JEPHSON, Charles Denham Orlando (1799-1888), of Mallow Castle, co. Cork.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1826 - 1832
24 Apr. 1833 - 1859

Family and Education

b. 1 Dec. 1799, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of William Jephson of Englefield Green, Surr. and 3rd w. Louisa, da. of Charles Kensington of Blackheath, Kent. educ. by Rev. Charles Delafosse at Richmond, Surr.; Brasenose, Oxf. 1817. m. 1821, Catherine Cecilia Jane, da. of William Franks of Carrig, co. Cork, 2s. d.v.p. 2da. suc. fa. 1813. Took additional name of Norreys by royal lic. 18 July 1838; cr. bt. 6 Aug. 1838. d. 11 July 1888.

Offices Held

Trustee, Incorporated General Steam Carriage Co.; chairman, Kerry Coach Co.


The Jephsons, who had acquired Mallow Castle in 1607 by marriage with the daughter of Sir Thomas Norreys, had represented Mallow intermittently since 1692. Jephson’s grandfather William had sat in the Irish House, 1761-68, when he was replaced by Denham Jephson, Member, 1768-1800, and in the Imperial Parliament, 1802-12.1 Denham succeeded to the family estates in 1781, by when his cousin William, Jephson’s father, was his closest living relative. An army officer with a rakish reputation, William had married secretly while serving in New York in 1777, but shortly after the birth of a son, William Henry (1782-1867), had been divorced by his first wife for ‘keeping women’ in London and the West Indies. On his return to Ireland in 1783, he had married a daughter of the 10th Viscount Mountgarret, who died in childbirth two years later. His marriage to Jephson’s mother, the daughter of a Kent wine merchant, took place in January 1798, after which they settled in Surrey. In 1803 William was sentenced by court martial to six months’ suspension from pay and rank for a drunken brawl with another officer, and thereafter Denham came repeatedly to the family’s aid. In 1812 he obtained the deputy barrackmastership of Nova Scotia for William, who informed his sister that he would go alone:

Denham Jephson stayed with me from Saturday to Tuesday, and is very fond of the boy, who is, without partiality, a fine fellow and a good scholar, though not very quick ... He promised to take care of my family during my absence and I hope and believe that even should he marry he will not neglect my son.

William could not be found at his post on Denham’s death in May 1813, and only learnt of his inheritance by chance. Taking the first available ship home, he arrived in Falmouth late that year, but was too ill to travel further and died a fortnight later. His will, written two days before sailing, named Charles Jephson as his chief beneficiary, making no mention of his eldest son in New York, who subsequently pursued the family for a settlement.2

At the 1820 general election Jephson, though still shy of his majority, came forward for Mallow in an attempt to regain it from the Catholic freeholders, who had assumed control during his minority. He stressed his support for Catholic claims and residence ‘among them’, and declared himself to be ‘unshackled’ by party. Daniel O’Connell*, his opponent’s agent, described him as ‘an unfledged boy of twenty, quite an English boy, confident and shallow, a man in his own opinion but not in that of others’, who ‘said simply that he was of no party and had no political principles’. After a four-day contest he was defeated.3 He married a ‘local beauty’ the following year.4 In June 1825 his agent recommended that O’Connell be retained for the next election. He was invited by the local Catholics to a grand public dinner in Limerick as a Protestant supporter of emancipation, 22 Oct. 1825, and attended the Catholic Association dinner for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, 2 Feb. 1826, having informed O’Connell, 23 Jan., that ‘however short the notice’, he would ‘use every exertion to arrive in Dublin in time’.5 On 3 May 1826 his brother-in-law William Hume Franks reported that Nicholas Philpot Leader* had told him that ‘Lady Glengall has got from government a loan of £60,000 for the railroad between Waterford and Limerick’ and ‘says if we exerted ourselves in the county of Cork ... we might get a loan for the railroad from Cork to Mallow’.6

At the 1826 general election Jephson offered again for Mallow as a ‘constant resident’ and supporter of Catholic claims, paying tribute to the retiring Member, who now backed him. It was widely expected that as ‘lord of the sod’ he would be returned unopposed, but at the nomination another candidate was proposed in absentia. After a two-day contest in which his opponent’s agents accused of him of failing to comply with the qualification procedures, he was returned with a large majority. Petitions against his return came to nothing.7 He presented a petition for Catholic claims, 14 Feb., and voted thus, 6 Mar. 1827.8 He divided for the duke of Clarence’s annuity bill, 16 Mar., but he was in the minorities for information on the Barrackpoor mutiny, 22 Mar., and the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar. He voted for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, and against the Coventry magistracy bill, 18 June 1827. He presented and endorsed petitions for Catholic claims, 14, 29 Feb., 7 Mar., when he denied that they were legally excluded from Parliament by the Treaty of Limerick, which had been ‘violated’, and voted accordingly, 12 May 1828. He divided for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. He voted against extending the franchise of East Retford to Bassetlaw, 21 Mar., and its disfranchisement, 27 June. On 26 Mar. he introduced a bill to amend the law of Irish distresses and replevins, which was read a first time, 9 May, but went no further. He divided for the Irish lessors bill, 12 June. He voted for the usury laws amendment bill, 19 June, when he warned that a bill for electoral registers, published and sold ‘four times a year’, would introduce the ‘utmost confusion’ and ‘occasion a new species of taxation upon electors’. He obtained returns of Irish constabulary expenses, 27 June, and voted for the corporate funds bill, 10 July 1828. On 20 Jan. 1829 he spoke at a Dublin meeting of the Protestant supporters of Catholic emancipation.9 He presented petitions against the Irish Subletting Act, 11 Feb., when he protested that its restriction on inheritance by more than one child left the others ‘destitute’ and was ‘one of the most barbarous provisions ever enacted’, 3 Apr. He sought assurances that Orange and Brunswick Clubs would be suppressed along with the Catholic Association, 13 Feb., brought up petitions for emancipation, 17 Feb., 12 Mar., 7 Apr., and one against, with which he differed, 9 Mar. He had, of course, been listed by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, as a supporter of emancipation, and he voted thus, 6, 30 Mar., though he regretted the continued exclusion of Catholics from Oxford University and the fact that O’Connell’s return had been left ‘undecided’, 12 Mar. That day he reported to O’Connell:

I spoke of the hardship of your being excluded from the benefit of a bill which purports to be a bill of relief to all Catholics. Robert Gordon* came to me subsequently and said he thought I was mistaken ... [and] that ... you ... were not required to take any oaths but those of abjuration, allegiance and supremacy ... He did not anticipate any difficulty.

O’Connell replied that Gordon was ‘totally mistaken in his views’.10 Jephson brought up a petition for repeal of the Irish Vestry Acts, 23 Feb. On 2 Mar. he complained that repeal of the drawback on Irish window glass had been ‘very injurious to the lower orders’ and ‘completely put a stop’ to the ‘luxury of a single window’. He cautioned against interfering with Irish tobacco cultivation, which was ‘highly advantageous to the agricultural interest’, 13 Mar. He presented but dissented from a Mallow petition against the disfranchisement of the 40s. Irish freeholders, which was ‘inseparably connected’ with emancipation, 20 Mar., but objected to the restrictions on Catholic office-holders wearing insignia in their chapels, asking, ‘Why should we stickle so about these robes, gowns, and habits of office?’, 24 Mar. He acknowledged that the registration of freeholds in Irish boroughs gave ‘every opportunity for fraud and perjury’, but could not concur with a petition for the disfranchisement of Mallow’s freeholders, as it would be better ‘to regulate the ... franchise than to annihilate it’, 26 Mar. On 6 May he attended the public meeting at the London Tavern to celebrate the passage of emancipation.11 He called for a provision in the Irish fisheries bill against the washing of dye-cloths within a certain distance of fisheries, 15 May. He voted to allow O’Connell to take his seat unimpeded, 18 May 1829.

Jephson voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 5, 15 Mar., and in the minority of 21 for O’Connell’s motion for adoption of the secret ballot there, which would ‘produce purity of election’, 15 Mar. 1830. He complained that an ‘immense portion of the funds intended for the benefit’ of the Irish poor was ‘frittered away in the support of useless and unwieldy establishments’, 17 Feb. He voted for parliamentary reform, 18 Feb., 28 May, and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and divided steadily with the revived Whig opposition for economy and retrenchment from March. He secured papers on the Cork summer assizes, where the trial of men ‘who had been in gaol already for three months’ had been ‘unnecessarily’ postponed, 3 Mar., and accused the magistrates of acting unlawfully and voted for information on the conduct of the Irish solicitor-general John Doherty* in the affair, 12 May. He complained that the British Museum reading room’s closure at 4 p.m. prevented its use by a ‘most numerous and respectable class of people’, 8 Mar. He presented a petition for the abolition of slavery, 11 Mar. On 25 Mar. Jephson, who had read with horror newspaper accounts of the punishments received by convicts in New South Wales, agreed to withdraw a motion he had tabled for the introduction of trial by jury there after Sir George Murray, the colonial secretary, in a ‘liberal concession’, agreed to take it up.12 He urged the necessity of its speedy implementation, 11 June, and called for inquiry into General Darling’s sentencing, 17 June. He presented a petition against the Irish Subletting Act, 29 Mar. That month O’Connell urged him to attend the committee on the ‘gross job’ of the St. Giles vestry bill and to ‘judge for yourself’.13 He objected to the Irish constabulary bill, whereby government would receive information on the state of Ireland from police constables rather than magistrates, 30 Mar., and protested that the ‘manner in which the police is armed is as improper as it is unnecessary’, 20 May. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He was granted a month’s leave on urgent private business, 6 Apr. He concurred with a petition against the increase in Irish stamp duties, 10 May, and presented one in similar terms, 17 May. He voted for repeal of the Irish coal duties, 13 May. On the 15th he and O’Connell obtained leave to bring in a bill to legalize Catholic marriages, which went no further.14 He divided for the proper collection of Irish first fruits, 18 May. He presented a petition for repeal of the Irish Vestry Acts, 25 May, and voted thus, 10 June. He moved the report stage of the Irish county rates bill, 18 June. He spoke against the Irish witnesses bill, 6 July 1830. That month an address from the Cork chamber of commerce paid tribute to his support for ‘retrenchment and reform’ and hoped there would be no attempt ‘to deprive the people of Mallow’ of his services.15

At the 1830 general election Jephson offered again, saw off an expected opposition by securing endorsements from local Tories and was returned unopposed.16 Probably as part of the terms of his endorsement, in October he attended a dinner for O’Connell in Cork and spoke ‘strongly and decidedly against’ against repeal of the Union and made ‘some converts’.17 ‘The regret I have felt at hearing the name of Jephson identified with that of the Irish Bolivar’, remarked an anonymous ‘sincere friend’, ‘is entirely removed and recompensed by your able and enlightened speech ... and your ... stand ... to stem the torrents of massacre and bloodshed ... I hope then, there is a repeal of the apparent union between the ancient name of Jephson, and O’Connell’.18 He presented petitions against slavery, 3, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted for repeal of the Irish Subletting Act, 11 Nov., advocated its amendment next day and brought up a hostile petition, 19 Nov. He spoke and divided for reduction of West Indian wheat import duties, 12 Nov. He had been listed by the Irish agent Pierce Mahony† as ‘contra’ and by the Wellington ministry as one of their ‘foes’, and he voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. On 9 Dec. he condemned the Grey ministry’s ‘most unpopular’ appointment of William Plunket* as Irish lord chancellor. He objected to the furnishing of information on the professions of Irish magistrates, which the clerks of the peace ‘did not know’, 15 Dec. 1830. That month he was asked by the Association for Abolishing Corporate Abuse in Londonderry to assist their campaign against the corporation.19 He defended Irish tobacco growing as ‘a source of enjoyment to the poor’, 10 Mar. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s English reform bill, 22 Mar., and welcomed the Irish measure, though he regretted that it did ‘not go quite as far as might be wished’ and called for an increase in the county representation, hoping ‘some mistake has been made in this respect’, 24 Mar. He divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr., and brought up a petition for reform, 20 Apr. 1831, when he warned that the ‘negligent and inaccurate’ operation of the Irish registry office had become so ‘frightful’ as to prevent the transfer of landed property. At the ensuing general election he stood as a supporter of retrenchment and reform, but at the nomination protested that Ireland had ‘not been put on that footing of equality with England and Scotland which I could desire’ and demanded an additional representative for county Cork. On the hustings his proposer, John Dillon Croker, welcomed his earlier speech at Cork refuting ‘an assertion industriously spread ... that he was a follower of O’Connell’, who ‘would not venture to think or vote differently from what that gentleman wished’. He was returned unopposed.20

He doubted that free trade would benefit manufacturers, as ‘every ship coming to this country’ would leave ‘it in ballast, taking only our money’, 24 June 1831. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against adjournment, 12 July, and gave generally steady support to its details, though he was in the minorities for the disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July, separate representation for Merthyr, 10 Aug., and the disfranchisement of Aldborough, 14 Sept. He divided for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., but warned that he would vote in favour of giving additional Members to Scotland in view of its population, 4 Oct. He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He brought up petitions against the grant to the Kildare Place Society, 14, 19 July. He was in the minority of 41 for civil list reductions, 18 July, and was added to the select committee on the issue, 27 Aug.21 He was appointed to and chaired that on steam carriages, 20 July, and brought up its report, 12 Oct. On 21 July he obtained leave for a bill to regulate the Irish registry of deeds office, which the president of the Irish Law Society Josias Dunn informed him was ‘so well calculated to effect the intended purposes’ that we ‘feel it unnecessary to suggest any alterations, save in a few instances’, 22 Sept.22 The bill was read a first time, 1 Sept., deferred, 25 Sept. 1831, and reintroduced, 2 Feb. 1832. He successfully guided it through its various stages, acting as a majority teller, 9 Apr., 25 July, but his motion to increase the salary of the Irish registrar, whose duties had ‘very considerably extended’, was defeated by 23-21, 3 Apr., when he was a minority teller. It received royal assent, 4 Aug. 1832 (2 and 3 Gul. IV, c. 87). He divided against the issue of the Dublin writ, 8 Aug., but with ministers on the controversy, 23 Aug. 1831. He criticized the ‘numerous accumulations of boards’ in Ireland and demanded the appointment of a single officer of public works, 15 Aug., and complained that the public works bill was too ‘cumbersome’, 16 Sept. He asked for the introduction of lord lieutenants of Irish counties to be given a ‘fair trial’, 15 Aug., observing that they would provide better ‘organs of communication between the government and the several counties’ than chief constables, 20 Aug. He spoke and was a majority teller against the union of Irish parishes bill, 19 Aug., and endorsed petitions for the abolition of the Irish yeomanry, 26 Aug. He introduced a bill for the establishment of public hospitals in Ireland, 16 Sept., which was read a third time, 5 Oct., and received royal assent, 15 Oct. (1 and 2 Gul. IV, c. 48). He welcomed the general register bill for England and Wales, 20 Sept. He spoke and divided for inquiry into the conduct of the Winchester magistrates during the arrest of the Deacles, 27 Sept. He secured returns concerning Irish newspaper stamps, 10 Oct. 1831.

Jephson paired for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, voted for going into committee on it, 20 Feb., and again gave general support to its details, although he continued to advocate separate representation for Merthyr, describing its proposed connection with Cardiff as ‘one of the most unfortunate that could have happened, as their interests are completely different’, 5 Mar. 1832. He divided for the third reading, 22 Mar., but was absent from the division on the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, but was in the minorities for O’Connell’s motion to extend the county franchise to £5 freeholders, 18 June, and against the liability of Irish electors to pay municipal taxes before they could vote, 29 June. On 25 June he proposed that the words ‘or other building’ should be inserted in the clause relating to the Irish £10 householder franchise, in keeping with the English bill, but after taking the sense of the House declined the ‘trouble of dividing’. He presented a petition for retaining the ancient boundaries of the manor of Mallow and the separate enfranchisement of householders in the surrounding parish, 27 June. He argued that returning officers should have the power of summoning the constabulary, who had refused to attend on two occasions at Mallow, 6 July. He objected to the ‘expense and trouble’ of polling being carried out ‘solely in county towns’, citing the ‘power of the city demagogues’ who exist ‘wherever there is a corporation’, 6 July, and proposed an amendment for the division of Irish counties into polling districts, but desisted in the face of opposition, 18 July. He argued and moved successfully for the extension of the franchise of Dublin University to all Masters of Arts graduates, 9 July, and called for them to be given an opportunity to take up their degrees ‘before the next election’, 18 July. He regretted that the English bill had been ‘spoiled’ by preservation of the freeman franchise and warned that its continuation in Ireland would enable corporations to ‘make as many fictitious votes as they please’, 3 Aug. 1832.

Jephson left the House during the division on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., but voted with ministers on the issue, 12, 16, 20 July, and on Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832.23 He complained of recurrent delays in delivering mail to New South Wales, where a parcel sent in June had arrived before one sent in March, 2 Feb. He divided for information on military punishments and for printing the Woollen Grange petition for the abolition of Irish tithes, 16 Feb. He welcomed a bill to remedy the Irish Subletting Act’s ‘unnatural and unjustifiable interference’ with the right of property, 20 Feb. He presented a petition from mail coach contractors for a reduction of the fares charged by post office steam packets between Holyhead and Howth, 23 Feb., and was appointed to and chaired the committee on Irish postal communications, 16 Mar. On 6 Mar. he obtained leave to introduce a bill to regulate tolls on steam carriages, which passed its third reading, 9 Apr., but went no further. He urged the removal of ‘every impediment thrown in the way of this new invention’, 27 July. He apparently voted against the Irish secretary Smith Stanley’s motion to consider Irish tithes, 8 Mar., for on the 20th Stephen Coppinger, chairman of the National Political Union of Ireland, wrote to express his thanks for ‘the noble stand made by you and the other members of the minority of 31, who refused to agree to Stanley’s motion’. (Jephson endorsed the letter, ‘Opposed the consideration of the question until further evidence and until the whole question be considered together’.)24 Denying that tithes were the ‘real cause’ of dissatisfaction in Ireland, he called for ‘an entire and immediate revision’ of the revenues of the established church, 13 Mar., recommended the granting of relief to the clergy, 6 Apr., and urged the necessity of proceeding ‘at once to the question of appropriation’, for as ‘so long as this tax, however levied, is supplied to the support of one religion only, so long there will exist this opposition’, 10 July. He voted against the Irish tithes resolutions, 27 Mar., and the composition bill, 13, 24 July, but was one of the Members ‘usually opposing ministers’ who divided for Crampton’s amendment regarding the payment of arrears, 9 Apr., and in its support, 1 Aug., when he declared, ‘I disapprove of tithes’, but as ‘this bill is to be carried, I should wish it to pass in as eligible a shape as possible’. He was in the minority of ten for the reception of a petition for the abolition of tithes next day. He voted with ministers on the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr., but against their temporizing amendment on the abolition of slavery, 24 May. He divided for coroners’ inquests to be made public, 20 June. He spoke and voted for Baring’s bill to exclude insolvent debtors from Parliament, 27 June. He divided for a system of representation for New South Wales, 28 June. On 2 July he expressed concern at the spiralling costs of the survey of Ireland. He contended that the duties of the recorder of Dublin were ‘quite inconsistent with an attendance in this House’ and voted accordingly, 24 July 1832.

At the 1832 general election Jephson stood again for Mallow as a Liberal but was beaten by a Repealer, much to the delight of O’Connell and the officer with whom his father had brawled in 1803, who wrote:

Your father, although a drunken and profligate dog, was a loyal and good subject, drunk or sober. You, who by a fortunate accident have got into possession of luxury and comfort that he never enjoyed, have thought fit to apply your influence, and whatever talent you may possess, in aid of the enemies of your country and your religion ... You have already, I am happy to see, begun to feel the effects of your treason; you have been beaten out of your own borough by some nameless demagogue.25

Jephson was seated on petition the following year, re-elected unopposed in 1835 and 1837, and after a series of successful contests, was eventually defeated by a Liberal Conservative in 1859. He repeatedly sought but never achieved office with the Liberals, it being observed ‘that he might have been chief secretary for Ireland, had not a certain infirmity of temper and want of tact interfered with a prospect of success in official life’.26 Shortly before his defeat in 1832, Henry Lambert* had noted

one or two points of your character which unfit you in a considerable degree for the acquirement of popularity. You have the reality of a high and honourable mind, with what I may call a nervous susceptibility of conscience. Now, to be a popular man, to excite an extensive and powerful infatuation, you should know how to lie, to swagger, to boast of what you never did, to flatter men’s passions with a view exclusively to your own interest, regardless of the mischief you might occasion ... Though you are so bare and destitute of these essential qualities of greatness, I still hope that the electors of Mallow will be pleased to recollect that you were the friend of the people.27

Jephson, who in 1838 assumed his ancestral name of Norreys and, after some hesitation, accepted the baronetcy which he had been offered on the accession of Queen Victoria, died a widower at Queenstown in July 1888. His last surviving son having predeceased him in May, the baronetcy became extinct and the Mallow estates, by now heavily indebted, passed to his eldest daughter Catherine Louisa (1827-1911).28

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


See M.D. Jephson, Anglo-Irish Misc. 179-254.

  • 1. PP (1831-2), xliii. 105; Hist. Irish Parl. iv. 480-1; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 305.
  • 2. Jephson, 149-69.
  • 3. Dublin Evening Post, 4, 21, 25, 30 Mar. 1826; O’Connell Corresp. ii. 823.
  • 4. Jephson, 183.
  • 5. Ibid. 184, 188; O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1276, 1285.
  • 6. Jephson, 204.
  • 7. Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette, 3 June; Southern Reporter, 13, 15, 17 June; Dublin Evening Post, 17, 20 June 1826.
  • 8. The Times, 15 Feb. 1827.
  • 9. Ibid. 24 Jan. 1829.
  • 10. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1538-9.
  • 11. Jephson, 186.
  • 12. Ibid. 199.
  • 13. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1645.
  • 14. Ibid. iv. 1643.
  • 15. Jephson, 214.
  • 16. Cork Constitution, 3, 5 Aug. 1830.
  • 17. Ibid. 5 May 1831.
  • 18. Jephson, 190.
  • 19. Ibid. 214.
  • 20. Cork Constitution, 3, 5 May 1831.
  • 21. The Times, 20 July 1831.
  • 22. Jephson, 94.
  • 23. The Times, 2 Feb. 1832.
  • 24. Jephson, 217.
  • 25. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1944; Jephson, 196.
  • 26. H.F. Twiss, Mallow and Some Mallow Men, cited in Jephson, 253.
  • 27. Jephson, 254.
  • 28. Ibid. 252; The Times, 4 July 1838, 12 July 1888.