Legal papers relating to the Denison family and their estates in Meanwood and Hawcaster Rigg, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, Yorkshire; 1752-1809

Scope and Content

The collection records through copy wills, leases, abstracts of title, and other documents the acquisition of Meanwood Hall and the surrounding land; also to the sale of the property by Robert Denison to Christopher Beckett in 1824 which is referred to in abstract of title MS 878/29.

There is also a fragment of the cover of the 'Borough of Leeds Improvement Act and Burial Act, Edwin Eddison' (MS 878/30) of no apparent connection with the rest of the collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Denison (1720-1796) was a merchant in Leeds, son of Thomas Denison (1687-1756) and Mary Elisabeth Sawer (1698-1742). Thomas Denison (1687-1756) was in turn the son of Thomas Denison, merchant adventurer (1655-1708) and his wife Deborah. He was descended from George Denison (1626-) and Elizabeth Kilburne, who was the son of George Denison and Margaret. Thomas Denison's (1720-1796) son Robert Denison married Frances Brooke, daughter of Sir Richard Brooke of Norton, 4th baronet and owned lands in various locations in the north east, in particular at Kilnwick Percy. The family were presumably related to the Denison family, later of Ossington who also originated from Leeds, although this connection is currently unproven.

In 1762 Thomas Denison (1720-1796) of Leeds, purchased a dwelling house and thirteen acres at Meanwood, alias Hawcaster Rigg in Chapel Allerton, Leeds and built Meanwood Hall. He died in France leaving his estate to his wife, Elizabeth, for life and then to his son Robert. Elizabeth vacated the Hall shortly after her husband’s death when it was described in an advertisement in the Leeds Intelligencer as containing ‘four spacious rooms on the ground floor, with very good bedrooms over, kitchen, pantries, servants’ hall, coach house, stabling for ten good horses and about twenty acres of land’. For some years the estate was let – the various tenants including Thomas Turton, the Countess of Aberdeen, Sir John Beckett (who owned two adjacent cottages) and Joseph Lees. The son of John Beckett, Christopher, bought the property from Robert Denison in 1824.

There were a few small cottages close to Meanwood Hall which were owned by the Overseers of the Poor of Chapel Allerton. It appears that Robert Denison did not like these dwellings near to his mansion so they were purchased and demolished.

In 1919 Leeds Corporation rented Meanwood Park to provide a 'colony for the mentally handicapped', which was opened on 3 Jun. 1920. In 1921 the Corporation bought Meanwood Park estate and surrounding land totalling in all one hundred and seventy eight acres, from Sir Hickman Beckett Bacon of Thonock, Gainsborough. Originally 87 patients were accommodated in the Hall, but during the following twenty years villas were built in the grounds and by 1941, beds were provided for 841 patients. The Hall by then referred to as ‘The Mansion’ was used for other hospital purposes.


The documents have been arranged in chronological order.

Access Information

Accessible to all 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, 9 pp

Online: Catalogue available through the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


Conditions Governing Use

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 writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Custodial History

The collection was acquired in August 2010.

Related Material

Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham, Papers of the Denison Family of Ossington (refs De, DL, Os).