Diaries and letters of William Parsons, solicitor of Nottingham, and his son Frederick,solicitor of Nottingham and farmer of Coachford, Ireland, 1830-1886

Scope and Content

The diaries of William Parsons contain a wealth of information that evokes the life of a lawyerand gentleman in Nottingham in Victorian times. Parsons recorded his day to day activities andobservations including seasonal events (such as Christmas, Valentine's Day and Guy Fawkes Night),leisure pursuits (such as social engagements, drinking, hunting and reading), professionalactivities (such as details of legal cases and visits to clients), events in his family life, andgeneral comments on life in Victorian Nottingham (such as diet, transport, weather and class).

The collection comprises three series:

Eight diaries of William Parsons, January 1830-May 1871 (MS 489/1-8). The diaries do not containentries for every day and Parsons often grew tired of keeping his daily account by the end of March.Entries after March are less regular, reserved for significant events such as the death of hissister or his holiday in Wales, or entries providing annual summaries.

Letter book containing the text of letters sent by William Parsons between 1 January 1880 and 18October 1881 and by his son, Frederick Parsons between 15 November 1881 and 22 January 1886 (MS489/9). The letter book contains correspondence, both personal and official, providing a directinsight into their professional and personal lives.

Combined memoranda and address book of Frederick Parsons, June 1886-November 1808 (MS 489/10).The book contains addresses for people and firms as far away as India and New Zealand. It alsoincludes notes on seeds and roses that he purchased in a given year, remedies for ailments, farmaccounts, and notes on tasks he was involved in as a solicitor. This volume is considerably lesscomprehensive than the diaries of his father.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Parsons moved to Nottingham in the mid 1790s and is recorded as a solicitor in St JamesStreet, Nottingham in a trade directory for the year 1818. He had at least three sons, Samuel,William, and Thomas and a daughter, Eleanor. The family was relatively wealthy and owned land,property and shares. Samuel and William followed their father into the legal profession and the firmof Parsons and Sons was established, appearing in trade directories as such in 1831 in St JamesStreet. By 1844, William had his own office in Park Row and by 1853, he was operating fromWheelergate and living in College Street.

William tried unsuccessfully to become a junior councillor for the Corporation of Nottingham in1834 in a bid to push through land enclosure that would have benefited his family, He was finallyelected in November 1835 as one of the councillors for Park Ward.

In 1863, the appearance of W. Parsons and Son, solicitors in trade directories indicates thatWilliam's son, Frederick William, was of an age to enter the profession. William was then living inWhitemoor, a house in Nottingham. By 1869, William had moved to Clifton Villas, Beeston,Nottinghamshire while Frederick remained living in Whitemoor. By this time, William was director ofthe Law Union Fire and Life Assurance Company while Parsons and Son were described as 'solicitors,and clerks to Nottingham Church Cemetery Co. of 22 Wheelergate'. This remained the case untilWilliam's death in November 1881 when Frederick took over the business.

In the late 1880s, Frederick who was a Justice of the Peace, moved to Riversdale, Coachford,County Cork, Ireland to become a farmer. He died in 1915 and was buried in a church cemetery inNottingham.


The collection has been divided into three series which bring like document types and provenancetogether. Within these series, items have been sorted chronologically.

Access Information

ACCESS: Accessible to all registered readers forresearch use only.

REPROGRAPHIC: Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposesonly, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Conditions Governing Use

COPYRIGHT: Publication of any part of this collection is not permitted without the authorisationof the Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email mss-library@nottingham.ac.uk). The Department willtry to assist in identifying copyright owners but this is often difficult and the responsibility forcopyright clearance before publication ultimately rests with the person wishing to publish.


Custodial History

The diaries of William Parsons were acquired by The University of Nottingham in 1943 and thememoranda and address book of Frederick Parsons was given to The University's Department ofManuscripts and Special Collections in July 1988.