Chancellor of the High Court

The Chancellor of the High Court is the head of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales. This judge and the other two heads of divisions (Family and Queens Bench) sit by virtue of their offices often, as and when their expertise is deemed relevant, in panel in the Court of Appeal. As such this judge ranks equally to the President of the Family Division and the President of the Queen's Bench Division.

From 1813 to 1841, the solitary and from 1841 to 1875, the three ordinary judges of the Court of Chancery — rarely a court of first instance until 1855 – were called vice-chancellors. The more senior judges of the same court were the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls (who were moved fully to the Court of Appeal above in 1881). Each would occasionally hear cases alone or make declarations on paper applications alone. Partly due to the old system of many pre-pleadings, pleadings and hearings before most cases would reach Chancery the expense and duration of proceedings was pilloried in art and literature before the reforms of the late 19th century. Charles Dickens set Bleak House around raised hopes in (Jarndyce and Jarndyce) a near-incomprehensible, decades-long case in Chancery, involving a decision on an increasingly old will which was rendered useless as all of the deceased's wealth was – unknowingly to the prospective beneficiaries – absorbed in legal costs. Reform swiftly followed.

Certain 1870s to 1899 Acts (the Judicature Acts) merged the courts of law and those of equity and enacted a halt to the position of vice-chancellor – which lasted from 1875 until 1971.

From 1971 until October 2005,[1] the revived high judicial office was called the Vice-Chancellorship (and the judge bore the title Vice-Chancellor). The holder nominally acted as the Lord Chancellor's deputy in the English legal system and as head of the Chancery Division. The key duties of this judge have not changed in substance since 1971.