Papers of Sir William T. Denison (1804-1871), Colonial Governor in Australia and India, and his family

Scope and Content

The bulk of the correspondence is dated 1855-1858 and was sent by Sir William T. Denison, his wife Caroline Lucy, and many of their younger children to the two eldest sons, William Evelyn and Frank George, who were studying in England. It concerns the minutiae of everyday life of the family of Sir William T. Denison during his Governorships of the colonies of Van Diemen's Land, New South Wales and Madras. There is extensive correspondence with other family members in England, giving details of the Denisons' domestic and social lives. The influence of religious belief on the upbringing and education of the Denison children is evident.

There is also some correspondence of Sir William T. Denison with political figures such as Sir Charles Wood. The correspondence deals in part with matters of colonial government and administration. This includes information and opinions on such subjects as road building, transportation of convicts, labour supply, education and public works.

Other groups of correspondence include letters mostly to Clementina Denison, née Baillie-Hamilton, second wife of W.T. Denison's elder brother Edward Denison, Bishop of Salisbury, 1836-1870 (De Wm C 2 - De Wm C 36); letters mostly to Miss Louisa E. Denison, daughter of Edward Denison and his first wife Louisa Seymer, 1836-1910 (De Wm C 37-55); and two letters to Lady Elinor Denison, wife of W.E. Denison, 1905-1937 (De Wm C 84-85).

The collection also contains notices of official appointments of members of the Denison family, items concerned with the family estate including household inventories, and items relating to the genealogy of the family. There are close links between elements of this collection and the Denison of Ossington estate archive (De).

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir William T. Denison, brother of John Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington, was educated at Eton College, and by a private tutor, the Rev. C. Drury. He entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1819. An engineer, he worked for the Ordnance Survey in the early 1820s, before being commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1826. He was involved in the construction of the Rideau Canal in Canada between 1827 and 1831. He returned to England in 1831, and in 1837 took charge of the works at Woolwich dockyard. He was knighted in 1846 and in the same year was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania], then a penal colony. In 1854 he was promoted to Governor of New South Wales, Australia, where he consolidated the colonial system of public works and education. He became Governor of Madras, India, in 1861. He retired in 1866 and returned to England.


The letters are arranged by correspondent, predominantly in chronological sequence. There are sections at the end to cover estate papers, family papers, official papers, plus a miscellaneous section.

Access Information

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, 86 pp

At the National Register of Archives, London:

Old version of typescript catalogue, 25 pp. Please note that the current online catalogue (and the typescript version at King's Meadow Campus) has been considerably enhanced and upgraded with details of the content of each item, and should be used in preference to the NRA catalogue.

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

Custodial History

The papers first came to the University of Nottingham Library in 1980 for microfilming, with the originals returning to private hands. In 1992 the archive itself was transferred to the University, where the associated papers of the Denison family and Viscount Ossington were already held.

Related Material

Papers of John Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington (reference: Os)

The estate papers of the Denison Family of Ossington (reference: De)

Papers of Lee and Pemberton, Solicitors, arising from the estate of John Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington (reference: DL)