HOBS: The Lord Chancellors and their place within or over the bankruptcy jurisdiction

Historically the office of the Lord Chancellor has played an important part in the administration of the bankruptcy jurisdiction. As keeper of the Monarch's conscience, custodian of the Great Seal and head of the Court of Chancery until the Supreme Court of Judicature Acts of the late nineteenth century, the Lord Chancellor was, inter alia, ultimately responsible for the appointment of Bankruptcy Commissioners and more importantly hearing disputes relating to insolvent estates and bankruptcy matters in the Court of Chancery. The Lord Birkenhead once quipped that he had enough problems looking after his own conscience, let alone the Monarch's (according to his successor the Lord Elwyn-Jones). 

The delays in that "most pestilent of hoary sinners" as Dickens evocatively described the Court of Chancery in Bleak House, are legendary. This reputation is perhaps unjust. As a court reporter Dickens would have encountered the supposed reputation for delay that has haunted the memory of the Lord Eldon (pictured), Lord Chancellor between 1801 and 1806 and again between 1807 and 1827. Whilst it can be accepted that the Lord Eldon did take time to draft and deliver his judgments, it could be argued that this was not because of any inefficient delay. It was because he was the sole judge in his court for much of his tenure and perhaps more importantly because he was a perfectionist who wanted to get his judgments right before handing them down. His reputation has been maligned by the picture Dickens has painted of the Court of Chancery. For further discussion of this period see here (one, two and three). One of the most interesting holders of this ancient office has to Sir Francis Bacon (Lord Verulam, Viscount St' Albans) who spent some time in a Sponging house as a debtor! See here for more on this polymath and his insolvency judgments whilst presiding over the equitable jurisidiction.

The role of Lord Chancellor is, as one previous incumbent has opined, "Older than Magna Carta." We are told that, "the name 'chancellor' derives from the cancelli or lattice screens of a Roman court. The cancellarius was the court official, the usher, who sat at the screen." The recent changes to this ancient office are to some extent to be lamented in my view. Here is a list of Lord Chancellors throughout 1,000 years of history courtesy of the DCA

Office Holder
1078Maurice, archdeacon of Le Mans
1085-86Gerard, precentor of Rouen
1092Robert Bloet
1094William Giffard, bishop of Wincester
1101Roger, bishop of Salisbury
1123Geoffrey Rufus
1133Robert de Sigillo, keeper of the seal
1135Roger le Poer
1139Philip de Harcourt, dean of Lincoln
1140Robert of Ghent, dean of York
1141William Fitz Gilbert
1142William de Vere
1150Richard de Bohun, dean of Bayeux
1155Thomas Becket, archdeacon of Canterbury
1162Geoffrey Ridel, archdeacon of Canterbury
1173Ralph de Warneville, treasurer of York
1181Geoffrey Plantagenet,
1189William Longchamp, bishop of Ely
1197Eustace, vice-chancellor 1194-97, dean of Salisbury, keeper of the seal, 1198 chancellor
1199Hubert Walter, archbishop of Canterbury
1205Walter de Gray
1214-1216Richard Marsh, archdeacon of Northumberland, remained chancellor
1226Ralph Neville
1240Richard de Gras, abbot of Evesham, keeper of the seal
1244Silvester de Everdon (keeper of the seal in England 1242-43) archdeacon of Chester
1246John Mansel, chancellor of St Paul's
1247John Lexington
1248John Mansel
1249John Lexington
1250William of Kilkenny, archdeacon of Coventry
1255Henry Wingham, dean of St Martin's-le-Grand, bishop of London 1259-62.
1260Nicholas of Ely, archdeacon of Ely
1261Walter de Merton (temporary keep of the seal 1259-60), archdeacon of Bath
1263 19 JulyNicholas of Ely
1263 NovJohn Chishull, archdeacon of London
1264Thomas Cantilupe, archdeacon of Stafford
1265Ralph of Sandwich, temporary keeper of the seal
1265Walter Gifford
1266Godfrey Gifford,archdeacon of Wells and York
1268John Chishull
1269Richard Middleton, archdeacon of Northumberland
1272Walter Merton
1274Robert Burnell, archdeacon of York
1292John Langton, canon of Lincoln
1302William Greenfield, dean of Chichester
1305William of Hamilton, dean of York
1307Ralph Baldock, bishop of London
1307John Langton,
1310Walter Reynolds, bishop of Worcester From early in 1312 usually called keeper of the great seal
1314John Sandall, bishop of Winchester
1318John Hotham, bishop of Ely
1320John Salmon, bishop of Norwich
1323Robert Baldock
1326William Airmyn, bishop of Norwich, acting keeper of the seal, jointly with Henry Cliff
1327John Hotham
1328Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln
1330John Stratford, bishop of Winchester, archbishop of Canterbury
1334Richard Bury, bishop of Durham
1335John Stratford
1337Robert Stratford, bishop of Chichester
1338Richard Bintworth, bishop of London
1340John Stratford
1340Robert Stratford
1340Robert Bourchier,
1341Robert Parving,
1343Robert Sadington,
1345John Offord, dean of Lincoln
1349John Thoresby, bishop of St David's
1356William Edington, bishop of Winchester
1363Simon Langham, bishop of Ely
1367William Wykeham, bishop of Winchester
1371Robert Thorpe
1372John Knyvet
1377Adam Houghton, bishop of St David's
1378Richard Scrope, lord Scrope of Bolton
1380Simon Sudbury, bishop of London, archbishop of Canterbury
1381Hugh Segrave temporary keeper
1381William Courtenay bishop of London
1381Richard Scrope
1382Robert Braybrooke, bishop of London
1383Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk 1385
1386Thomas Arundel [or Fitzalan], bishop of Ely
1389William Wykeham
1391Thomas Arundel
1396Edmund Stafford, bishop of Exeter
1399Thomas Arundel
1399John Scarle, archdeacon of Lincoln
1401Edmund Stafford
1403Henry Beaufort, bishop of Lincoln
1405Thomas Langley, dean of York
1407Thomas Arundel
1410Thomas Beaufort, Earl of Dorset
1412Thomas Arundel
1413Henry Beaufort
1417Thomas Langley
1424Henry Beaufort
1426John Kemp, archbishop of York
1432John Stafford, bishop of Bath and Wells
1450John Kemp,
1454Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury
1455Thomas Bourchier, archbishop of Canterbury
1456William Waynflete, bishop of Winchester
1460George Neville, bishop of Exeter
1467Robert Stillington, bishop of Bath and Wells
1470George Neville
1473Laurence Booth, bishop of Durham
1474Thomas Rotherham, bishop of Rochester
1475John Alcock, bishop of Rochester
1475Thomas Rotherham
1483John Russell, bishop of Lincoln
1485Thomas Rotherham
1485John Alcock
1487John Morton, archbishop of Canterbury
1504William Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, keeper of the seal
1515Thomas Wolsey, archbishop of York
1529Sir Thomas More
1533Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Audley, keeper of the seal 1538
1544Thomas Wriothesley, Lord Wriothesley 1544, keeper of the seal
1547William Paulet, Lord of St John, keeper of the seal
1547Richard Rich, Lord Rich
1551Thomas Goodrich (Goodrick), bishop of Ely keeper of the seal from 1551
1553Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester
1555The seal in commission
1556Nicholas Heath, archbishop of York
1558Nicholas Bacon, lord keeper
1579Sir Thomas Bromley
1587Sir Christopher Hatton
1591The seal in commission
1592Sir John Puckering, lord keeper
1596Sir Thomas Egerton, lord keeper, created Lord Ellesmere lord chancellor 1603
1617Sir Francis Bacon, lord keeper, Lord Verulam, created lord chancellor 1618
1621John Williams, lord keeper, bishop of Lincoln
1625Sir Thomas Coventry, lord keeper, Lord Coventry 1628
1640Sir John Finch, lord keeper, Lord Finch 1640
1641Sir Edward Littleton, Lord Lyttleton of Mounslow 1641
1642-60The parliamentary and protectorate great seal was in the hands of various commissioners who were neither chancellors nor keepers
1645Sir Richard Lane, lord keeper
1653Sir Edward Herbert
1658Sir Edward Hyde, Lord Hyde 1660
1660Lord Hyde, Earl of Clarendon 1661
1667Sir Orlando Bridgeman, lord keeper
1672Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury 1672
1673Sir Heneage Finch, lord keeper, created chancellor, 1675 Lord Finch 1674
1682Sir Francis North, lord keeper, Lord Guildford 1683
1685George Jeffreys, Lord Jeffreys 1685
1689-93The seal in commission
1693Sir John Somers, lord keeper, created chancellor 1697, Lord Somers 1697
1700Sir Nathan Wright, lord keeper
1705William Cowper, lord keeper, created chancellor1707, (1st lord chancellor of Great Britain, the Act of Union), Lord Cowper 1706
1708The seal in commission
1710Sir Simon Harcourt, lord keeper, created chancellor 1713, Lord Harcourt, 1711
1714Lord Cowper
1718Thomas Parker, Earl of Macclesfield 1721
1725The seal in commission
1725Peter King, Lord King 1725
1733Charles Talbot, Lord Talbot of Hensol
1737Philip Yorke, Lord Hardwicke
1756The seal in commission
1757Sir Robert Henley, lord keeper, Lord Henley 1760, created chancellor 1761
1766Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden 1786
1770Charles Yorke
1770The seal in commission
1771Henry Bathurst, Lord Apsley
1778Edward Thurlow, Lord Thurlow
1783The seal in commission
1783Lord Thurlow
1792The seal in commission
1793Alexander Wedderburn, Lord Loughborough
1801John Scott, Lord Eldon
1806Thomas Erskine, Lord Erskine
1807Lord Eldon
1827John Singleton Copley, Lord Lyndhurst
1830Henry Brougham, Lord Brougham and Vaux
1834Lord Lyndhurst
1835The seal in commission
1836Sir Charles Pepys, Lord Cottenham
1841Lord Lyndhurst
1846Lord Cottenham
1850Sir Thomas Wilde, Lord Truro
1852Sir Edward Burtenshaw Sugden, Lord St Leonards
1852Robert Rolfe, Lord Cranworth
1858Sir Frederic Thesiger, Lord Chelmsford
1859John Campbell, Lord Campbell
1861Sir Richard Bethell, Lord Westbury
1865Lord Cranworth
1866Lord Chelmsford
1868Hugh Cairns, Lord Cairns
1868Sir William Page Wood, Lord Hatherley
1872Roundell Palmer, Lord Selborne
1874Lord Cairns
1880Lord Selbourne
1885Sir Hardinge Giffard, Lord Halsbury
1886Sir Farrer Herschell, Lord Herschell
1886Lord Halsbury
1892Lord Herschell
1895Lord Halsbury
1905Sir Robert Reid, Lord of Loreburn
1912Richard Haldane, Viscount Haldane
1915Sir Stanley Buckmaster, Lord Buckmaster
1916Sir Robert Finlay, Lord Finlay,
1919Sir Frederick Smith, (FE Smith), Lord Birkenhead
1922George Cave, Viscount Cave
1924Viscount Haldane
1924Viscount Cave
1928Sir Douglas Hogg, Lord Hailsham (later Viscount Hailsham)
1929Sir John Sankey, Lord Sankey (later Viscount Sankey)
1935Viscount Hailsham
1938Frederick Maugham, Lord Maugham (later Viscount Maugham)
1939Thomas Inskip, Viscount Caldecote
1940John Simon, Viscount Simon
1945William Jowitt, Lord Jowitt (later Viscount Jowitt)
1951Gavin Simonds, Lord Simonds 1952 (later Viscount Simonds)
1954David Fyfe, Viscount Kilmuir
1962Reginald Manningham-Buller, Lord Dilhorne (later Viscount Dilhorne)
1964Gerald Gardiner, Lord Gardiner
1970Quintin Hogg, Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone
1974Frederick Elwyn-Jones, Lord Elwyn-Jones
1979Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone
1987Sir Michael Havers, Lord Havers
1987James Mackay, Lord Mackay of Clashfern
1997Derry Irvine, Lord Irvine of Lairg
2003 - 2007Charles Falconer, Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The current Lord Chancellor is Mr Jack Straw MP who was appointed in 2007. He is not a peer as so many of his predecessors have been. He was a barrister for two years (1972-1974) before entering politics as an advisor to Barbara Castle.  

Picture Credit: http://blue.plaquemap.com/blueplaqueblog/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/john_scott_earl_of_eldon.jpg