Alfred Wills

Sir Alfred Wills PC (December 11, 1828 - August 9, 1912) was also an English High Court judge and a well-known mountaineer. He was the third President of the Alpine Club from 1863-1865.

Early life

Wills was the second son of William Wills, JP, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, and of his wife Sarah Wills, a daughter of Jeremiah Ridout. He was educated at a school in Edgbaston and at University College London, where he held exhibitions and scholarships in Mathematics, Classics and Law, graduating BA in 1849 and LLB in 1851.

Legal career

Wills was called to the bar as a barrister from the Middle Temple in 1851 and took silk as a Queen's Counsel in 1872. He was first Recorder of Sheffield, 1881-84; a Judge of the Queen's and King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, 1884-1905, President of the Railway and Canal Commission, 1888-1893, and Treasurer of the Middle Temple, 1892-1893.

During his career as a judge, Alfred Wills notably presided over the trial in which Oscar Wilde was convicted for "committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons".

With his father William Wills, he co-authored "An essay on the principles of circumstantial evidence : illustrated by numerous cases" (1905), still a standard text often cited.


Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854, which he mistakenly believed was the first, marked the beginning of the so-called golden age of alpinism. From that time on, climbing as sport became fashionable.

He was the third President of the Alpine Club from 1863-1865.

A mountain refuge in Chamonix still bears his name.


*"Wanderings among the High Alps"
*"The Eagle's Nest"
*"Wills on Circumstantial Evidence" (ed.)
*"Rendu's Théorie des Glaciers de la Savioe" (translation)


*Knighted, 1884
*Privy Councillor, 1905


Wills married firstly, in 1854, Lucy, daughter of George Martineau. She died in 1860, and in 1861 he married secondly Bertha, daughter of Thomas Lombe Taylor, of Starston, Norfolk. His second wife died in 1906. He had three sons and two daughters.


* [ WILLS, Rt Hon. Sir Alfred] at Who Was Who 1897-2006 online at Credo Reference (accessed 6 January 2008)

External links

* [ A good explanation of "An essay on the principles of circumstantial evidence" and its importance]
* [ Refuge Alfred Wills]

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