Alexander Popham (penal reformer)

Alexander Popham (penal reformer)

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Alexander Popham was a British politician and penal reformer. Born to Alexander Popham, a rector, and his wife Mary, Popham matriculated
Matriculation, in the broadest sense, means to be registered or added to a list, from the Latin matricula – little list. In Scottish heraldry, for instance, a matriculation is a registration of armorial bearings...

 at Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College , founded in 1263, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England but founded by a family with strong Scottish connections....

 on 11 November 1746, transferring to All Souls, Oxford, where he was awarded his Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree in 1751 and his Master of Arts degree in 1755. While at All Souls, Popham studied under and became friends with Sir William Blackstone
William Blackstone
Sir William Blackstone KC SL was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke...

; his notes are the only surviving records of Blackstone's first set of law lectures. After being called to the Bar by the Middle Temple
Middle Temple
The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers; the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn...

 in 1755, Popham worked as a barrister before his election as Member of Parliament for Taunton
Taunton (UK Parliament constituency)
Taunton was a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and its predecessors from 1295 to 2010, taking its name from the town of Taunton in Somerset...

 in 1768. As a Chairman of Quarter Sessions
Quarter Sessions
The Courts of Quarter Sessions or Quarter Sessions were local courts traditionally held at four set times each year in the United Kingdom and other countries in the former British Empire...

, Popham saw the disturbing conditions in which prisoners were held, and on 17 February 1774 introduced a bill to provide proper ventilation, bathing, the immediate treatment of the ill and a qualified surgeon or apothecary at each gaol. Losing his seat in the 1774 election, he was returned to Parliament again in March 1775, only to again lose his seat in 1780. Returning in 1784, Popham held the seat until 1796, supporting the Pitt Administration
William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger was a British politician of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He became the youngest Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24 . He left office in 1801, but was Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806...

, and in 1791 introduced a poor law amendment bill that was significantly watered down due to its radical nature. Popham died on 13 October 1810, and was buried in Temple Church
Temple Church
The Temple Church is a late-12th-century church in London located between Fleet Street and the River Thames, built for and by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters. In modern times, two Inns of Court both use the church. It is famous for its effigy tombs and for being a round church...