Frederick Leigh, born in 1819, was a Winchester solicitor who moved to Southampton in 1845 at the behest of Richard Andrews to strengthen the Liberal Party in the town. His first chambers were at 11 Portland Terrace, but he moved in early 1850 to 3 Portland Street.

He practised in Southampton for over 40 years and built up an extensive clientele. He became one of the foremost advocates in the local courts, his forensic talent for advocacy finding its political outlet in the municipal and parliamentary revision courts, annual battles to maximize party strength in the voting registers.

He boasted that he never advised a client to enter into litigation when there was no chance of gaining a success. To the obituarist of the Winchester Observer, he was “in the strictest sense of the term a poor man's lawyer, never having been known, it is said, to refuse a case because of the financial means of his would-be client”. For Alderman Tucker, “there was not a more conscientious lawyer in the town, nor one who thirsted less after fees than Mr. Leigh”. A solicitor for 25 years to the Southampton Board of Guardians, he represented the Board in court in cases concerning non-payment of poor rates and the settlement of paupers.

He was a town councillor, representing his home ward of All Saints between 1851 and 1863, but appeared to have no loftier political ambitions. He enrolled as a private in the 2nd Hampshire Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1861, shortly after its formation in Southampton. Promoted lieutenant in November 1866, he served until forced to resign his commission in December 1879, aged 61.

Frederick Leigh fared well in Southampton. In January 1862 he had taken the oath to qualify as one of the Pier and Harbour Commissioners. He owned the leasehold of professional chambers in the heart of Southampton. He purchased a sizeable property in Shirley Warren in c.1850, which became the family home for almost 35 years. Its original name - Winchester Villa - commemorates his native city. The house was renamed The Chestnuts in the mid-1870s. The link with the Andrews family was strengthened by the purchase by Arthur Andrews, soon after his father's death in 1859, of the property immediately to the south (Brook Villa). At the time of his death in 1886, Frederick was owner of the 76-acre Upper Lee Farm at Shalfleet, near Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight.

He married Sarah Bearham in 1845 and had twelve children. Both he and Sarah, who died in 1889, are buried in the family vault in St James's churchyard, Shirley.

The family name is perpetuated in his granddaughter, the crime novelist Dorothy L [Leigh] Sayers.

Further reading:

Frederick Leigh: a Winchester solicitor in Southampton, 1845-86, by Richard Preston. (Southampton Occasional Papers no. 6)


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