John Kember Wood (“Woodie”, as he was known affectionately in Chambers) died peacefully at his home in Holland Park on 27th January 2017 at the age of 94.
Born in Hong Kong, John was one of the last of the second world war Chambers’ intake. Having served in the Rifle Brigade and been awarded the MC for “conspicuous gallantry”, and following post war graduation at Magdalene College, Cambridge, he was invited to join Chambers, then in post war accommodation at 3 Temple Gardens.
John was a much loved, wise and jovial colleague, and in due course Head, of Chambers. He had an unbounded belief that One Crown Office Row was the best set of Chambers in the world – and was sometimes given to rather extravagant claims and plans for us (including at one time thoughts of a 1COR extension to Hong Kong). But that was Woodie!
John Wood was a hugely successful barrister. Like most barristers of his time, he undertook a wide variety of work from crime to town and country planning. Much of which was on the old Oxford Circuit.
After taking silk in 1969, he made his particular mark in leading cases in negligence and damages as well as family law. He was appointed to the Family Division of the High Court in 1977, and was later appointed President of the Employment Tribunal, where he attracted widespread acclaim for publicly rebuking the Lord Chancellor for writing to him “to consider his position” after one of his decisions that the Lord Chancellor didn’t like. He was an astute and very good judge.
John is survived by his devoted wife Ann, and children and grandchildren.