On a house in Old Steine there is a plaque commemorating Sir Edward Marshall Hall who was born there in 1858.

Few people passing by notice the plaque which is hard to read and many of those that do have no idea of who he was.

But Marshall Hall was one of the most celebrated men in England during the Edwardian era. He saved more people from the hangman’s noose than any other advocate,

More famous than any film star, he could move juries and even judges to tears.

Thousands of people gathered outside courts where he was defending people charged with murder. The curtains were brought down early in some West End theatres so that the results could be announced.

He defended alleged killers in many of the most notorious trials of the time including the Brides in the Bath and the Green Bicycle murder.

Marshall Hall was at all man for the time – six feet three inches high. He was unusually handsome and he had a marvellous voice.

He knew far less law that many other barristers and relied on his unique understanding of human nature to get results.

Yet life was not always easy for him. His wife died young and his love life was never entirely satisfactory.He was not victorious in every case.

He was a failure when he became a Conservative MP because he could not treat the House ofCommons in the same way as a jury.

Marshall Hall was active during a period of great changes. People accused of murder were at last able to give their story to the court. Money was made available to help pay for their defence,

Scientific advances meant that more attention could be paid to bloodstains and causes of death than before.

Born into a prosperous family, Marshall Hall always told tales about the town and regarded it with great affection.

It was there that he got his first taste of a trial when his father took him to the committal proceedings in the town hall against a woman accused of putting poison in chocolates with sometimes fatal results.

Sally Smith, who has written a new biography of Marshall Hall, says he was entranced by the case and it gave him a lasting love of the law.

He married his wifeEthel at St Andrew’s Church in Hove on a sunny summer’s day and for a while was happier than almost any man could imagine. But she never consummated the marriage and her scandalous way of living reflected badly on him.

Marshall Hall often defended women and on many occasions waived his fee so that he could represent poor people. He was regarded with enormous affection by the public.

There is no barrister today with anything like his fame, his charisma or his reputation. No wonder he was always known as The Great Defender.

Marshall Hall – A LawUnto Himself by Sally Smith (Wildy, Simmonds and Hill Publishing £25).