LORD STOWELL (1745 - 1835)
William Scott was the younger brother of John Scott, later Lord Eldon. He was born at his grandfather's house in Heworth. The gates of Newcastle had been closed in face of the advancing Bonny Prince Charlie and it is said that his mother was lowered from the town walls into a boat. Scott eventually became a lecturer at Oxford, and Edward Gibbon singles him out as a shining example among the general incompetence of university teachers of the time.
Scott's great friendship with Doctor Johnson began at Oxford. He accompanied Johnson on his journey from Newcastle to Edinburgh in 1773 and was elected a member of The Club in 1778. Boswell records a long conversation at a dinner in Scott's rooms in the Middle Temple on 10 April 1778. When Scott's father died, he left him the family house in Love Lane, an estate near Usworth, and an enormous sum of money. Scott kept up the shipping business in Newcastle for some time, gaining practical experience which was invaluable for his later career. He was called to the bar in 1780, but was so unready a speaker that he had to write out his arguments and read them to the court. His abilities, however, began to make their mark in the special courts where he practised. He was knighted in 1788 and appointed judge in the high court of admiralty in 1798.
Scott entered parliament in 1790 but in six years spoke only once. Like his brother, he had little taste for reform. His title of Lord Stowell comes from his estate in Gloucestershire. Stowell Street in Newcastle is named after him. He was a careful man with money, a family trait, and there are many stories told of his stinginess. He ate and drank heavily, being a 'two bottle man', yet hearteningly lived to be 90. A wit and scholar, he was welcome in the best society of his time. As a judge, Lord Stowell is of the first rank alongside Hale and Mansfield, and his services to maritime and international law are unsurpassed. The Napoleonic Wars brought many and varied maritime cases into his court and for a generation he was rather a lawgiver than a judge. On many points his judgments are still the only law.