JESSOP, William (c.1665-1734), of Broomhall, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1702 - 1713
1715 - 8 Nov. 1734

Family and Education

b. c.1665, 5th s. of Francis Jessop, of Broomhall by Barbara, da. of Robert Eyre of Highlow, Derbys.  educ. G. Inn 1683, called 1690, bencher 1715.  m. lic. 15 Jan. 1697, Mary, da. and h. of James Darcy*, 1s. d.v.p. 4da.  suc. fa. 1691.1

Offices Held

Justice of the Anglesey circuit 1707–14, c.j. 1715–29; commr. and receiver of the alienation office 1717–d.; puisne justice of Chester 1729–d.2


During the Tory purges of 1682, Jessop’s father, ‘a known favourer of Dissenters’ according to Sir John Reresby, 2nd Bt.†, was one of the Yorkshire justices who refused to put the laws into execution against conventicles, while in August 1688 he was noted as absent when the ‘three questions’ on the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act were put to the justices and Pontefract corporation. Jessop himself has been described by one modern historian as ‘a model of Whig orthodoxy’. Before embarking upon his parliamentary career, he appears to have practised as a successful London lawyer, during which time he became legal adviser and land agent to the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†), the great Whig magnate. By early 1701 he was advising Newcastle on purchases of arable land in Nottinghamshire and he master-minded the purchase of the lordship of the manor of Aldborough from the Wentworths of Woolley.3

Jessop first stood for election at Aldborough on the recommendation of Newcastle in November 1701. However, on that occasion Jessop was defeated, as the Duke’s interest was still not strong enough to control both seats. However, Jessop continued to be active in electoral politics, and prior to the 1702 general election campaigned on behalf of Lord Irwin (Arthur Ingram), the outgoing Whig MP for Yorkshire county, whom Newcastle had supported in the December 1701 election. On 2 Apr. Jessop reported that he had communicated Irwin’s letter to his neighbours at Sheffield:

though they received it more coolly than I expected and have yet given me no positive answer, I hope I shall make them sensible that it is their interest and the true interest of their country to give one of their votes for your lordship. I have not yet disposed of my other vote nor do not design to do it, till I hear what measures are taken by our friends in East Riding and the rest of the gentlemen of our country who have on all occasions stood secure to the true interest of England. For I look upon it as my duty at this time, to do what I can to support that interest and preserve it entire if possible. For if it should once be broke, by making decisions among ourselves, it would put it into the power of the contrary party to have the balance of the election which way they please, and when a party is once run down it’s like a routed army, it’s a difficult thing to make it rally again upon a fresh occasion.4

Jessop was returned unopposed at Aldborough in 1702, alongside his cousin Robert Monckton, another Newcastle protégé. On 13 Feb. 1703 he voted for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for extending the time for taking the oath of abjuration. Five days later he told against an amendment to the Irish forfeitures bill. In the 1704–5 session he was classed by Robert Harley* as a probable opponent of the Tack, and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704. Returned unopposed in 1705, Jessop was noted as ‘Low Church’ in an analysis of the new Parliament. He voted for the Court candidate as Speaker on 25 Oct. During the 1705–6 session he was nominated to draft, and later presented, two estate bills, one of which was subsequently guided through the House by Monckton. On 18 Feb. he supported the Court in the proceedings on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill.5

Following his appointment as a Welsh judge in the summer of 1707, Jessop was unopposed at the consequent by-election. Having been recorded as a Whig in an analysis of Parliament in early 1708, he was also returned unopposed in the general election of that year. He was noted as a Whig in another analysis of Parliament following the election. Prior to the 1708–9 session, when the Junto were planning their strategy for the election of the Speaker, Newcastle was requested to ‘engage’ Jessop as their candidate and to ensure that he ‘would take what pains he can among the northern Members, among whom he has a general acquaintance, besides the weight of using your name’. Jessop’s attendance during the session was disrupted on 14 Jan. 1709, when he fought a duel in Hyde Park with William Levinz* and was ‘run into the belly, but not dangerous’. However, he had recovered sufficiently to vote for the naturalization of the Palatines. During the summer he was active once again on behalf of Newcastle, on this occasion investigating the potential for strengthening the Duke’s interest in Clitheroe. In the 1709–10 session Jessop voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.6

As late as the summer of 1710, Jessop was still hopeful of Whig prospects, writing on 4 July to Newcastle on electoral matters, and informing him that the Dutch, as ‘guarantors for the succession of the House of Hanover’, had acquainted the Queen that if she dissolved Parliament the succession would be ‘in very great hazard’. On this basis most Whigs thought the Parliament would continue. Two weeks later he reported a great fall in the stocks at the prospect of a dissolution, and that the Duke of Shrewsbury, Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*), Robert Harley* and others had several consultations about the situation, though the outcome of these meetings was uncertain. Returned at the general election in October, he was classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’. He was granted leave of absence on 26 Mar. 1711 for three weeks. In the following session he voted for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion on 7 Dec., commenting on the abandonment of Spain by the ministry as sure proof ‘that many who have put on the face of true Englishmen, and whom we have taken such, are rotten at the heart’. Later that month, he deplored the dismissal of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), ‘the most fortunate and skilful general that ever served his nation’. On 23 Feb. 1712 he was a teller for a motion that (Sir) James Montagu I* was elected for Carlisle.7

The death of Jessop’s patron, Newcastle, in July 1711, had altered Jessop’s circumstances outside Parliament owing to the dispute over the Newcastle inheritance between the widowed dowager Duchess and the late Duke’s nephew and adopted heir, Thomas Pelham. Although Jessop initially favoured some form of accommodation between the two parties, the Duchess did not think well of him, informing Lord Oxford (as Harley had become) that she did not trust Jessop, and claimed that the late Duke had ‘thought him very dull and ignorant, therefore [I] never intended to take him for my counsel though I let him not discover that’. She also reminded Oxford that Jessop had received a bribe of 500 guineas from an interested party in relation to the Newcastle estate. Not surprisingly, Jessop soon decided to support Pelham, not least because he believed the late Duke’s will would not be successfully contested. During 1712 he began to take steps towards securing his re-election at Aldborough, providing treats for the electorate, and acting on Pelham’s behalf in the purchasing of burgages in the adjacent borough of Boroughbridge. At the same time Jessop’s support for Pelham resulted in his removal from a house in Clerkenwell, which had belonged to the late Duke, and by 1713 he was living in a house in ‘Essex Street, near the Temple’. However, he continued to adhere to the Pelham cause, writing to the Duke’s agent Charles Wilkinson on 24 Feb. that ‘I am very well satisfied that neither you nor I can possibly do anything that will be better for ourselves, or better for the interest of our country, than to stick firmly and steadily to my Lord Pelham’s interest’, adding that even greater benefits could be hoped for from the young Lord than from the late Duke. During the following months Jessop wrote to Wilkinson on a regular basis, encouraging him to resist pressure from the Duchess’s agents, and, on occasion, informing him of parliamentary affairs, as on 18 June, when he wrote that ‘I have been in a debate against the bill for making effectual the treaty of commerce with France, and have thrown it out, which we look upon as a great victory’. Not surprisingly, Jessop was recorded on that day as having voted against the bill, when he was again noted as a Whig.8

Pelham ensured that Jessop was nominated as a candidate for the 1713 Aldborough election. However, the Duchess put forward candidates of her own choosing, who defeated Jessop and Pelham’s other nominee, Edward Wortley Montagu*. Jessop and Wortley Montagu petitioned unsuccessfully in March 1714. By August, however, the Newcastle dispute had been resolved in Pelham’s favour, at which point Pelham empowered Jessop to turn out three tenants who had voted at the Duchess’s bidding the previous year, and informed the Aldborough electorate that he expected them to return Jessop at the next election. Not surprisingly, Jessop was elected in 1715, when he was noted as a Whig in an analysis of the new Parliament. His adherence to the Pelham interest continued to pay dividends thereafter, as he represented Aldborough continuously from 1715 until his death on 8 Nov. 1734.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Ivar McGrath


  • 1. Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Clay, ii. 96–97.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxi. 371; xxix. 343; xxxi. 417.
  • 3. Reresby Mems. ed. Browning, 271–2, 276; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 90; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 44; Hull Univ. Lib. Bosville mss DDBM/32/1, Jessop to [?Godfrey Bosville], 12 Dec. 1700; T. Lawson-Tancred, Recs. of a Yorks. Manor, 228–9; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Holles) mss Pw2 126, Jessop to Newcastle, 23 Apr. 1701; HMC Portland, iv. 461.
  • 4. Add. 24475, f. 134; W. Yorks. Archs. (Leeds), Temple Newsam mss TN/PO 10/4, Newcastle to Irwin, 1 Oct. 1701, TN/C9/234, Jessop to same, 2 Apr. 1702; Holmes, 225.
  • 5. Speck thesis, 188; Bull. IHR, xxxvii. 34.
  • 6. Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 197, 236, 396; Boyer, Anne Annals, vi. 259; N.Yorks. RO, Dawnay mss ZDS/X/2, ‘An epistle . . . about the election race’, 1708; Holmes, 324; Portland (Holles) mss Pw2 134, Jessop to Newcastle, 23 June 1709.
  • 7. Portland (Holles) mss Pw2 138, 139, Jessop to Newcastle, 4, 18 July 1710; Bull. IHR, xxxiii. 232; Lawson-Tancred, 235–6; Holmes, 79.
  • 8. Add. 70242, Duchess of Newcastle to Oxford, 29 Aug. 1711, [n.d.]; Lawson-Tancred, 234–6, 238–54; Holmes, 181.
  • 9. Lawson-Tancred, 254–70; Add. 27440, f. 136.