Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sir William Jeffcott (1800–1855)

by R. M. Hague

This article was published:

Sir William Jeffcott (1800-1855), judge, was the brother of Sir John Jeffcott. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin (B.A., 1825) and called to the Irish Bar in 1828. He practised as a barrister in Dublin for many years before he came to Australia. In June 1843, within a few weeks of his arrival in Sydney, he was appointed judge of the Supreme Court at Port Phillip at a salary of £1500, in succession to Mr Justice John Willis, who had been removed from office by Governor Sir George Gipps. As a judge Jeffcott proved successful and popular, and was described as bland in his manners, good-tempered, firm, impartial and methodical. 'He was a vast improvement upon the gentleman he succeeded, and the Court business was no longer a series of gratuitous farces for public amusement. From a bear-garden, it became a decent, well-behaved place'. Willis having appealed to the Privy Council against his removal from office, in December 1844 Jeffcott insisted upon resigning because of conscientious scruples, not shared by anyone else, that his appointment as judge might turn out to have been invalid if Mr Justice Willis's appeal should be upheld. He left Melbourne in February 1845 and returned to Ireland, where he resumed practice as a barrister at Dublin. In 1849 he was appointed Recorder of Singapore and Malacca and was knighted. According to Rajah Brooke of Sarawak, the recordership was a comfortable post, 'snug, little to do, well paid, genteel pension &c.'. On 23 October 1855 Jeffcott was advanced to be judge at Bombay, but he had died on the previous day.

Select Bibliography

  • Garryowen (E. Finn), Chronicles of Early Melbourne, vol 1 (Melb, 1888), p 83-84
  • J. L. Forde, The Story of the Bar of Victoria (Melb, no date), pp 80-89.

Citation details

R. M. Hague, 'Jeffcott, Sir William (1800–1855)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 13 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




22 October, 1855 (aged ~ 55)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.