James was the second surviving son of Charles Jolley. He was born in Higham Ferrers and attended the local grammar school. By the age of 19 he was a book-keeping clerk at a shoe factory, and following that became a manager of a branch of Johnson, Clarke and Parker Ltd in Kettering.
On 11 April 1887 he married Lilian Emma Matthews who had been born in Hull, Yorkshire. The event was warmly celebrated. His father invited the in-door employees of Parker and Co, (the firm for who he worked as a manager in Higham Ferrers) to a 'capital dinner' at The Green Dragon on the evening of the wedding. Numerous toasts were drunk in honour of the happy couple.
James and Lillian had two children, Charles and Lily who were possibly born in 1889 and 1894 respectively. James was doing well. By the age of 29 he had set up his own firm of James Jolley and Co. based in Kettering and he had a house in Broadway, Kettering.
Like his brothers he was very musical. He played the organ and was Master of the Choral Society for St Mary’s Church.
His political life
James' father, Charles, was closely involved in the local politics of Higham Ferrers, and he encouraged James to participate as well.
James sought to put his name forward to stand in the Higham Ferrers municipal elections of 1887, but the Liberals objected to his nomination contesting which house James actually lived in and so which electoral roll he should be on. They stated that James had only lived in his Higham house for six months and so was ineligible. The barrister representing James stated that James may have only had one bedroom in the house in Higham, but he had the whole garden for over two years, and his name was on the rate book for them both. His nomination was allowed. He attended his first Council meeting on 26 April 1887, re-elected on 5 February November 1887, and was a regular attendee for the next few years.
But in 1891 there were more challenges to his political career. In October that year it was being mooted that his seat should be considered vacant under section 4 of the Municipal Act of 1882. At a special meeting of the Council a resolution was put forward to fix a fine for the resignation or non-acceptance of office by James, and so declare his seat vacant. The challenge caused the Mayor some problems, as the Mayor was James’ father. When asked to agree to the resolution the Mayor 'demurred', and said that James’ name should not be struck off the Burgess roll. However, the Town Clerk sent for the roll and found his name had already been struck off. The Mayor thought that his family 'had been badly used' but the fine of £25 (approx. = £2,000+) stood. A second meeting of the Council was planned to put a resolution forward to excuse the fine, but it was pointed out that this was unlikely to have the desired effect.
His early death
James was a highly respected local businessman. His health had not been robust for some years, and it may have been this that caused him to reduce his commitments to public life. He was confined to the house for two months before he died, but it was a shock when he passed away at the age of 34.
His funeral was in Higham, the Vicar and surpliced choir meeting the funeral cortège at the Churchyard. The coffin was polished oak with handsome brass furniture, and it bore the nameplate 'James Jolley, died January 23 aged 34 years'. The following Sunday a memorial service was held and the Vicar, Rev. J. Dun, conducted the service where he alluded to the many good qualities of the deceased.