Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Hopkinson, Sir Alfredlocked

  • Alfred T. Davies
  • , revised by Catherine Pease-Watkin

Hopkinson, Sir Alfred (1851–1939), lawyer, was born at Manchester on 28 June 1851, the second son of John Hopkinson, mechanical engineer and sometime mayor of Manchester, and his wife, Alice, daughter of John Dewhurst, of Skipton, Yorkshire. His elder brother was John Hopkinson (1849–1898), electrical engineer.

Hopkinson was educated at a private school in Manchester before going on in 1866 to the Owens College. In 1869 he went from there with a scholarship to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he was placed in the second class in literae humaniores in 1872 and in the first class in the BCL examination in 1874. He was elected to the Stowell fellowship in civil law at University College, Oxford, in 1873, and to the Vinerian scholarship in 1875. In 1873 he married Esther (d. 1931), youngest daughter of Henry Wells of Nottingham; they had four sons and three daughters. Of their sons the second, John Henry, became archdeacon of Westmorland, and the third was MP for Mossley, Lancashire.

Hopkinson was called to the bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1873 and settling in Manchester as a barrister soon acquired a considerable local practice on the northern circuit, mainly in the palatine chancery court. In addition he held a lecturership and (later at the age of twenty-four) the professorship of law at the Owens College. He resigned this chair in 1889.

In 1885 and 1892 Hopkinson stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate in Manchester. After moving to London in 1889 and taking silk in 1892, however, he was elected member for the Cricklade division of Wiltshire in 1895, only to resign the seat in 1898 on his appointment as principal of the Owens College, the first constituent college of the newly formed Victoria University of which he became first vice-chancellor in 1900. In these offices he did his finest work. During the 1890s he also contributed to periodicals such as Cornhill Magazine and Fraser's Magazine.

Retiring from the vice-chancellorship in 1913, Hopkinson devoted himself to public service. His activities included visiting India to report on the University of Bombay, and at a by-election in 1926 he was once more returned to parliament as Unionist member for the Combined English Universities, finally retiring in 1929.

A man of striking physical appearance and great personal charm, Hopkinson was a principled man with a deep-rooted belief that 'the hope of mankind is in the Christian religion'. In Rebuilding Britain: a Survey of Problems of Reconstruction (1918) he expounded his political ideas and views of English affairs, while in Penultima (1930) he gave frank and refreshing expression to the views which had guided him throughout his long life.

Hopkinson was knighted in 1910 and elected an honorary fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1903. He received honorary degrees from several universities and was elected bencher of Lincoln's Inn in 1896 and treasurer in 1921. He died at Long Meadow, Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, on 11 November 1939.


  • The Times (13 Nov 1939)
  • A. Hopkinson, Penultima (1930)
  • A. Hopkinson, ‘In memoriam: Alfred Hopkinson’, Alpine Journal, 52 (1940), 114–15
  • private information (1949)
  • personal knowledge (1949)


  • JRL, letters to Manchester Guardian


  • W. Rothenstein, lithograph, 1899, NPG
  • L. Moholy, photograph, 1937, NPG

Wealth at Death

£42,068 10s. 4d.: probate, 14 Dec 1939, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

W. E. Houghton, ed., , 5 vols. (1966–89); new edn (1999) [CD-ROM]
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]