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Edward Marshall Hall KC - The Great Defender

Sir Edward Marshall Hall KC 1858 - 1927

Born at 30 Old Steine, Brighton, on 16 September 1858 to Dr Alfred and Julia Hall, Edward was the youngest of 10 children. Over his distinguished career as a barrister he appeared for the defence in many notable criminal trials, earning respect and praise from his peers. He was even considered the model for the television series 'Rumpole of the Bailey'.

Known as 'The Great Defender' because of his passionate defence, in the case of an Irish labourer, when asked by a pompous judge, "Is your client not familiar with the maxim res ipsa loquitur?” he replied, "My lord, on the remote hillside in County Donegal where my client hails from, they talk of little else."

Described as ‘impressively handsome’, Edward was educated at Rugby School and graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge. He was called to the Bar in 1883 after joining the Inner Temple and practised in London, on the South East Circuit and at the Sussex Sessions.

He was also an MP for Southport between 1900 and 1906 and Toxteth from 1910 to 1916. He was Knighted in 1917, held the post of Recorder of Guildford between 1916 and 1927 and married twice, to Grace Moon in 1882 and Henriette Kroeger in 1896 with whom he had one daughter, Elna.

“My profession and that of an actor are somewhat akin, except that I have no scenes to help me, and no words are written for me to say”.

His interest in the law is said to have started when he was 13 years old. His father (a physician) took him to hear the case of Christiana Edmunds who was tried for murder. She had purchased chocolate creams and returned poisoned sweets to a confectioner, causing the death of a child.

The trial of Robert Wood in 1907 was his first great success having successfully defended Wood who was charged with the murder of Emily Dimmock. He also defended William Grey and Jack Field who murdered 18 year old Irene Munro on the Crumbles Beach near Eastbourne in September 1920.

Another of his local cases was heard at Maidstone Assizes in 1926 and came to be known as the ‘Stella Maris’ murder. It was alleged that his client, Alfonso Smith, shot John Derham because he was jealous of the attentions he paid to his wife. Sir Edward secured a verdict of ‘not guilty’.

Perhaps his most high profile trial was the 1915 ‘Brides in the Bath’ case where he unsuccessfully defended George Joseph Smith. A serial bigamist, Smith drowned 3 of his 7 wives shortly after they had taken out new life insurance policies. Smith was hanged at Maidstone Prison on 13 August 1915.

“One of the greatest advocates of these or any other times” Roland Oliver KC

Sir Edward enjoyed golf, shooting, cricket and tennis and was a keen athlete. He also enjoyed finding bargains in antique shops. Many think his greatest achievement, securing the acquittal of Marguerite Fahmy who shot her husband at the Savoy Hotel in 1923, was partly due to his expertise in pistols.

Such was his ‘celebrity’ that newspapers across the country included daily updates on his condition, with the Portsmouth Evening News of 16 February 1927 reporting a ‘rather bad night. Pulse not so good. Temperature 98. Sleeping. No further change.’

He died at midnight on 24 February 1927 aged 68 after complications of influenza that he’d had for several weeks. The first part of his funeral took place at St Marylebone Church a few days before his ashes were interred in the grave of his parents at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on 28 February 1927. The newspaper report noted that there was no service and that no mourners were present at the cemetery.

His mother died at 8 Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, on 8 January 1889 and his father died at 75 Lansdowne Place, Brighton, on 30 August 1897. A letter from his mother was found in Sir Edwards’s papers. It read ‘E. M. Hall, with Mother’s love. Read it, dear one, every day’.

With unfortunate timing, Sir Edward was quoted in a newspaper advertisement for Genasprin, ‘the safe brand of aspirin’, on the day he died saying: “I have found Genasprin of the greatest benefit”.

Edward Marjoribanks, Famous Trials of Marshall Hall, Penguin, 1989
Portsmouth Evening News 16 February 1927
The Daily Mirror, 24 February 1927
Daily News (London) 24 February 1927
Westminster Gazette 24 February 1927
Daily News (London) 25 February 1927
Kent & Sussex Courier 25 February 1927
Sunday Mirror 27 February 1927
Weekly Dispatch 27 February 1927
Westminster Gazette 28 February 1927
Kent & Sussex Courier 4 March 1927
The Guardian 14 February 2002

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