Jane Franklin collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of the journals, correspondence and papers of Jane, Lady Franklin.

These journals include her extensive travels, her time in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) when her husband Sir John was lieutenant governor, the journals continue to cover the period after 1845 when Sir John and the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1845-1848 disappeared in the Arctic.

The correspondence relates primarily to the many search expeditions undertaken but does include some general correspondence while the papers comprise of school records, lists of books read, notes on Sir John and other papers relating to the search for the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1845-1848.

Administrative / Biographical History

Jane Franklin (nee Griffin) was born in 1792 in London, daughter of John Griffin, a wealthy silk weaver, and Mary Guillemard. She became a close friend of the poet, Eleanor Anne Porden, who married the Arctic explorer, John Franklin, and died shortly after Franklin had departed on the British Naval Exploring Expedition [second Arctic Land expedition], 1825-1827. Renewing his acquaintance with the Griffin family on his return to Britain, Franklin married Jane on 5 November 1828. He was knighted the following year.

Between 1830 and 1834, Jane travelled in Europe, Syria and North Africa while her husband was stationed in the Mediterranean. In 1836, she accompanied Franklin to Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania] after he had accepted the post of lieutenant governor. During his tenure, she took a keen interest in social reform, particularly in improving the welfare of female convicts, and she continued her travels, touring both Australia and New Zealand.

Following their return to Britain in 1844, Franklin was appointed by the Admiralty to lead the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1845-1848. Sailing from London in HMS Terror and HMS Erebus in May 1845, the expedition was last seen heading for Lancaster Sound by two whalers in northern Baffin Bay in late July 1845. After that, the expedition disappeared and Franklin was never seen again.

Between 1847 and 1859, Lady Franklin took a leading part in organizing the searches for the missing expedition, during the course of which the main facts regarding the route taken and final fate of the expedition were established. The two vessels had become beset north of King William Island, where they had spent two winters between September 1846 and April 1848. Franklin died on 11 June 1847 and the command had devolved on Francis Crozier. Abandoning the two vessels on 22 April 1848, the 105 survivors led by Crozier set out toward Back River. All perished during the journey.

In 1860, Lady Franklin became the first woman to receive the founder's medal of the Royal Geographical Society for her efforts in organizing the search expeditions. She continued to travel extensively, accompanied by her niece by marriage, Sophia Cracroft, visiting Alaska, the United States, Hawaii, Canada, South America, China, Japan, India and Europe. She died on 18 July 1875 in London.

Published work The life, diaries and correspondence of Lady Jane Franklin, 1792-1875, edited by Willingham Franklin Rawnsley, Erskine Macdonald London (1923) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Franklin, Jane]


The collection is split into three sub-fonds comprising of Journals, correspondence and papers respectively

Conditions Governing Access

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills, San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and 'Griffin, Jane (Lady Franklin)' by Alan Cooke in Dictionary of Canadian Biography volume 10 edited by Marc La Terreur, University of Toronto Press Toronto (1972) SPRI Library Shelf 92(08)[pub.1966-] and Dictionary of National Biography volume 20, Smith, Elder & Co. London (1889) and Portrait of Jane a life of Lady Franklin by Frances J Woodward, Hodder and Stoughton London (1951) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Franklin, Lady J.]

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible

Related Material

Material by Jane, Lady Franklin can be found amongst the Back and the Richardson Voss collections held at the Institute

  • MS 395/40;D FRANKLIN JANE, LADY (nee Griffin) Letter to George Back, 1 January 1849 [Discusses the Franklin search] holograph
  • MS 1503/14/11 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [News of birth of little girl (Josephine Fanny) Public dinner for Sir John at Horncastle, Tom Booth's christening day, discussion of rocks, asks for specimen of rocks from Geographic Society] Bedford Place 11 June 1836
  • MS 1503/28/10 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to Josephine Richardson [Sending little glove made by aboriginal native female of Hindus Island Account of native girl] 6 December 1844
  • MS 1503/30/23 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Shell lent to British Museum not wanted by Mr Gray Ship with Sir John Franklin sailed yesterday] Blackheath Road 20 May 1845
  • MS 1503/58/25 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Regarding Richardson's letter to The Times] 13 Park Place St James 23 November 1859
  • MS 1503/33/1 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Congratulating him on knighthood Has received many letters from Van Diemen's Land] Madeira 23 February 1846
  • MS 1503/41/14 FRANKLIN JANE letter to John Richardson [Mention of Hepburn] 21 Bedford Row 11 December 1850
  • MS 1503/44/17 FRANKLIN JANE Bequest to John Richardson of 500 to compensate for policy forfeited by embarking on the overland expedition 20 November 1851
  • MS 1503/46/22 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Reference to disputes about Sir John Franklin's will] 12 November 1853
  • MS 1503/49/22 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Thanking him for memoirs Comments on a gift from Tasmania] 162 Albany Street 20 &21 December 1855
  • MS 1503/50/19 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Regarding his letter to The Times] 60 Pall Mall 27 June 1855
  • MS 1503/50/41 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Requests for article] 162 Albany Street 26 November 1855
  • MS 1503/50/51 FRANKLIN Jane Letter to John Richardson [Notes on the article] 7 December 1855
  • MS 1503/50/52 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Change of name from Van Diemen's Land to Tasmania] 162 Albany Street 11 December 1855
  • MS 1503/50/55 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to John Richardson [Regarding Arctic expeditions] 62 Albany Street 29 December 1855
  • MS 1503/74/5 FRANKLIN JANE Letter to Mary Richardson [On receipt of Life] Upper Gore Lodge Kensington Gore W 18 May 1868

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, which includes images of Jane, Lady Franklin and her husband Sir John. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.