Selwin-Ibbetson, Henry John (DNB12)

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SELWIN-IBBETSON, Sir HENRY JOHN, first Baron Rookwood (1826–1902), politician, born in London on 26 Sept. 1826, was only son of Sir John Thomas Ibbetson-Selwin, sixth baronet, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of General John Leveson Gower, of Bill Hill, Berkshire His father had assumed the surname of Selwin on inheriting in 1825 the Selwin estates at Harlow, Essex. After education at home Henry was admitted a fellow-commoner at St. John's College, Cambridge, on 2 July 1845. He graduated B.A. in 1849, and proceeded M. A. in 1852. After leaving Cambridge, he travelled widely, and was present in the Crimea at the declaration of peace in 1856. In the same year he embarked, as a conservative, upon his political career. After twice suffering defeat at Ipswich, in March 1857 and in April 1859, he headed the poll for South Essex in July 1865. On a new division of the Essex constituencies (due to Disraeli's reform bill), he was returned without contest for the western division in 1868, again in 1874, and by a large majority in 1880. Subsequently (after the reform bill of 1884) he sat for the Epping division till his elevation to the peerage in 1892. Selwin took from the first a useful part in parliamentary discussion, cautiously supporting moderate reforms. In 1867 he resumed the old family name of Ibbetson in addition to that of Selwin, and in 1869 he succeeded his father in the baronetcy. In the same year, being then in opposition, he introduced and contrived to pass into law a bill which aimed at diminishing the number of beer-houses by placing all drink-shops Tinder the same licensing authority and by leaving none under the control of the excise. He showed a commendable freedom from party ties in the support he gave in 1870 to the Elementary Education Act of William Edward Forster [q. v.].

In 1874 the conservatives were returned to power, and Selwin-Ibbetson became under-secretary to the home office after declining the chairmanship of ways and means. He proved a laborious and efficient administrator, but was perhaps too prone to deal with details which might have been left to subordinates. During his tenure of office acts were passed for the improvement of working-class dwellings in 1875, for the amendment of the labour laws so as to relax the stringency of the law of conspiracy, and for the provision of agricultural holdings, a measure which was largely based on information he had himself collected. In 1878 he became parliamentary secretary to the treasury, and piloted through the house the bill which made Epping Forest a public recreation ground, as well as the cattle diseases bill. As early as 1871 he had championed in the house public rights in Epping Forest.

In 1879 he declined the governorship of New South Wales. In Oct., while in Ireland with the chancellor of the exchequer. Sir Stafford Northcote [q. v.], he sanctioned a scheme for improving the navigation of the Shannon and planned a reconstruction of the Irish board of works which never became law but led to changes in the personnel of the board. In 1880 Ibbetson retired from office on the defeat at the polls of the conservative government. He acted as second church estates commissioner from 7 July 1885 to 2 March 1886, and again from 8 Sept. 1886 to 20 June 1892. At the general election of 1892 he was raised to the peerage by Lord Salisbury as Baron Rookwood, the title being taken from an old mansion in Yorkshire long in the possession of the Ibbetson family.

Through life Lord Rookwood devoted himself to county business, frequently presiding at quarter sessions with efficiency and impartiality. He also did much work for hospitals and charities. A keen sportsman, he was master of the Essex hounds from 1879 to 1886. In March 1893 Essex men of all parties presented him with his portrait by (Sir) W. Q. Orchardson, R.A., which is now at Down Hall, Harlow, Essex; it was engraved.

He died at Down Hall on 15 Jan. 1902, and was buried at Harlow, Essex. He was married thrice: (1) in 1850 to Sarah Elizabeth Copley, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Lord Lyndhurst [q. v.]; she died in 1865; (2) in 1867 to his cousin Eden, daughter of George Thackrah and widow of Sir Charles Ibbetson, Bart., of Denton Park, Yorkshire; she died on 1 April 1899; (3) in Sept. 1900 to Sophia Harriet, daughter of Major Digby Lawrell; she survived him. Lord Rookwood left no issue, and the barony became extinct at his death.

[Hansard, passim; The Times, 16 Jan. 1902; Essex County Chron. 17 Jan. 1902, with a letter from Colonel Lockwood, M.P.; Lord Eversley, Commons, Forests, and Footpaths, 1910; Report of Select Committee on Police Superannuation Funds, 13 April 1877; Ball and Gilbey, The Essex Foxhounds, 1896; Yerburgh, Leaves from a Hunting Diary, 1900, 2 vols.; Irish Times, 13 Oct. 1879; Report of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, 1879-1880, p. 28.]

W. B. D.