GWYNNE, Edward Castres (1811-1888)

GWYNNE, Edward Castres (1811-1888)
son of the Rev. William Gwynne, was born at Lewes, Sussex, England, in February 1811. He was educated at St Anne's Grammar School and under the Rev. George Evans at Sheffield. He studied law, was articled, and then practised as an attorney until 1837. At the end of that year he left for South Australia, and arrived at Adelaide on 15 April 1838 with letters of introduction to judge Jeffcott. He immediately applied for admission to the bar and practised as a barrister. In 1840 he entered into partnership with William Bartley, and later was joined by Charles Mann. He established a reputation as a lawyer, especially for his knowledge of equity law and the law of property. In 1851 he was nominated to the legislative council, and soon afterwards brought in a bill to establish state aid to religion, which was defeated. In 1853, during the discussion of the proposed new constitution, he spoke in favour of a nominee upper house, but it was eventually decided that the house should be an elected one with a property qualification for voters. Gwynne was defeated at the election for the council in 1854, but was elected unopposed to the new legislative council in 1857. He opposed the Torrens (q.v.) real property bill, being afraid that it would have dangerous consequences. Though his opposition was not successful his criticisms had the effect of improving the bill. He was attorney-general in the Baker ministry which lasted for only 10 days in August 1857, and in 1859 was appointed third judge of the supreme court. In 1867 he became second judge and primary judge in equity. From December 1872 to June 1873 he was acting chief-justice, and in February 1877 received extended leave of absence to visit England. He retired on a pension on 28 February 1881. Before becoming a judge he had owned some good racehorses and was himself a good horseman all his life. In retirement he grew oranges on a comparatively large scale, and also gave some attention to viticulture. He died on 10 June 1888. He married a daughter of R. E. Borrow who survived him with four sons and four daughters.
A man of imposing appearance and fine character, Gwynne was an important figure during his comparatively short career in parliament. As a lawyer he was a good pleader, and as a judge he was distinguished for his clearness of apprehension, breadth of view, strict impartiality, and excellent knowledge of the law. Sir John Downer (q.v.), who had appeared before him as a young advocate, spoke of him many years later as "a very great judge".
The South Australian Register, 11 June 1888 and 3 August 1915; The South Australian Advertiser, 11 June 1888; J. Blacket, The Early History of South Australia.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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