Born into a family that had for several generations run a shipping line between the United Kingdom and the West Indies, Sir Thomas Edward Scrutton (1856-1934) studied at University College, London and Trinity College, Cambridge, before being called to the bar by the Middle Temple in 1882. He became a KC in 1901, and a bencher of his inn in 1908. He had his own practice, first in Essex Court and then at 3 Temple Gardens, whilst also developing a reputation as an author of law textbooks. In 1909 he was sent as special commissioner on the north-eastern circuit and in April 1910 was appointed a judge of the King’s Bench Division, and in the same year was knighted.
Following his appearance in Vanity Fair, in October 1916, he was promoted to the Court of Appeal and became a member of the privy council.
"Alert, incisive, the very, personification of dignified solidity, the Hon. Sir T. Edward Scrutton - apart from his exalted position as one of the judges of his Majesty's King's Bench Division - is, in many ways, a remarkable personage.
He is almost appallingly learned in the law and in the tortuosities of its application to commercial life. What he does not know about copyright is not worth knowing, and
as to shipping law he is a walking encyclopaedia.
His scholastic career was a record of continuous successes, exemplifying to the full the value of persistency in intelligent painstaking.
The son of Mr. Thomas Scrutton, shipowner, of Buckhurst Hill, Essex, Mr. Justice Scrutton was born on August 28th, 1856, and first went to Mill Hill School. Thence he proceeded to University College, London (of which he eventually became a Fellow), and completed his academic course at Cambridge University.
At Trinity College, Cambridge, he was a Foundation Scholar. He captured the coveted Senior Whewell Scholarship at the University. His educational achievements make a lengthy list. First Class Moral Science Tripos, 1879, and Senior Law Tripos, 1880, are prominent amongst them. Four times he carried off the Yorke Prize. The University of London gave him his M.A. degree and in the competition for this he obtained marks qualifying for the medal. In gaining his B.A. he took First Class Honours in English, and Honours in Classics and Moral Science; and he got the LL.B. with First Class Honours in Roman Law and Jurisprudence.
Devoting himself thenceforth to the law, he went to the Inns of Court as Barstow Scholar in 1882, and he was a scholar of the Middle Temple. Thence he received his call to the Bar, and ultimately he was elected a Bencher of his Inn.
As a barrister he acquired a large practice in commercial cases, and engaged assiduously at the same time in literary labours in connection with the legal subjects to which he was devoting particular attention. His ‘Treatise on the Law of Copyright’ is as authoritative as it is monumental, and so much in request was it that it quickly passed through four editions. This was given first to the world in 1883; and three years thereafter he published his ‘Law of Charter Parties and Bills of Lading,’ now in its sixth edition. In 1894 this was followed by another erudite work on the Merchant Shipping Act, also in great demand in legal and commercial circles.
Mr. Scrutton was made a K.C. in 1901, and preferred to a judgeship of the King's Bench Division of the High Court in 1910. Meantime he had acted as counsel to important newspapers, and acquired a position almost unique in matters of copyright, reference, and the like.
Married in 1884 to Mary, daughter of Mr. S. C. Burton, J.P., of Great Yarmouth, he resides at Westcombe Park, and there, in the intervals of his strenuous professional life, has entertained lavishly for his circle of friends is large. In 1886 he contested the Limehouse Division of the Tower Hamlets in the Liberal interest, but was not successful in this his one attempt to enter the House of Commons. He belongs still to the Reform Club, and is a familiar figure at the Atheneum.
His amazing profundity is no bar to the perennial flow of good humour which characterises him as a man."