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Visiting Sir William Blackstone

Sir William BlackstoneAlthough I live fairly near Oxford, and often get the bus over to visit the market and museums, I’d never got round to visiting my 5x great-grandfather until last week. His statue resides in the Codrington Library at All Soul’s college, which is not usually open to the public except on occasional open days.

However even though it was term time, the librarian very kindly agreed to a visit from me and my daughter, as long as the library wasn’t busy, and we were quiet. So we arranged a day and time, and happily there was only one student using the library. We switched our phones to silent, and tiptoed past, along the tiled floor, surrounded by towering book cases, to gaze at our ancestor.

He sits on a white marble chair, in his robes, with a magnificent wig, and an official-looking scroll in his left hand. The pointing index finger on his right hand shows the wear and tear of time, and of Victorian scholars who used to play cricket with William as the stumps.

Following his law degree at Pembroke College, Sir William was called to the bar at Middle Temple, and became a fellow of All Soul’s in 1743, where he became an administrator, organising college finances and becoming Treasurer and Bursar.

His books and lectures made a great impact on the legal system at the time, and his Commentaries on English Law were used to frame many laws in both England and in the United States, where they influenced the Constitution, and are still frequently cited in Supreme Court decisions.

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