Sir Francis Buller, 1st Baronet of Churston Court

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Sir Francis Buller, 1st Baronet of Churston Court

Birthplace: Crediton, Devon, EnglandDeath 04 Jun 1800 in Bedford Square, London, England (United Kingdom)
Death: June 05, 1800 (54)
Immediate Family:

Son of James Buller, MP and Jane Buller
Husband of Susannah Buller
Father of Sir Francis Yarde-Buller, 2nd Bt.
Brother of John Buller, MP; Jane Lemon; Catherine Buller; Mary Buller and Edward Buller
Half brother of James Buller

Managed by: Woodman Mark Lowes Dickinson, OBE
Last Updated:

About Sir Francis Buller, 1st Baronet of Churston Court,_1st_Baronet

Sir Francis Buller, 1st Baronet (17 March 1746 – 5 June 1800) of Churston Court in the parish of Churston Ferrers, of nearby Lupton in the parish of Brixham, and of Prince Hall on Dartmoor, all in Devon, was an English judge.


Buller was born at Downes House in Devon, the son of James Buller, Member of Parliament for Cornwall, and his wife Lady Jane, daughter of Allen Bathurst, 1st Earl Bathurst. He was educated at the King's (Grammar) School, Ottery St Mary and Christ's Hospital, London. In 1763, at the age of 17, he married Susanna, daughter and heiress of Francis Yarde of Churston Court, Devonshire. In February 1763, he was entered at the Inner Temple as a pupil of special pleader William Henry Ashurst, taking out his own certificate as special pleader in 1765. In Easter term 1772, he was called to the bar and rose rapidly through it, becoming King's Counsel on 24 November 1777. On 6 May 1778, at only 32, he was made a puisne judge of the King's Bench.[1]

Gillray's cartoon of Buller.His conduct on the bench, however, was often the subject of severe criticism, accused of being hasty and prejudiced. He was caricatured as "Judge Thumb" by James Gillray in 1782, because of an alleged statement made by Buller that a husband could thrash his wife with impunity provided that he used a stick no bigger than his thumb.[1] This claim was widely circulated, although if Buller ever made the comment it never became an accepted part of English common law.[2]

He was one of the three judges in the 1783 appeal hearing of the Zong massacre case. He also presided over an important trial in 1785 involving the validity of a patent held by Richard Arkwright, the cotton manufacturer. The jury held the patent to be invalid because the specification was unclear. Expert evidence showed that Arkwright had claimed inventions made by others. Arkwright had by that time established several cotton spinning mills, and continued to prosper despite losing the patent battle.[citation needed]

Buller was always the second judge in his court, though when Lord Mansfield was absent through illness (e.g., the last two years of Mansfield's life), he took the lead and in effect acted as Lord Chief Justice. However, on Mansfield's death, William Pitt delayed and then in the end appointed Kenyon to the role. (Buller was thought to be the superior lawyer).[1] As additional recognition, Pitt made Buller a baronet on 13 January 1790. On 19 June 1794, Buller resigned from the King's Bench and took his place in the Common Pleas.[1]

He was a guardian of Anna Eliza Brydges[who?] and a trustee to the 1796 settlement between her and Richard Temple, later the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. Buller built the original house now occupied by Two Bridges Hotel on Dartmoor. His health in the late 1790s was undermined by frequent attacks of gout and by a slight stroke of paralysis.[citation needed]

Buller had arranged to resign in a few days but, during a game of piquet at his house in Bedford Square, he was stricken again. He died during the night of 4/5 June 1800.[1] His widow, Lady Susanna, lived until 1810. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Sir Francis Buller-Yarde-Buller, 2nd Baronet

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Sir Francis Buller, 1st Baronet of Churston Court's Timeline

March 17, 1746
Crediton, Devon, EnglandDeath 04 Jun 1800 in Bedford Square, London, England (United Kingdom)
June 5, 1800
Age 54