typical of him that he should found a company known as The Sweethaws Press and publish The Permissive Garden, the account she had written 20 years earlier of how the two of them had come to create their garden in Sussex. He insisted that it should not be seen merely as a tribute to Erica's memory but as a commercial venture. His judgement was vindicated and he was enormously proud of the reviews that appeared in the national press. He gardened until the very end in spite of physical frailty. It was an experience to watch him pilot his three-wheel scooter around steep slopes in his pursuit of weeds, and a huge relief when he finally drove back up the ramp and parked the scooter in the hall.

He was also an accomplished landscape painter, and surely the only High Court judge ever to exhibit consistently at the Royal Academy summer exhibition. His father-in-law was Bertram Priestman R.A., and the two of them, often accompanied by Edward Seago, used to go off on painting expeditions together. And even during his arduous time in Rhodesia, as chairman of the commisssion to test approval of the proposed British Rhodesian settlement, he found time to paint a series of pictures of the Victoria Falls. In 1971 he was made Professor at Law at the Academy, a post he only relinquished last year.

Perhaps most extraordinary is that his career and its achievements should never have happened. As a young and impecunious barrister, living in a flat up a hundred stairs in Lincoln's Inn, he contracted tuberculosis. In those days there was no cure. His doctor, Dr Beaumont prescribed: "Supper and breakfast in bed - always eat something at lunchtime, have a pause - no theatres, no evening parties." This was the regime that he followed for 20 years, until he was finally pronounced healthy.

The obituary above refers to " brief notes on the Pearce family for the benefit of his grandchildren" which Lord Pearce dictated only a month before he died. These notes are available as Pearce EH_autobiogr'y.doc and are not so very brief, since they amount to 102 typed pages of autobiography. They end in 1948 when he was made a judge and still had 50 years of life in front of him. [check with Julia]

From The Sunday Telegraph July 7, 1991

How Lord Pearce made £6 million

Even close friends of Lord Pearce, the former Lord of Appeal in Ordinary who died last November in his 90th year, were astounded to read his recently published will. He left almost £5 1/2 million gross, £4 million net. The son of a schoolmaster, Edward Holroyd Pearce was born to no great inheritance, and married a lady of modest means: Erica, daughter of the landscape painter Bertram Priestman RA. Nor did he earn exorbitant fees at the Bar, much less as a talented amateur painter who exhibited regularly at Burlington House.

Where then did the money come from? The answer could well be the theme of a barely credible novel. Pearce, who liked to dabble in works of art, bought a 3ft bronze of a dancing boy in 1951 for £7. It was much admired by visitors to his garden. In the last year of his life he anonymously put it up for sale at Sotheby's. Identified as an Adriaen de Vries of about 1610 and estimated to fetch between £1 million and £1.5 million, it was knocked down to a London dealer for an unprecedented £6.82 million, then sold to the Getty Museum, Malibu.

England now has only one known de Vries. It is in the V & A: a sculpture of the artist's patron, the Emperor Rudolf II, who allowed him to install his workshop inside Prague Castle. One friend of Pearce who did know the identity of the anonymous vendor was his fellow Carthusian and former law pupil John Hill, Tory MP for South Norfolk from 1955 to 1974. In his moving address at Pearce's memorial sevice in Lincoln's Inn earlier this year he touched very briefly on the secret. The address went unreported in the Press but was reproduced verbatim in the Carthusian. Since I gave the Robert Birley memorial lecture at Charterhouse in 1987, the headmaster, Peter Attenborough, has been kind enough to send the school magazine to me each term. The latest number arrived almost simultabeously with the publication of Lord Pearce's will. Kenneth Rose.

Alan Ray-Jones writes:

An article on Adriaen de Vries was included in the Daily Telegraph of 13 January 1999. My uncle left some money to my mother and her sons in his will, perhaps as a result of his good fortune, and de Vries was of special interest too because my wife and I lived in Prague for six years from October 1995, and a major exhibition on Rudolf II and his time was held there, in which de Vries of course figured prominently. My mother said that his early life (described in his autobiograhical notes) was quite hard, and that he made money by copying things out of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and publishing them as articles. I'm not sure that this does him justice!

Uncle Edward always seemed to me very friendly but rather grand and remote at the same time: perhaps it was just that I knew how successful he was and found this rather forbidding. I do know though that he had a habit of asking questions continually in conversation, never saying anything about himself, and although this was rather flattering the intensity of it also made one feel as if one was in the dock. Aunt Erica was rather remote (shy perhaps) and her friendliness had a very formal quality to it. I never felt in the least close to her and wondered how it was that Uncle Edward could love her, as he evidently did. Part of the problem for me was her accent, which was very u - an 'Oxford accent', we used to say. Her father Bertram Priestman was a Quaker from Bradford - a successful painter, very good at skies - but Aunt Erica had thrown off any trace of Quakerism or Bradford.

Philip Ray-Jones adds a memory from about 1956, when Uncle Edward was already a Lord of Appeal:

When asked what the dances of the 1920s were like, Uncle Edward performed a Charleston on the kitchen table at Sweethaws in Crowborough. Phil was at Crowborough for a month or so, when he was about 17, helping in the garden, and convalescing. Edward and Erica had recently extended the house. Phil went with him to see Lord Godber, Chairman of Shell - he wanted Phil to meet people, make contacts - it was the normal way to build a career in those days. One way or another, it was his influence and contacts which gave us entry to schools and other organisations! He had a wonderful sense of humour and loved P G Wodehouse - a bookcase in the hall was full of Wodehouse books. He said (as joke or not?) that the way he got going was because criminals would pick him as a defense lawer because of his red hair - he stood out. He enjoyed Chancery - the divorce courts - because it was to do with people. Phil met one of Erica's sisters in Glasgow, Scotland when he did audits there. Her husband was senior partner in a law practice.

END Cheerful, hardworking, witty after-dinner speaker, good amateur artist, conservative, died aged 89. A story told by Sir James Comyn

There was a very rude judge (regrettably there seem still to be a few around) and one evening Edward Holroyd Pearce was going up Middle Temple Lane carrying a suitcase in each hand on his way to catch a train to take him to his country home.

Sir James Comyn was with him to hail a taxi.

As they walked along they met the judge walking the other way.

'Good evening judge.'

'Good evening Pearce.' 'I'm sorry I can't raise my hat to you, judge. I have a suitcase in both hands.'

The judge eyed him coldly: 'You could put one of them down,' he said; Sir James wryly adds, 'I am glad to say EHP didn't'. Baron Pearce

Edward Holroyd Pearce, Baron Pearce1
M, #231900, b. 9 February 1901, d. 1990

Last Edited=27 May 2007
Edward Holroyd Pearce, Baron Pearce was born on 9 February 1901.1 He died in 1990.2
Edward Holroyd Pearce, Baron Pearce was invested as a Knight Bachelor in 1948.1 He was invested as a Privy Counsellor (P.C.) in 1957.1 He held the office of Lord Justice of Appeal between 1957 and 1962.1 He held the office of Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1962.1 He was created Baron Pearce, of Sweetlaws in the County of Sussex [U.K. Law Lord] on 19 April 1962.1

1. [S34] Peter Townend, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 105th edition (London, U.K.: Burke's Peerage Ltd, 1970), page 2073. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage, 105th ed.
2. [S134] Heraldic Media Ltd., online http://www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/, Patrick Cracoft-Brennan (Cracroft Peerage Database v5.2), downloaded 1 November 2006.

Worshipful Company of Skinners, City of London

My Uncle Edward was apprenticed to his Master in the company, John Allan Cleveland Skinner, in April 1915, when he was 14 years old; and I was apprenticed to him at about the same age. Alan Ray-Jones.
  • 9 FEB 1901 - Birth - ; Merton Court, Sidcup, Kent
  • 27 NOV 1990 - Death - ; Crowborough, Sussex, England
  • 1969 - Retirement - ; Became Chairman of Press Council
  • FROM DEC 1930 TO APR 1934 - Residence - ; St John's Wood, London
  • FROM 1933 TO 1990 - Residence - ; Crowborough, Sussex
  • FROM APR 1934 - Residence - ; Lincoln's Inn, London
  • 5 APR 1915 - Appointment - ; Skinners Hall
  • 1923 - Fact -
  • DEC 1931 - Medical - ; Haemorrhage in the street, TB, Switzerland
  • FROM 1946 TO 1947 - Appointments - ; Deputy Chairman East Sussex Quarter Sessions
  • OCT 1948 - Honours - ; Lincoln's Inn, London
  • BEF 1968 - Appointments -
  • FROM 1969 TO 1974 - Appointments -
  • 1971 - Appointments - ; Rhodesia (Pearce Commission)
  • 1972 - Publications - ; Author of 'Pearce Report on Rhodesia,' HMSO.
  • FROM 1912 TO 1914 - Education - Merton Court Preparatory School
  • FROM 1915 TO 1919 - Education - Charterhouse School
  • FROM OCT 1919 TO 7 APR 1921 - Education - Corpus Christi College, Oxford University
  • Nationality - British
  • JAN 1925 - Occupation - Barrister
  • BET 1935 AND 1945 - Occupation - Junior barrister ; Took silk (became KC) in 1945
  • 1948 - Occupation - High Court Judge (knighted). Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division
  • FROM 1948 TO 1957 - Occupation - High Court Judge
  • 1957 - Occupation - Lord Justice of Appeal and Privy Councillor
  • FROM 1962 TO 1969 - Occupation - Life peer - Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (House of Lords) ; London
  • Religion - Anglican
  • FROM DEC 1930 TO APR 1934 - Residence - ; St John's Wood, London
  • FROM 1933 TO 1990 - Residence - ; Crowborough, Sussex
  • FROM APR 1934 - Residence - ; Lincoln's Inn, London
  • 19 APR 1962 - Nobility Title - Baron Pearce
  • Nobility Title - Lord
Henry Edward Pearce
15 SEP 1843 - 7 DEC 1927
John William Ernest Pearce
4 APR 1864 - 25 JAN 1951
Harriet Georgina (Hattie) Hurst
25 AUG 1842 - 11 MAY 1920
Edward Holroyd Pearce , Lord
9 FEB 1901 - 27 NOV 1990
Holroyd Chaplin
17 MAR 1840 - 23 DEC 1917
Irene Kate Chaplin
1 MAR 1873 - 22 JUN 1962
Euphemia Isabella Skinner
7 JUN 1847 - 10 SEP 1939
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) John William Ernest Pearce
Birth4 APR 1864Wellington Place, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England
Death25 JAN 1951 South Villa, Vale of Health, Hampstead, London, England
Marriage16 APR 1898to Irene Kate Chaplin at St. Annes? (corner of Church St & Kensington High St.)
FatherHenry Edward Pearce
MotherHarriet Georgina (Hattie) Hurst
PARENT (F) Irene Kate Chaplin
Birth1 MAR 1873Westbourne Park Villas, Paddington, London, England
Death22 JUN 1962 Hampstead, London, England
Marriage16 APR 1898to John William Ernest Pearce at St. Annes? (corner of Church St & Kensington High St.)
FatherHolroyd Chaplin
MotherEuphemia Isabella Skinner
MEdward Holroyd Pearce , Lord
Birth9 FEB 1901Merton Court, Sidcup, Kent
Death27 NOV 1990Crowborough, Sussex, England
Marriage9 APR 1927to Erica Priestman at Dallinghoo, Suffolk
FPhyllis Margaret Pearce
Birth8 FEB 1910Sidcup, Kent
Death6 JUN 1973
Marriage1939to Edward Douglas Eade at North London
MJohn Allan Chaplin Pearce
Birth21 OCT 1912Sidcup, Kent
Death15 SEP 2006Italy
Marriage18 NOV 1948to Raffaella Elisabetta Maria (Lella) Baione at Florence, Italy?
FHelen Nugent Pearce
Birth22 NOV 1917Merton Court Preparatory School, Sidcup, Kent (probably)
Death6 APR 1920Brighton (probably)
FEffie Irene Pearce
Birth18 AUG 1899Yarth House, 93 Fitzjohns Avenue, London NW3, England
Death26 JAN 1996Royal London Hospital Whitechapel (Tower Hamlets), London, England
Marriage12 FEB 1926to Raymond Ray-Jones at "In Brighton, quietly, Raymond Ray-Jones RE, ARCA to Effie Irene Pearce, eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs J.W.E Pearce of 2
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) Edward Holroyd Pearce , Lord
Birth9 FEB 1901Merton Court, Sidcup, Kent
Death27 NOV 1990 Crowborough, Sussex, England
Marriage9 APR 1927to Erica Priestman at Dallinghoo, Suffolk
FatherJohn William Ernest Pearce
MotherIrene Kate Chaplin
PARENT (F) Erica Priestman
DeathDEC 1985
Marriage9 APR 1927to Edward Holroyd Pearce , Lord at Dallinghoo, Suffolk
FatherBertram Priestman
MRichard Bruce Holroyd Pearce
Birth12 MAY 1930Lincoln's Inn, London
MarriageABT 1987to Christine Westwood
MarriageJUL 1958to Private
MJames Edward Holroyd Pearce
Birth18 MAR 1934Crowborough
Death11 JUN 1985
Marriage2 AUG 1969to Private
[S37956] Wikipedia
[S22032] 'Kelly's Handbook' 1968
[S27768] 'The Law List(s)', Stevens
[S22470] Edward Holroyd Pearce's unpublished autobiography
Descendancy Chart
Edward Holroyd Pearce , Lord b: 9 FEB 1901 d: 27 NOV 1990
Erica Priestman b: 1906 d: DEC 1985
Richard Bruce Holroyd Pearce b: 12 MAY 1930 d: 1987
James Edward Holroyd Pearce b: 18 MAR 1934 d: 11 JUN 1985