Jervis, Sir Humphrey (1630–1707/8), merchant and property developer, was second of three surviving sons of John Jervis of Ollerton, Shropshire, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and sole heiress of another John Jervis, of Chatkyll near Eccleshall, Staffordshire. He appears in the 1650s as a freeman of Dublin, where he became a rich merchant with foreign shipping interests. His business partners included George Macartney (qv) (1626–91), the leading Belfast merchant. Jervis was elected a sheriff of the city in 1674, and an alderman in 1675.
He was responsible for developing a spacious new suburb on the north side of the River Liffey, and for building bridges to connect it with the crowded older city on the south side. In 1676, or a little earlier, he paid the corporation of Dublin about £3,000 for a 500-year lease of twenty acres of waste land which was part of the estate of St Mary's abbey. He also acquired the lease of a strip of land between this estate and the Liffey. This ground was regularly flooded by the river in this period, and he had to undertake several years of reclamation work and building of quay walls. New streets (based on older roads and paths) were laid out on a modern grid pattern, with twenty-eight lots for lease to builders. He had judged correctly that there was pent-up demand for sites for the building of townhouses for Dublin's wealthy classes, and his development was crucial in moving the city's centre of gravity northwards.
The project gave him an obvious motive for creating easier access to the north side of the river. Between 1670 and 1682 the river – which had previously only a single bridge – received four new ones, two of which Jervis built. The corporation of Dublin, however, because of the income earned by river ferries and the vested interests of merchants south of the river, was not well disposed to these ventures. As a result, Jervis solicited two successive lords lieutenant, Arthur Capel (qv), earl of Essex, and James Butler (qv), duke of Ormond; backed by their patronage, and their (fatally imprecise) promises of compensation for his expenses, he built first Essex Bridge and then Ormond Bridge. Viceregal sponsorship was reflected too in the naming of Capel St. and of Ormond Quay; the latter, at the duke's request, was laid out as a great stone quay, sixty feet (18.3 m) wide, with buildings facing the river and free access for traffic. This was a marked departure from the older pattern of having the rear of buildings face the river, and became the model for future development.
He was knighted in 1681, and chosen lord mayor in that year and again in 1682 (his second term arose from Ormond's intervention). During his mayoralty the city markets were moved to the north side; this was obviously to his advantage, but was resented by others in the corporation. His attempts to recoup his outlay on bridges led him into bitter legal disputes with the city, which came before Ormond and the privy council. After Ormond's departure for England, he became more isolated, and at the end of 1685 was imprisoned for ten months for an alleged contempt of the council. By his own account his credit was ruined as a result and he suffered great financial losses.
He was a member of the Irish house of commons for Lanesborough, 1692–3, and in 1695 came to the house as a petitioner seeking compensation for the cost of the bridges. Proposals to this effect were initiated in parliament (1695, 1697) but were never put into effect (the intended method of raising funds, a tax on English coal imports, was disallowed in London), and he was still petitioning without success in 1698.
Though he had various partners in his projects, he was principally responsible for the broad scope of their conception and the energy and persistence with which they were pursued. It was not only jealous rivals in Dublin's ruling elite, however, who accused him of a certain lack of scruples in his dealings. In 1691 he was fined for receiving bribes from catholics in return for administering versions of oaths more acceptable to them; and also in that year it was reported that he was foiled in an attempt to extract £4,000 from the second duke of Ormond (qv) by a dubious legal manoeuvre.
Jervis was a presbyterian, and there were two meeting houses on his estate in the later seventeenth century, but his religious allegiance never appears to have been a barrier to his advancement. Political associates included Sir George Rawdon (qv), a determined opponent of presbyterianism, at least in its Scots form. By withdrawing from the affairs of the corporation around 1705, Jervis may have just avoided the application of the newly enacted sacramental test, which drove non-anglicans from office.
His precise date of death is unknown, but he was buried in St Mary's church, Dublin, on 6 January 1708. He married first (date unknown) Catharine, daughter of Alderman Robert Walsh; secondly (1677), Elizabeth Lane (d. 11 January 1687), daughter of John Lane of Bentley, Staffordshire; and thirdly (date unknown) Mary, who appears to have survived him by one year. He appears to have had two daughters by his first marriage: Mary (d. 1681) and Catharine, who survived him and was his heir. The Hutchisson papers in TCD contain much material relating to him and to the Jervis estate. His portrait is in TCD.