JOLLIFFE, Sir William George Hylton, 1st bt. (1800-1876), of Merstham, Surr.

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



1830 - 1832
1837 - 14 Feb. 1838
1841 - 16 July 1866

Family and Education

b. 7 Dec. 1800, 1st s. of Rev. William John Jolliffe of Merstham, rect. of Chelsworth, Suff., and Julia, da. and coh. of Sir Abraham Pytches of Streatham, Surr.; bro. of Gilbert East Jolliffe*. educ. privately by Mr. Knipe at Aldermaston, Berks. 1812-17.1 m. (1) 8 Oct. 1825, Eleanor (d. 23 July 1862), da. of Hon. Berkeley Paget*, 7s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 19 Jan. 1867, Sophia Penelope, da. of Sir Robert Sheffield, 4th bt., of Normanby, Lincs., wid. of William Thomas Fox Strangways, 4th earl of Ilchester, s.p. cr. bt. 20 Aug. 1821; suc. fa. 1835; uncle Hylton Jolliffe* 1843; cr. Bar. Hylton 16 July 1866. d. 1 June 1876.

Offices Held

Cornet 15 Drag. 1817, lt. 1819, capt. 1824, half-pay 1824, out of service 1840.

Under-sec. of state for home affairs Mar.-Dec. 1852; sec. to treasury Mar. 1858-June 1859; PC 18 June 1859.

Lt.-col. Surr. yeoman cav. 1824-7, 1831;2 sheriff, Surr. 1830-31.


Jolliffe’s father William John Jolliffe (1774-1835) abandoned a legal career for the church, which he evidently found no more congenial. After the sudden death in 1802 of his father William Jolliffe, Member for Petersfield since 1768, he resigned his living in Suffolk and, armed with an inheritance of £13,000 and the support of his elder brother Hylton Jolliffe*, set about the exploiting the mineral wealth on the family’s Merstham estates. To carry the stone from its rich lime workings the pioneering Surrey Iron Railway was built in 1805. With the overseer of this project, Edward Banks, William John Jolliffe entered into a business partnership in 1807. Jolliffe and Banks of Beauford Street, Strand, were listed in the London directories as lime burners, but as contractors for public works they were responsible for the construction of Waterloo Bridge, Sheerness dockyard, Dartmoor prison and the new London Bridge.3

Jolliffe was left £2,000 in his grandfather’s will in 1802 and as his uncle Hylton Jolliffe produced no legitimate offspring was the family’s heir presumptive.4 He embarked on a tour of France with his tutor and younger brother Gilbert in April 1816 and returned to take up his army post at Birmingham in July 1817, following which his mother noted in her journal that he was ‘much liked in his regiment’. The following February he was presented to the regent by his uncle at a levée.5 A participant in the charge of the hussars at the Peterloo massacre in August 1819, 25 years later he provided Lord Sidmouth’s biographer with a dispassionate and widely cited account of that day’s events, in which he acknowledged that the actions of the yeomanry had ‘greatly aggravated’ the situation, and admitted, ‘this was my first acquaintance with a large manufacturing population’ and ‘I had little knowledge of ... whether or no a great degree of distress then prevailed’.6 At the time, however, he boasted to his father that it would ‘be a long time before there is another meeting of this sort in the town’, 19 Aug. Writing again from Bolton, 18 Dec. 1817, he had described his part in a raid

to assist in the taking [of] radicals ... We should have succeeded in taking ten of them assembled at a house at Leigh ... had not the magistrate been an old fool ... I think I never was in such a rage as I was then and have been in ever since.7

Despite being nearly five months under age, in 1821 Jolliffe was gazetted a baronet in the coronation honours as a sop to his uncle’s ambitions for a peerage. Following his marriage in 1825 the family’s Merstham estate was made over to him, and in 1837 he was given additional property at Petersfield.8 According to the family history, Jolliffe took half-pay in June 1824 so that he could devote himself to the command of the Surrey yeomanry. He evidently took these duties seriously and by the 1826 dissolution his profile in the county was sufficiently high for him to be rumoured as a possible candidate, although in the event he did not offer.9

At the 1830 general election his uncle came forward for the Surrey seat, which he envisaged would soon pass to Jolliffe. In his capacity as sheriff, however, Jolliffe oversaw his uncle’s unexpected defeat and won praise from the successful candidates for his strict impartiality.10 At the same general election he and his younger brother were returned on their uncle’s interest for Petersfield. On the hustings Jolliffe indicated his support for the disfranchisement of non-resident voters but refused to be drawn further on parliamentary reform. A petition against his return was unsuccessful.11 On 10 Oct. 1830 he informed his cousin Thomas Robert Jolliffe:

It is my intention during the sitting of Parliament to fix myself in London. I think that by so doing I shall be better able to make the business of the country my business, and during that period I shall therefore sacrifice the attention to the farm, the game and etc., but I do so with sincere regret, for I hate a London life and, above all things, I hate a London house. I trust in time my taste may become more civilised!12

He was listed by the Wellington ministry among their ‘friends’, but was absent from the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented a Petersfield petition for the abolition of slavery, 25 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr.

At the ensuing general election he offered again for Petersfield, where he declared that the people had been ‘gulled’ by the bill, which would not diminish the influence of land and could not pass as it stood. He was returned with his uncle after a two-day poll.13 A petition against the return was not pursued. He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and at least five times for its adjournment, 12 July. He voted for use of the 1831 census to determine the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July. Endorsing his uncle’s plea for Petersfield to be permitted to return one Member, 22 July, he insisted that ministers had misread its population returns and complained about the ‘glaring cases of inconsistency’ in the bill. To the same end he refuted John Bonham Carter’s assertion that the mayor of Petersfield had no magisterial authority, 19 Aug. He voted against the inclusion of Chippenham in schedule B, 27 July, the third reading of the bill, 19 Sept., its passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. He was in the majority against the Vestry Act amendment bill, which would have opened vestries to a wider electorate, 23 Jan. 1832. With his uncle he was in the ministerial majority for keeping Appleby in schedule A, 21 Feb. (Its partial reprieve might have jeopardized Petersfield’s retention of one seat in the final bill.) He divided against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar. He was in the minority for an amendment to preserve the rights of freemen in Irish boroughs, 2 July. He voted against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832.

At the 1832 dissolution Jolliffe was left without a seat. He remained out of Parliament until 1837, when he replaced his uncle on the family interest at Petersfield after a contest against their former agent.14 He was unseated on petition the following year, but returned unopposed in 1841. Jolliffe, a Conservative Protectionist, held minor offices in the ministries of Lord Derby, who anticipated ‘very useful results from his popularity and tact’ on his appointment as Conservative chief whip in 1853.15 He held this position until 1866, when he was elevated to the peerage in a fresh creation of the Hylton barony, the revival of which had been vainly sought by his grandfather and uncle.16 Jolliffe, who had inherited the bulk of his uncle’s remaining estates in 1843, died in June 1876 at Merstham.17 His eldest son Hylton had been killed in the Crimea in 1854, and the title and Surrey estates passed to his second son Hedworth Hylton Jolliffe (1829-99), Conservative Member for Wells, 1855-68. By his will, dated 26 Feb. 1870, he directed that the estate at Ammerdown, Somerset, inherited from his cousin Thomas Robert Jolliffe in 1872 should also descend with the title, and left his son William Sydney Jolliffe (1841-1912) property at Liss, Hampshire, and his son Walter Hylton Jolliffe (1844-89) a freehold at Rogate, Sussex.18 Further provision for them and his other surviving son Spencer Hylton Jolliffe (1853-1902) came out of his personal estate, while his second wife received a life interest in his Piccadilly house, with remainder to his eldest daughter Eleanor, the widowed Lady Blaquiere.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Philip Salmon / Howard Spencer


  • 1. H.G.H. Jolliffe, Jolliffes of Staffs. 133-4.
  • 2. Ibid. 187, 200.
  • 3. Ibid. 118, 121-5, 131; PROB 11/1376/465; K. Gravett and E. Wood, ‘Merstham Limeworks’, Surr. Arch. Colls. lxiv (1967), 129-30.
  • 4. PROB 11/1376/465.
  • 5. Jolliffe, 150, 155-6, 158-9.
  • 6. Pellew, Sidmouth, 253-61. Republished in Three Accounts of Peterloo ed. F. Bruton (1921).
  • 7. Jolliffe, 165, 171-2.
  • 8. Ibid. 176, 193, 227.
  • 9. Ibid. 186, 191; Baldwin’s Weekly Jnl. 25 June, 1 July 1826.
  • 10. Jolliffe, 215; The Times, 10 Aug. 1830.
  • 11. Som. RO, Hylton mss DD/HY, box 17, Procs. at Petersfield Election (1830).
  • 12. Hylton mss box 22.
  • 13. Hants Telegraph, 16 May 1831.
  • 14. Jolliffe, 225.
  • 15. R. Stewart, Foundation of Conservative Party, 278-9.
  • 16. Jolliffe, 57-8, 176, 227.
  • 17. PROB 11/1973/37.
  • 18. Jolliffe, 229.