The estate papers of the Denison Family of Ossington, Nottinghamshire, 1575-1946

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection is largely composed of deeds, conveyances and administrative papers connected with the purchase and running of the Denison estates. It includes accounts, rentals, correspondence, surveys, maps and plans, including architectural records, but the bulk of the collection consists of deeds and abstracts of title. A small number of manorial records, dating back to the 17th century, are present for Sutton-on-Trent and Ossington. Family settlements and wills extend the scope of the archive, providing personal information about earlier holders of the properties, and overlapping in interest with the separate personal collections of family members.

There is extensive coverage of the Nottinghamshire estates, centring on Sutton-on-Trent, Ossington, Laxton, Norwell, Normanton-on-Trent, Carlton-on-Trent and Kelstern. Records from Laxton, which has continued to be managed on the open-field system, have particular interest. Other small series of property records come from Coatham [in Long Newton], Grindon [in Aycliffe] and Little Chilton in County Durham, Kelstern in Lincolnshire, and Rimswell and Beswick in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The merchant origins of the Denison family of Leeds, Yorkshire are recorded in a number of records, including Wilkinson and Denison wills, accounts, and building and planning documents. Some of the papers concern railway, road and water transport developments.

The second accrual of papers (De 2) exclusively concerns architectural plans, 1775-1825. A number of these are copies of originals still in private hands. The majority of the plans are for the Ossington estate, but a few documents are present which appear to be unrelated to family properties, such as a copy of John Nash's plan to build a new street in London, 1811. The greater number of the Ossington plans are by William Lindley (c.1739-1818), who worked for the Denisons from the late 1780s until his death in 1818. His plans relate to the Hall itself, and to farm buildings and other domestic estate properties. The collection includes designs by John Carr (1723-1807) for a temple, church and mausoleum at Ossington, and copies of plans made for Ossington in 1786 by Sir John Soane (1753-1837).

The third accrual (De 3) is a single 17th century document, which provides a copy of an inspeximus grant of 1423 by Henry VI recognising the liberties of the order of St John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitallers) in England.

The fourth accrual (De 4) relates to the affairs of the Wilkinsons and Denisons in the late 18th century and early nineteenth century, consisting mainly of wills, correspondence and property deeds. It includes papers relating to Leeds, and to the Aire and Calder Canal. A single estate map for Ossington, 1787, is also present.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Ossington estate was purchased by William Denison, a wealthy Leeds merchant, from the Cartwright family in 1768. Its history can be traced back to the middle ages when it belonged to the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, from whom it passed to the Duke of Suffolk, Richard Andrews and then to Edmund Cartwright.

William Denison, followed by his brother Robert, made plans for improvements and alterations to Ossington Hall, particularly during the 1780s. It was subsequently inherited by their nephew John Wilkinson who changed his name to Denison and took over the running of the estate, continuing the improvements begun by his uncles. In addition to Ossington Hall, the Denison estates included lands in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Durham and Yorkshire, as well as businesses in Leeds.

Denison's heir was his eldest son, John Evelyn Denison, later Viscount Ossington, who held the estates from 1820 until his death in 1873.

Collection covers period 1575-1946, primarily 19th century.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all finding aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus:

Typescript Catalogue, 312 pp

At the National Register of Archives, London:

Typescript catalogues, 74 pp and 11 pp [please note that the catalogue at Nottingham, and the online version on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue, are more up to date]

On the World Wide Web:

Online catalogue accessible from the Manuscripts and Special Collections website.

Family and Estate Resource relating to the Denison family and their records, published on the Manuscripts and Special Collections website.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email mss-library@nottingham.ac.uk).

Custodial History

The archive of the Denison family estates was transferred to the University of Nottingham in 1947. Subsequent accruals were added in 1979, 1989 and 1992.

Legal and financial papers recording the work of the London solicitors Lee and Pemberton on behalf of the Denison family have been separately accessioned (reference DL).

Personal and family papers have been separately preserved and arranged under the names of two of the most distinguished family members, J. Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington (1800-1873), M.P. and Speaker of the House of Commons (reference Os), and his brother William Thomas Denison (1804-1871), colonial governor (reference De Wm).

Related Material

The University of Nottingham, Manuscripts and Special Collections: Papers of Lee and Pemberton, solicitors, concerning the Ossington estate of the Denison family (DL); Papers of Lady Charlotte Denison, Viscountess Ossington (Pw N); Papers of John Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington (1800-1873) (Os); Papers of Sir William T. Denison (1804-1871) (De Wm)