William Gully, 1st Viscount Selby

The Right Honourable
The Viscount Selby
Speaker of the House of Commons
In office
Monarch Victoria
Edward VII
Preceded by Sir Arthur Peel
Succeeded by Sir James lowther
Personal details
Born 29 August 1835 (1835-08-29)
Died 6 November 1909 (1909-11-07) (aged 74)
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Selby (d. 1906)
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

William Court Gully, 1st Viscount Selby PC, KC (29 August 1835 6 November 1909) was a British lawyer and Liberal politician. He served as Speaker of the House of Commons between 1895 and 1905.

Background and education

Gully was the son of Dr James Manby Gully of Malvern, a successful physician who became involved in the mysterious death of Charles Bravo in April 1876. His grandfather was Daniel Gully, a Jamaican coffee planter. He was educated at University College School, London and then Trinity College, Cambridge,[1] where he was president of the Union. He was called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1860, went the northern circuit, and took silk in 1877.

Political career

Gully in the Speaker's rooms

In 1880 and 1883 Gully unsuccessfully contested Whitehaven as a Liberal, but was elected for Carlisle in 1886, and continued to represent that constituency until his elevation to the peerage. In April 1895 he was elected Speaker by a majority of eleven votes over Sir Matthew White Ridley, the Unionist nominee. The choice of Gully was a surprise to Lord Rosebery's cabinet. Rosebery did not want a Unionist as the new Speaker of the House of Commons, but rejected the two alternatives of Richard Haldane and Sir Frank Lockwood. Rosebery faced hostility in his cabinet from Sir William Vernon Harcourt and from the opposition, and Harcourt wanted the Liberal Unionist `Leonard Courtney as Speaker. Harcourt viewed this as purely a matter for the House of Commons (Rosebery being in the House of Lords). To Rosebery it became a minor cabinet crisis. Finally in disgust Harcourt placed the onus of the decision on Rosebery. Eventually the backbenchers of the Commons who knew Gully propelled him - most likely because he was close to Sir William Herschell. Harcourt was forced to produce the name to the House of Commons. The Conservatives were not happy about his selection, and (recalling the scandal that engulfed his father) would greet his appearance in the House with cries of "Bravo, Gully!".[2] In 1905 he resigned and was raised to the peerage with the title of Viscount Selby, of the City of Carlisle, the name being that of his wife (see below).


"Mr Speaker" as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, September 1896

Lord Selby married Elizabeth (d. 1906), daughter of Thomas Selby, in 1865. He died in November 1909, aged 74, and was succeeded by his son, James.


  1. "Gully, William Court (GLY851WC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. Ruddick, p. 185


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Robert Ferguson
Member of Parliament for Carlisle
1886 1905
Succeeded by
Frederick William Chance
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Peel
Speaker of the House of Commons
1895 1905
Succeeded by
Sir James Lowther
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Selby
1905 1909
Succeeded by
James Gully
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