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William Charles Niblett

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William Charles Niblett

Person  Male  Born 26/1/1851  Died 30/4/1920

Categories: Benefactor, Law

Countries: India

Born India. Called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1882. Travelled extensively, settled in Singapore where he made his fortune in property. Returned to England in 1905. In 1915 he gave his Singapore properties to the Inn, funding the construction of Niblett Hall, in return for an annuity.

More interestingly, he was a bigamist. In 1912 he married wife number 1. Their honeymoon took place in Singapore where Niblett resumed relations with a former mistress. His wife left him, returned to England and was later confined in a mental asylum. In 1917 Niblett married wife number 2. His first father-in-law took exception and ensured he was taken to trial, where he received a sentence of just one month, due to ill-health.

He died following an accident where he slipped on the footboard of a bus. Buried Kensal Green cemetery.

Andrew Behan has kindly provided this research: William Charles Niblett was born on 26 January 1851 in Azamgarh, Bengal, India, (now Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India), one of the ten children of Philip Niblett (1818-1892) and Margaret Niblett née McAndrew (1825-1884). He was baptised on 17 March 1851 in Agra, Bengal, India (Agra is now also in Uttar Pradesh, India).

Educated from 1864 at La Martinere College, Lucknow, Bengal, India (now Uttar Pradesh, India), he left for England in 1879. He joined the Inner Temple on 8 April 1879 and as a law student he was initiated as a Freemason in the Urban Lodge No.1196 on 13 December 1881 at Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, Holborn, giving his home address as 1 Upper Bedford Place, London. He was Called to the Bar on 3 May 1882. He did extraordinarily well, travelling a lot in Europe and elsewhere and even did a stint of legal practice in Nigeria for a while. When back in England in the late 1880s an agent for the Sultan of Johore recommended him as a barrister for the Rajah. This brought him to Singapore where he settled down to an excellent law practice. He purchased and leased large amounts of real estate and profited from their development as they became immensely valuable. He now began to forget his family but kept in touch occasionally with his two sisters, Henrietta Niblett (1853-1935), and Ellen Adeline Niblett (1862-1935), neither of whom married and also occasionally sending them large remittances. He returned to England having become a very wealthy man and freemasonry records from 1887 show his home address as 42 Upper Bedford Place, London. He resigned from the Urban Lodge No.1196 in March 1892.

In 1912, William, at age 61yrs, married Jessie Winifred Tacon (1873-1960) at St Augustine's Church, Honor Oak Park, Lewisham and took her on a honeymoon trip around the world, including two months in Singapore. Here he resumed relations with a former mistress. His wife left him and immediately returned to England where she was confined to a mental asylum. William also returned to England where his health deteriorated considerably, and he looked around to see how he could spend his wealth. William's nephew, Lance, used to relate a story that in 1915 he (William) planned to return to India to decide on how to share his wealth with the family, but his boat was torpedoed in the Mediterranean and after his rescue, he returned to England and abandoned the idea. In December 1915, he conveyed all his property by deed to the Treasurer and Masters of the Inner Temple in return for an annuity plus income tax. He also made large donations to The Charing Cross and London hospitals.

In 1917 William met and married Alice Susanne Deveson (1855-1935), a widow aged 59 years, a 'lady of superior position, kindness and consideration' in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. Apparently, he hoped that, with his lawful wife being in an asylum, no one would bring his bigamy to notice but Jessie’s father had been keeping an eye on him and notified the Master-in-Lunacy who brought charges of bigamy against William. Eventually, because of his aged condition, poor health, and his wife’s mental condition, he was sentenced to prison for only a month. Divorce proceedings were commenced and a decree nisi followed, but on 30 April 1920, he died at home, aged 69 years, at 61a Randolph Crescent, Maida Vale, from the effects of an accident resulting from slipping on the footboard of a bus and he was buried in Kensal Green cemetery in London. Probate was granted on 7 June 1920 to Water George Wrangham, a barrister, and his effects totalled £1,193-1s-9d.

William Charles Niblett acquired great wealth but his end was lonely and tragic. He had given away most of his wealth, but what remained passed on as donations to various claimants and to his sisters, Henrietta and Ellen. The Inner Temple built two modern lecture halls in 1932 (the Niblett Lecture Halls) on the proceeds from his estate. They escaped the German Blitz in Word War 11 but later, destroyed by fire, were finally demolished in 1992 to make way for the new Littleton Building. The wall of the Littleton building now contains a relief of Pegasus from the original Niblett Hall. Scholarships were also created for some relatives.

We have not found an image of this interesting man and so instead we are showng a photo of the Pegasus relief as it was displayed on the original building.

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William Charles Niblett

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William Charles Niblett

The date of birth given on the plaque, 1856, is wrong. Niblett was born in 1851.

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