Richard Jebb (1766–1834) was an Irish judge of the nineteenth century. He was a member of a gifted family of English origin, which produced a celebrated doctor, three distinguished clerics, and a noted classical scholar.
He was born in Drogheda, eldest son of John Jebb and his wife Alicia Forster. His father was an alderman of Drogheda, and also had an estate at Leixlip in County Kildare; his grandfather, the elder Richard Jebb, had emigrated to Ireland from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire.
Richard's younger brother was John Jebb, Bishop of Limerick. The two brothers were very close throughout their lives, and John, who never married, lived with Richard as a young man. Their father suffered financial losses for a time, but Richard at the age of twenty-one inherited a substantial fortune from his father's cousin Sir Richard Jebb, 1st Baronet, a distinguished doctor who became physician to King George III. John Jebb, the political and religious reformer, was another cousin who belonged to the Irish branch of the family.
Richard was educated at a local school in Drogheda, then at the University of Dublin, from which he graduated in 1786. He entered Lincoln's Inn and was called to the Irish Bar in 1789, becoming King's Counsel in 1806. He was a moderate opponent of the Act of Union 1800, although in his pamphlet "Arguments for and against the Act of Union" he endeavoured to be fair to both sides of the debate. Like many former opponents of Union he was prepared to accept office under the new regime, although he refused to sit in the English House of Commons. He became Third Serjeant in 1816, Second Serjeant in 1818 and a justice of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland) in 1818. He died suddenly at his home in Rostrevor, County Down in 1834, a victim of the first great cholera epidemic in nineteenth century Europe.
He married in 1802 Jane Louisa Finlay, eldest daughter of John Finlay of Corkagh, MP for Dublin County. Louisa was described as a woman of exceptional strength of character; she died in 1823, after a long and painful illness. They had six children, five sons and a daughter, of whom the best known is John Jebb (1805-1886), Canon of Hereford Cathedral. Their second son Robert followed his father to the Bar, had a successful career, and was the father of the politician and classical scholar Richard Claverhouse Jebb.
As a judge he has been described as firm, but also humane and impartial. Elrington Ball calls him a gifted man who like his brother Bishop Jebb was often underestimated by those who knew him, due to his modest and unassuming manner. Both had a keen sense of humour, although the Bishop usually reserved his jokes for the family circle.
- Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926
- Gordon, Alexander "Richard Jebb" Dictionary of National Biography 1885-1900 Vol. 29
- Hart, A. R. History of the King's Serjeants at law in Ireland Dublin Four Courts 2000