Joseph Jekyll

Joseph Jekyll
Chief Justice of Cheshire
In office
Preceded by John Coombe
Succeeded by Spencer Cowper
Master of the Rolls
In office
13 July 1717  19 August 1738
Preceded by Sir John Trevor
Succeeded by Sir John Verney
Personal details
Born 1663
Died 19 August 1738
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Relations Thomas Jekyll, John Jekyll
Profession Barrister, judge, politician

Sir Joseph Jekyll KS (1663  19 August 1738) was a British barrister, politician and judge. Born to John Jekyll, he initially attended a seminary before joining the Middle Temple in 1680. Thanks to his association with Lord Somers Jekyll advanced rapidly, becoming Chief Justice of Chester in 1697 and a King's Serjeant in 1702. He was returned as a Whig Member of Parliament for Eye in 1697, and was considered an excellent speaker in the House of Commons and one of the Whig Junto.

As a member of parliament Jekyll helped draft many bills, and was key in convincing the government to investigate the collapse of the South Sea Company in 1720. On 13 July 1717 he was made Master of the Rolls, and fulfilled his duties with "legal ability, integrity and despatch" until his death on 19 August 1738 of "a mortification in the bowels".[1]

Early life and career as a barrister

Jekyll was born in 1663 to John Jekyll and his second wife Tryphena, and was the half-brother of Thomas Jekyll. He attended a seminary in Islington before joining the Middle Temple in 1680 and was called to the Bar in 1687.[2] Thanks to his connections with Middle Temple he became an associate of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Somers, and later married Somers' sister, Elizabeth. With Somers' support he became Chief Justice of Cheshire in June 1697, succeeding John Coombe, and was knighted on 12 December of that year. In 1699 he became a Reader of Middle Temple.[3] In 1700 he became a Serjeant-at-Law, in 1702 a King's Serjeant and finally Prime Serjeant in 1714. Jekyll was very active in bringing cases before the House of Lords, acting in 14 cases in 1706 alone.[2]


In 1697 he was returned as a Whig Member of Parliament for Eye, and sat until 1713 when he was re-elected for Lymington. In 1722 he was re-elected for Reigate, and sat in Parliament until his death.[2]

Jekyll was extremely active in parliament – records show he regularly attended Parliament and committee meetings, and that he played a role in drafting various bills and acts. He was seen as part of the Whig Junto and an excellent speaker and supporter of the Whigs – despite this he regularly voted against the party in some situations, mainly because of his support of greater reform of the electoral system and the removal of bribery and corruption. Under Robert Walpole he remained independent of the government in terms of how he voted, and was described by Alexander Pope as "an odd old Whig, who never change his principles or wig".[3] He was involved in the impeachment of Henry Sacheverell, and was also asked to participate in the secret committee tasked with preparing the impeachment of the Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Ormonde, which he refused to support.[3] He also persuaded the government to open an investigation into the collapse of the South Sea Company in 1720.[2]

Jekyll sponsored the Mortmain Act and the Gin Act 1736, and was noted for his opposition to intoxication, which annoyed the public so much that he was forced to have a guard at his house at all times.[1] Outside of Parliament he provided £600 to fund the colony at Jekyll Island, and as a result the island was named after him.[4]

Master of the Rolls

On 13 July 1717, Jekyll was appointed Master of the Rolls,[1] and the same year became a Privy Councillor.[2] His time as Master "was distinguished by legal ability, integrity and despatch", and during this period he helped write The Judicial Authority of the Master of the Rolls. He was given the Great Seal on 7 January 1725, and held it until 1 June.[1] On 19 August 1738 he died of "a mortification in the bowels",[1] and was buried in the Rolls Chapel. In his will he left £20,000 to help pay off the national debt, something Lord Mansfield described as "a very foolish bequest.. he might as well have attempted to stop the middle arch of Blackfriars Bridge with his full-bottomed wig".[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Foss (1870) p.375
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Jekyll, Sir Joseph (subscription needed)". Oxford University Press. 2004. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 Foss (1870) p.374
  4. McCash (2005) p.43


Parliament of England
Preceded by
Thomas Davenant
Charles Cornwallis
Member of Parliament for Eye
With: Charles Cornwallis 1697–98
Spencer Compton, from 1698
Succeeded by
(Parliament of Great Britain)
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
(Parliament of England)
Member of Parliament for Eye
With: Spencer Compton to 1710
Thomas Maynard 1710–13
Succeeded by
Thomas Maynard
Edward Hopkins
Preceded by
Paul Burrard
Lord William Powlett
Member of Parliament for Lymington
With: Lord William Powlett 1713–15
Richard Chaundler 1715–22
Succeeded by
Lord Harry Powlett
Paul Burrard
Preceded by
James Cocks
Thomas Jordan
Member of Parliament for Reigate
With: James Cocks
Succeeded by
James Cocks
John Hervey
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Coombe
Chief Justice of Chester
Succeeded by
Spencer Cowper
Preceded by
Sir John Trevor
Master of the Rolls
Succeeded by
John Verney
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