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Sir Joseph Jekyll KS (1663 – 19 August 1738), of Westminster, was a British barrister, judge and Whig politician who sat in the English and British House of Commons for 40 years from 1697 to 1738. He became Master of the Rolls in 1717.


Joseph Jekyll

Joseph Jekyll - Richardson.jpeg
Chief Justice of Cheshire
In office
Preceded byJohn Coombe
Succeeded bySpencer Cowper
Master of the Rolls
In office
13 July 1717 – 19 August 1738
Preceded bySir John Trevor
Succeeded bySir John Verney
Personal details
Died19 August 1738
Political partyWhig
RelationsThomas Jekyll, John Jekyll
ProfessionBarrister, judge, politician

Early life and career as a barristerEdit

Jekyll was born in 1663 to John Jekyll of the Fishmonger's Company and alderman, of St Stephen Walbrook, London, and his second wife Tryphena. He was the half-brother of Thomas Jekyll. He attended a non-conformist seminary in Islington before being admitted to the Middle Temple in 1680. He was called to the Bar in 1687.[1] 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.[2] 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.[1]

Political careerEdit

Jeckyll was returned as a Whig Member of Parliament for Eye at a by-election on 14 December 1697 and was returned again in the following year at the 1698 English general election. He was seen as part of the Whig Junto . He was extremely active in parliament and an excellent speaker. He played a role in drafting various bills and acts. Occasionally he voted against the party, mainly because he supported greater reform of the electoral system and the removal of bribery and corruption. He was returned unopposed for Eye in the two general elections of 1701 and in 1702 and 1705. Returned again at the 1708 British general election he was involved in the impeachment of Henry Sacheverell in 1709 and 1710. He was returned again for Eye at the 1710 British general election but at the 1713 British general election was returned instead for Lymington.[3]

At the 1715 British general election Jekyll was returned again for Lymington. He was 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.[2] He persuaded the government to open an investigation into the collapse of the South Sea Company in 1720.[4] At the 1722 British general election he was returned as MP for Reigate where he was returned again in 1727 and 1734.[4] He 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.[5] 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".[2]

Outside Parliament, Jekyll provided £600 to fund the colony at Jekyll Island,[6] and as a result James Oglethorpe named the island in the Province of Georgia after him.[7]

Master of the RollsEdit

On 13 July 1717, Jekyll was appointed Master of the Rolls,[5] and the same year became a Privy Councillor.[4] 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.[5]

Death and legacyEdit

On 19 August 1738 he died of "a mortification in the bowels",[5] and was buried in the Rolls Chapel. He had no children. 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".[5]


  1. ^ a b "Jekyll, Sir Joseph (subscription needed)". Oxford University Press. 2004. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Foss (1870) p.374
  3. ^ "JEKYLL, Sir Joseph (1662-1738), of Westminster". History of Parliament Online (1690-1715). Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "JEKYLL, Sir Joseph (c.1662-1738), of Bell Bar, Herts". History of Parliament Online (1715-1754). Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e Foss (1870) p.375
  6. ^ McCash (2005) p.43
  7. ^ Wilkins, Thomas Hart (2007). "Sir Joseph Jekyll and his Impact on Oglethorpe's Georgia". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 91 (2): 119–134. Retrieved 15 February 2018.


  • Foss, Edward (1870). A Biographical Dictionary of the Justices of England (1066–1870). Spottiswoode and Company.
  • McCash, June Hall (2005). Jekyll Island's early years: from prehistory through Reconstruction. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0-8203-2447-7.
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