WOOD, George (1743-1824), of Bedford Square, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 13 Feb. 1743, 1st s. of Rev. George Wood, vicar of Roystone, nr. Barnsley, Yorks. by Jane, da. of John Matson of Roystone. educ. in Yorkshire; M. Temple 1765, called 1775. m. Sarah (d. 18 Dec. 1839), s.p. suc. fa. 1781; kntd. 3 June 1807.
Baron of Exchequer Apr. 1807-Feb. 1823; serjt.-at-law 28 May 1807.
Originally articled to an attorney named West at Cawthorn, Yorkshire, Wood was encouraged by him to transfer to the bar. In the ten years before he was called he established a considerable reputation as a special pleader and among his pupils during this time were Edward Law* (later Lord Ellenborough) and Thomas (later Lord) Erskine*. On being called he acquired an extensive practice on the northern circuit.1 In December 1789 he was able to obtain from Pitt a minor West Indian appointment for his brother John, a refugee American loyalist,2 and in 1794 he was engaged by the crown to prosecute John Horne Tooke* and other political offenders. He continued to instruct in special pleading and his pupils included James Scarlett*, William Sturges* and Richard Trench*.
Wood entered Parliament in 1796 as the 1st Earl of Lonsdale’s nominee. He supported Pitt’s administration silently, voting for the triple tax assessment, 4 Jan. 1798. He continued to go the northern circuit every spring. After 1802 he deferred to Lord Lowther, Lonsdale’s heir, and accordingly joined Pitt in opposition to Addington’s ministry in the spring of 1804. He was in the minorities on defence, 23 and 25 Apr., and was listed Pittite in September 1804 and July 1805, despite his vote with the majority for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805. He voted against the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. At the dissolution of 1806 he surrendered his seat on a hint from Lowther: ‘’tis not in my power to attend my duty in Parliament as a Member ought to do’, he admitted.3
In 1807, when Lowther became an earl, Wood was made a judge of the Exchequer court. As the author of Observations on tithes and tithe laws, he helped John Christian Curwen* by drafting a tithe regulation bill which was thwarted in the House in March 1818. No orator—he was too blunt—but a sound and persevering lawyer, he died ‘the father of the English bar’, 7 July 1824. He had made nearly £300,000.4