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Charles Edward Chubb (1845–1930)

by J. A. Douglas

This article was published:

Charles Edward Chubb (1845-1930), judge, was born on 17 May 1845 in London, eldest of the four children of Charles Frederick Chubb, solicitor, of Malmesbury and London, and his wife Sarah, née Bennett. His father later successfully practised at Ipswich, Queensland, and also earned a reputation as a poet and literary figure of some eminence. Chubb's early education was at the Calne Grammar School, Wiltshire, and the City of London School. At 16 he joined his parents, who had already emigrated, at Ipswich and completed his education at the Collegiate School there. He then entered into articles of clerkship with his father and was admitted as a solicitor on 6 September 1867. He practised at Dalby until 21 May 1878 when he was admitted as a barrister: he quickly built a busy practice in the courts. He became a Q.C. on 15 March 1883 soon after his appointment as attorney-general in the McIlwraith government. Whilst at the Bar he acted at various times as crown prosecutor, and judge in the District and Supreme Courts.

McIlwraith had him brought into parliament for the specific purpose of making him attorney-general. He represented Bowen in the Legislative Assembly in 1883-88. Bowen was said to belong literally to McIlwraith who, when he wanted an attorney-general, chose his lawyer from some Queen Street chambers and sent him to Bowen with instructions to the voters to elect him to parliament. This happened in succession to (Sir) Pope Cooper (later chief justice), Chubb and Henry Beor. Despite his southern associations Chubb was a loyal servant of his electorate, and delivered a very strong speech in support of John Macrossan who in 1886 introduced into the Legislative Assembly a motion asking both Houses to petition the Queen 'to cause the Northern portion of the Colony to be erected into a separate and independent Colony with representative institutions'. Chubb was attorney-general from January to November 1883, and thereafter sat with the Opposition. During a time of somewhat bitter conflict he enjoyed the trust of both sides of the House. He was noted as an orator and for the depth and lucidity of his arguments. When the headquarters of the northern district of the Supreme Court of Queensland were moved from Bowen to Townsville he was made a judge of the court on 2 December 1889 and was stationed at Townsville with Judge Cooper, so that a Court of Appeal could be established in the northern district. Chubb was transferred to Brisbane in 1908.

Chubb had a weakness for Latin quotations and greatly appreciated their use by counsel appearing before him. He had an extremely perspicacious and fair mind, was not given to loquacity, and was regarded as being most courteous to all who appeared before him. In his long judicial career he was connected with such well-remembered cases as the sensational murder trial of R. v. Kenniff where he sat in the Court of Criminal Appeal, and The Queensland Investment and Land Mortgage Co. Ltd. v. Grimley where he sat with the Full Court under Sir William Windeyer, who had been brought from New South Wales as president, on an appeal from the judgment of Sir Charles Lilley. The resulting judgment of the court caused so much controversy, particularly between Lilley and McIlwraith, that Lilley handed in his resignation as chief justice. Chubb was also a member of the Full Court which from 1915 handed down a series of constitutional decisions which so incensed the government that it brought in the Judges' Retirement Act of 1921 to which Chubb fell a victim on 31 March 1922.

Chubb was a man of sound literary judgment and artistic taste; for many years he was chairman of trustees of the Townsville Grammar School. As a member of the Church of England he was twice chancellor of the Diocese of North Queensland, and in 1912-22 chancellor of the Brisbane Diocese. As a Freemason he became senior district grand warden (of the English constitution) in Queensland. In his earlier years he had been a major in the Queensland Volunteer Artillery. On 9 June 1870 he married Christian Westgarth, daughter of Patrick Macarthur, then police magistrate at Dalby, and granddaughter of William Westgarth of Melbourne. Of their five children three survived childhood: Montague Charles Lyttelton (1874-1920), barrister-at-law; Geraldine Playne Lyttelton (1872-1944) who married Francis William North; and Elizabeth Clare Lyttelton (1881-1950) who married Carl Langberg of Copenhagen, Denmark. After his retirement Chubb lived at his home, St Malo, Hampstead Road, Highgate Hill, Brisbane, until his death on 27 February 1930.

Select Bibliography

  • R. S. Browne, A Journalist's Memories (Brisb, 1927)
  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty Years (Brisb, 1919)
  • Brisbane Courier, 31 Mar 1922
  • personal records (privately held).

Citation details

J. A. Douglas, 'Chubb, Charles Edward (1845–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 May, 1845
London, Middlesex, England


27 February, 1930 (aged 84)
Highgate Hill, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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