Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jones, William (1566-1640)

JONES, Sir WILLIAM (1566–1640), judge, of a family settled in North Wales, born in 1566, was eldest son of William Jones of Castellmarch, Carnarvonshire, by Margaret, daughter of Humphry Wynn ap Meredith of Hyssoilfarch. Educated at first at Beaumaris free school, he went at the age of fourteen to St. Edmund's Hall, Oxford, where he did not graduate, was entered at Furnival's Inn five years afterwards, admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn on 5 July 1587, and called to the bar there on 28 Jan. 1595 (Black Book, v. 410, vi. 9). He was Lent reader of the inn in 1616 (Dugdale, Origines, p. 255), and, though his name does not occur in any law reports, he was made a serjeant and knight on 14 March 1617, and on 13 May of the same year was appointed chief justice of the king's bench in Ireland, in succession to Sir John Dutton, transferred to the English court of exchequer (see Montagu's edition of Bacon's Works, vii. 263), and while the Irish chancellorship was vacant he was a commissioner of the great seal. In 1620 he resigned his judgeship, and returned to the English bar. His name occurs in his own and in Croke's ‘Reports’ from Michaelmas 1620 to Michaelmas 1621. On 25 Sept. 1621 he was appointed a judge of the common pleas, and on 20 March 1622 was selected as a member of a commission to go to Ireland and inquire into the state of that kingdom. He complained to Lord Cranfield that the commissioners refused to recognise him as a judge, or entitled to any precedence on the commission, and that he was placed junior on it (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 305). While in Ireland, upon the complaint of the general body of suitors, he revised the scale of costs in the Dublin courts (see Russell and Prendergast's Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1615–25). He remained a member of the Irish commission at any rate till November 1623 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 316). On 6 Aug. 1623 he was appointed a member of the council of Wales, in January of the following year was a member of another Irish commission, and on 17 Oct. 1624 was transferred from the common pleas to the king's bench. As a member of the Star-chamber he appears to have been in favour of leniency, at least in the cases of Lord Morley and Sir Henry Mayne; but in 1627 he was one of the judges who refused to admit Eliot and his companions to bail (28 Nov.) He was one of the judges who tried Eliot, Holles, and Valentine in 1630, and he delivered the judgment of the court. In 1636 he actually signed an opinion in favour of ship-money (Remembrancia, p. 469; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pp. 2, 497 a), and in 1638 he gave judgment for its legality. He died at his house in Holborn on 9 Dec. 1640, and was buried in Lincoln's Inn Chapel. Sir Robert Heath [q. v.] succeeded him. Hearne, in his ‘Curious Discourses,’ ii. 448, prints a paper by Jones on the early Britons read before the Antiquaries' Society in Elizabeth's reign, and calls him ‘a person of admirable learning, particularly in the municipal laws and British antiquities.’ Jones's ‘Reports of Cases from 18 James I to 15 Charles I’ appeared in 1675, fol. He married in 1587 Margaret, eldest daughter of Griffith ap John Griffith of Kevenamulch, Carnarvonshire, by whom he had one son, Charles, reader at Lincoln's Inn in 1640; and secondly, Catherine, daughter of Thomas Powys of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, widow of Dr. Robert Hovenden [q. v.] An engraved portrait of Jones by Sherwin is prefixed to his ‘Reports.’

[Foss's Lives of the Judges; Dwnn's Herald. Visit. of Wales, ii. 116; Green's and Bruce's Cal. State Papers; Parl. Hist. ii. 290; State Trials, iii. 844, 1181; Collins's Peerage, viii. 577; Sir W Jones's Reports, Pref.; Law Officers of Ireland, pp. 26, 88; Forster's Sir J. Eliot, ed. 1864, ii. 94, 156, 373, 518, 553; Gardiner's Hist. vi. 215, viii. 279.]

J. A. H.