Copies of the diaries of William Gould (1739-fl 1795), land agent of William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland

Scope and Content

The collection contains copies of the diaries of William Gould in microfilm format (MS 736/1-4) and in modern transcription and extract form (MS 736/5-8).

They provide a rare insight into the working life of an 18th-century land agent, responsible for many aspects of the administration of two substantial Mdlands estates. There is particular interest in the details provided about the lives and estates business of the Cavendish family (Dukes of Devonshire) and the Cavendish-Bentinck family (Dukes of Portland) at the end of the 18th century. In addition to their personal wealth and status, the two families wielded enormous local influence through their extensive landholding and their political interests. As their land agent, Gould had a close knowledge of their interests and activities.

The diaries also describe Gould in his domestic and social context, providing evidence of contemporary family life, local connections and social occupations.

The diaries complement the University's existing extensive holdings about the Cavendish-Bentinck Dukes of Portland, both within the main Portland (Welbeck) estate papers and in the Portland (London) collection, which includes correspondence of Gould.

The microfilms (MS 736/1-4) show that the four surviving diaries have vellum covers and contain the bookplate 'Ex Libris Geoffrey Briggs' [Geoffrey Gould Briggs (1914-1993), British lawyer and judge]. An earlier volume from April 1780 seems to have been lost. Gould wrote up the diary entries retrospectively from rough drafts.

There is a complete edited transcript of the diaries, 1783-1795, by M.J. Hanson on compact disc, including front matter, maps and indexes of individuals mentioned (2011) (MS 736/7).

The collection also contains various earlier typescript editions of the diaries by M.J. Hanson, as follows:

'Portland and Devonshire Agent: the Diary of William Gould, 1783-1795: Part One: 1783-1786' (2002) (MS 736/5/1)

'Portland and Devonshire Agent: the Diary of William Gould, 1783-1795: Part Two: 1787-1788 and Indexes to 1788' (2002) (MS 736/5/2)

'Portland and Devonshire Agent: the Diary of William Gould, 1783-1795: Part Three: 1789-1792 and 1795' (revised and amplified 2005) (MS 736/5/3)

'Portland and Devonshire Agent: the Diary of William Gould, 1783-1795: Part One: 1783-1789' (draft, June 2000) (MS 736/5/4)

'Portland and Devonshire Agent: the Diary of William Gould, 1783-1795: Part Three: January 1789-March 1792' (2004) (MS 736/5/5)

The collection also contains various digital versions of Hanson's earlier typescript editions:

3.5 inch floppy disc versions of Parts 1-2 of Hanson's typescript edition: 1783-1788 (2002), in MS Word for Mac format (MS 736/6/1-2)

CD containing PDF versions of Part 3 of Hanson's typescript edition: 1789-1792 and 1795 (2005), and of Part 4 which is not present in typescript: 1792, contains parts of 1793 and 1794, and all of 1795 (2005) (MS 736/6/3)

The collection also contains a typescript draft of 'Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Surnames, 1783-1792' by Michael Hanson (2004), an analysis of surnames encountered in the Gould diaries (MS 736/8).

Administrative / Biographical History

William Gould was born at Pilsbury, Derbyshire in 1739. His father was the tenant of a farm belonging to the Duke of Devonshire and William later succeeded to this tenancy. He became agent of the Duke of Portland's Welbeck estate in April 1780 and was directly responsible to John Heaton, auditor for William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck 3rd Duke of Portland and the agent to William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire. From 1784, Gould also undertook duties for the Duke of Devonshire. He remained the Duke of Portland's land agent until 1795.

William and Elizabeth Gould had three children. Joseph, the eldest, was agent to the 5th and 6th Dukes of Devonshire. His brother William became a hosier in Nottingham. A daughter, Mary, died in 1777.


No archival arrangement has been necessary.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all readers.

Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright in the description belongs to The University of Nottingham.

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 advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email

Reprographic copies are not permitted without special prior agreement.

Custodial History

The four original diaries, which are still in private hands, were microfilmed by the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections in September 2002, to enable access to their contents at the University and at neighbouring record offices. Draft extracts and supplementary research materials by M.J. Hanson were transferred at the same time. Further material was transferred in 2006 and 2011.

Related Material

Papers of the Dukes of Portland (Pl and Pw)


Thoroton Society Record Series, 44 (2006). Ducal Estate Management in Georgian Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire: The Diary of William Gould, 1783-1788, edited by Michael Hanson.