Wensley Family Archive

Scope and Content

Archive of the Wensley Family and the career of Frederick Porter Wensley (1865-1949), including: correspondence, notes, telegrams and ephemera between Wensley family members and friends mostly up until Wensley’s death, 1834-2008; two scrapbooks, largely of newspaper cuttings (and photographs), the first dealing with Wensley’s career up to the date of his retirement in 1929 and the second containly largely of newspaper articles written by FPW after his retirement up to his death in 1949, along with loose cuttings, 1898-1949; family and personal items, including three original plans from the Sidney Street Siege, Wensley family members’ diaries, notebooks and commonplace books, family books, including FPW’s autobiography, burial cards and personal and professional documents, 1890-1962; family and personal photographs, 1850-1922; other family items, including Wensley’s children School Prize books, books with family inscriptions or known provenance, Books related to policing and law, including Wensley’s autobiography, unpublished typescripts related to FPW’s biography, printed music and other items, 1889-2013.

Administrative / Biographical History

The archive comprises material pertaining to Frederick Porter Wensley (1865-1949) [FPW] and his family. Wesley rose from humble origins in Somerset (his father was a cobbler) to become arguably the greatest British detective of his age. His early career was pursued substantially in the East End of London and the family lived for much of this period at 98 Dempsey Street (just off the Commercial Road) in Stepney – moving in 1913 to a new suburban development in Palmers Green.

The archive tells the story of Wensley’s marriage to “Lollie” [Laura] Martin (1869-1943) and their three children Frederick Martin Wensley (1894-1916), “Edie” [Edith] Mercy Wensley - later Cory (1897-1974) and Harold William Wensley (1899-1918). That the collection has survived is largely due to Edie who after the death of her brothers in the ‘Great War’ took upon herself the task of keeping the memories of the family alive. Edie’s own story is then taken forward. The correspondence gives a remarkable insight into her social life, development, marriage to another detective “Bert” [Herbert] Cory (1893-1946) and the upbringing of FPW’s only grandchild Harold Frederick Wensley Cory (1927-1997).

The Wensley Family archive thus overlaps with the earlier part of the Cory (see above) Family Archive. The former relates to London whilst the latter relates to the family’s period of residence in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

David Robinson has written a book for the family covering the period 1890 to 1950. A copy was deposited with the Bishopsgate Institute on 5th January 2010. This book focuses on the family history itself – although there is reference to FPW’s professional career. A second version of the book is under preparation with the purpose of making good this omission and Bishopsgate Institute will receive updates.


The Wensley Family Archive is divided into the following five sections:

  • WENSLEY/1: Family Correspondence and Papers
  • WENSLEY/3: Newspaper Cuttings
  • WENSLEY/4: Family and Professional Items
  • WENSLEY/5: Photographs
  • WENSLEY/6: Other Family Material

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposited at Bishopsgate Library by David and Emma Robinson, 2 July 2010.

Other Finding Aids

Adlib catalogue and copy of handlist available in researcher's area.

Archivist's Note

Entry compiled by Grace Biggins.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying and digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.