05th September 2019

Dr Stephen Cretney, former Fellow in Law, dies aged 83


It is with regret that we announce the death of Stephen Cretney, Fellow and Tutor in Law at Exeter from 1969 to 1978. He died on 30 August at the age of 83.

Stephen Cretney came to Oxford after National Service, graduating from Magdalen College in 1959. He practised law as a solicitor in the City of London for six years before launching his career as an academic lawyer. Appointments at the Kenya School of Law in Nairobi and at Southampton University were followed by his time at Exeter. He was then a Law Commissioner between 1978 and 1983. From 1984 he spent nine years as Professor of Law at Bristol University, where he was Dean of the Law Faculty between 1984 and 1988. He was elected a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College in 1993, retiring as an Emeritus Fellow in 2001.

Stephen Cretney was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1985, the same year that he was awarded an Oxford DCL. He chaired and served on many advisory committees and tribunals. He was made an Honorary QC in 1992 and an Honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple in 2006.

Stephen Cretney was a key authority in family law – still an area of great strength at Exeter through the work of Professor Jonathan Herring and Professor Rachel Taylor – and had well-developed research interests also in the legal system and in modern legal history. His many important publications included: Same Sex Relationships: from ‘Odious Crime’ to ‘Gay Marriage’ (2006), Family Law in the Twentieth Century: A History  (2005), (jointly authored) Principles of Family Law  (7th edition, 2002), and Law, Law Reform and the Family (1998).

He is survived by his wife, the Reverend Antonia Cretney, who once worked at Exeter College as College Secretary, and by their sons Matthew and Edward. The funeral will be held on Monday 23 September at 2 pm in Wantage Parish Church.

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