Nevill, Arthur Jones (c.1712–1771), engineer and MP, was son of Maj.-gen. Edward Jones of Wexford, who assumed the surname Nevill, and Mary Jones (neé Nevill). Both his grandfathers as well as his father served as MPs in the Irish house of commons. Nevill entered TCD in 1729, graduating with a BA (1733). His early career is unknown, but he was appointed surveyor general of buildings and overseer of the barracks in 1743, succeeding Arthur Dobbs (qv). As surveyor general he was in charge of public building, and McParland suggests that Nevill, unlike Dobbs, was not a mere sinecurist, but a professional architect. Nevill was responsible for substantial alterations to the fabric of Dublin castle in the late 1740s, where his work contributions included the presence chamber (destroyed by fire in 1941), St Patrick's Hall, and the Bedford Tower, which was completed by his successor Thomas Eyre. His architecture has been described as derivative, but it was not that that brought him disgrace, but his work in repairing the countrywide network of barracks, combined with his parliamentary connections with the Dublin Castle administration. He had entered the house of commons as MP for Co. Wexford (1751), after a by-election held on the elevation of Nicholas Loftus (1687–1763) to an Irish peerage.
To some extent Nevill was the architect of his own parliamentary downfall through his incompetence, but he was also the hapless target in the power struggle in the Irish house of commons that culminated in the money bill dispute of 1753. A parliamentary inquiry into sums spent on the repair and building of military barracks by Nevill found instances of gross mismanagement, and allegations of corruption against him were made. Nevill, whose plentiful self-esteem and haughty manner had made him an enemy of several of the country's leading public men, was an easy target for the party of the speaker, Henry Boyle (qv), for he had been duped by many of the barracks’ contractors. Primate George Stone (qv) noted that his protégé, Nevill, was a man of integrity. Nevill's estate at Furness near Naas, Co. Kildare, was connected to that of James Fitzgerald (qv), 20th earl of Kildare (later duke of Leinster), who had alleged in 1751 that Nevill owed his parliamentary seat to Stone. The primate denied any political or personal relationship with the surveyor general. Kildare's friends in the house of commons then joined with the speaker's party. Soon every small defect in the Irish barracks was blamed on Nevill and, although the lord lieutenant, the duke of Dorset (qv), allowed that Nevill was on many occasions inefficient if not negligent, the attacks mounted. Some MPs expressed disgust that the king's servant should be hunted as ‘a prey to private resentment’ (Burns, 132–4). Thomas Waite, the under-secretary, said all MPs were convinced of Nevill's honesty and integrity. Speaker Boyle's party then campaigned strongly against Nevill, whose supporters viewed Boyle's party as intent on wounding the primate. Waite feared that if Boyle's party were not curtailed, other crown officers would be subjects of attack. Dorset said he would use his powers to resist strong measures being voted against Nevill. Boyle and the prime serjeant, Anthony Malone (qv), then pressed for resolutions against Nevill's inefficiency, his agents’ frauds, and favours to contractors. Boyle demanded that Nevill make good the losses at his own expense. The government saw Nevill as an easy prey available to deflect a more serious challenge to it. The Boyle party anticipated support as the government's difficulties mounted. The chief secretary, George Sackville (qv), admitted Nevill would have to be replaced.
The issue came to a head on 16 November 1753 when the speaker's friends moved against Nevill. The house debated the constitutionality of a treasury bill which Stone's old enemy Thomas Carter (qv), master of the rolls, had introduced without the king's previous consent. After a heated and lengthy debate, attended by 239 MPs, the government carried the day by three votes. The earl of Kildare and Boyle next demanded Nevill's expulsion. Sackville opposed this, on condition that Nevill make good any losses discovered in the parliamentary inquiry. Despite an offer of recompense, Jones Nevill was expelled from the Irish house of commons by 123 votes to 116 on 23 November 1753. When surveying his position, Nevill could reflect that his resignation had been engineered by ‘designing men’. His offer to commit his wealth as security against unsatisfactory construction work tended to persuade his opponents and the government party that he had not helped himself. Jones Nevill's difficulties were the subject of two anonymous satirical pamphlets, Court and no country: the groans of the barracks, or The history of Sir Arthur Vautrype (1753) and Groans of Ireland (1754?), in the Gilbert Collection (Newenham) series. ‘Vautrype’ was a character representing Nevill.
Nevill continued to work diligently for the Wexford interest. In 1756–7 there was a shortage of potatoes and corn in Ireland. Ships in Wexford port were attacked as locals tried to seize a cargo of corn. John Tottenham, mayor of Wexford, warned Nevill of the corn riots and urged him to seek government help and to deliver a command of soldiers to Wexford. Nevill obliged. He was elected MP for Wexford town (1761–71) and appointed high sheriff of Kildare (1762). Towards the end of his political career the 1753 affair dogged him. In September 1770 the lord lieutenant, Lord Townshend (qv), was censured in the press for offering a place to Jones Nevill seventeen years earlier (Freeman's Journal, 29 Sept.–2 Oct. 1770, p. 54), though this was denied (ibid., 4–6 October 1770, p. 62). Nevill's plan at this time to build a market house in Wexford – if he were allowed to stand unopposed for the mayoralty – also met with opposition by some members of the corporation. Allegations were hurled in the Freeman that he had refused some members the freedom of the corporation while putting non-residents in their place, despite the Newtown act (1748) relaxing the rules of residence and representation. This too was rebutted by Nevill's supporters. The correspondence continued over the winter and spring and it was sarcastically suggested (Freeman's Journal, 2–5 Mar. 1771, p. 318) that Nevill, with Gervase Parker Bushe (qv) and John Bourk, be appointed inspectors and correctors general. The entire body of correspondence was carried in the Freeman anonymously. By June 1771 he was appointed commissioner of revenue, and then elected mayor of Waterford, his last public office. The crisis had passed.
Nevill was a cultivated man, who acted as a patron to the artist Jacob Ennis (qv). He had two finely decorated houses in Dublin, one in Rutland Square, which included fine Italianate ceilings copied from the Pallazo Pitti, and another in St Stephen's Green. He was also a member of the Dublin Society. He married (November 1742) Elinor, daughter of Rear-admiral Christopher Parker; they had three sons. He died 24 September 1771.
His eldest son, Richard Nevill (1745–1822), was educated at Kilkenny college and graduated BA (1763) and MA (1768) from TCD. He was a Volunteer, and a delegate to the Volunteer National Convention for Co. Kildare; he was later captain of the Naas city militia (1796) and the Naas cavalry (1798). Succeeding his father in the partnership of Finlay's bank in 1767, he was also mayor of Wexford (1768, 1777, and 1781), high sheriff of Co. Kildare (1773–4), and commissioner of accounts (1790–99). He was MP for Wexford town in both the Irish (1771–1800) and UK parliaments (1802–19), generally supporting the government. Opposed to the act of union in 1798–9, he changed his mind, and voted for it in 1800. Soon afterwards he was appointed a teller and cashier of the exchequer (1801–06, 1807–22), causing suspicion amongst his opponents. In the united parliament he was an opponent of catholic relief, before his retirement in 1819 owing to ill health. Married in 1772 to Bridget Bowerman of Coolyne, Co. Cork, he had four daughters. Richard Nevill died in January 1822.