Manuscripts and Special Collections

Biography of Edward Denison, Bishop of Salisbury (1801-1854), and his family

Edward was the second surviving son of John Denison (c.1759-1820), who as John Wilkinson had inherited the Ossington estate in Nottinghamshire.

He was part of a close-knit and distinguished family of nine sons and daughters, plus two daughters from his father's previous marriage. His siblings included John Evelyn Denison (1800-1873), later Viscount Ossington, Sir William T. Denison (1804-1871), colonial governor, and George A. Denison (1805-1896), archdeacon of Taunton.

He was educated at Eton College and Oriel College, Oxford, graduating First Class in Classics. He was elected as a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, in 1826, and became M.A. in 1827.

In the same year he was ordained as a priest. He served as curate of Wolvercote near Oxford, and Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, and then returned to Oxford as vicar of St Peter-in-the-East. Denison was appointed as a prebendary of Southwell in 1834, and in 1836 was nominated as Bishop of Salisbury. He was installed in April 1837.


Bishop Denison was a high-church reformer, who encouraged the establishment of church and Sunday schools and friendly societies. He was a philanthropist who supported many charitable causes. He was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.  


Bishop Denison married 1stly in 1837 Louisa Maria Seymer (d 1841), and had:

  • Edward Denison (1840-1870), philanthropist, and M.P. for Newark 1868-70
  • Louisa Evelyn Denison (1841-1919)

He married 2ndly in 1845 the Hon. Clementina Baillie-Hamilton (d 1894), Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria 1842-45, and daughter of Charles Baillie-Hamilton, Archdeacon of Cleveland. They had no children.


Edward Denison

Edward Denison (1840-1870) was born in Salisbury, and educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford, studying law and history. He contracted a lung disease while at university and suffered poor health from then on.

He entered Lincoln's Inn in 1862 and was called to the Bar in 1868. In 1867 he began working as an almoner for the Society for the Relief of Distress in Stepney, and moved to Philpot Street in the East End of London in order to study social conditions there. He built and endowed a school on the Mile End Road during this period.

He went to Paris and Edinburgh in 1868 to undertake research into the Poor Law systems. In 1869 he was an early member of the Society for Organising Charitable Relief and Repressing Mendicity (later the Charity Organization Society).

In November 1868 he successfully fought a parliamentary election and was returned as Liberal M.P. for Newark, a constituency chosen because his uncle John Evelyn Denison, Speaker of the House of Commons (whose heir Edward was), lived at nearby Ossington.

He fell ill the following year and was encouraged to take a long sea voyage as a cure. The proposal also served to separate Denison from Mary Lyttelton, as his uncle would not consent to their proposed marriage. Interested in emigration and colonization to support the British Empire, he embarked on a journey to Melbourne, Australia, in October 1869. He died soon after disembarking on 26 January 1870.  


Louisa Denison

Bishop Denison's daughter Louisa Denison (1841-1919) never married. She wrote the preface to the published version of her uncle John E. Denison's political diaries, Notes from my Journal when Speaker of the House of Commons, published in 1899, and she edited the letters of her uncle George A. Denison, Archdeacon of Taunton, under the title of Fifty Years at East Brent, published in 1902.

In the early 20th century she was a member of the South African Colonisation Society (S.A.C.S.) and in 1903 she travelled to Cape Colony to investigate opportunities for women wishing to work there.

Archive Collections

Three collections held in Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham relate particularly to the family of Edward Denison:

  • (Os) Papers of John Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington: Includes correspondence between J. Evelyn Denison and Bishop Denison, 1824-48 (Os C 33-43 and Os C 401-412); correspondence between Bishop Denison and 2nd Viscount Melbourne, 1835-37 (Os C 161-169); correspondence between J. Evelyn Denison and Edward Denison junior, 1868-69 (Os C 715-947, not a continuous sequence); and papers of Louisa Denison, 1891-1907 (Os C 1577-1815)
  • (De Wm) Papers of Sir William T. Denison and his family: Includes accounts of the death of Bishop Denison in 1854 (De Wm F3-4); letters mostly to Clementina Denison, 1836-1870 (De Wm C 2-36); and letters mostly to Louisa Denison, 1836-1910 (De Wm C 37-55)
  • (DL) Papers of Lee and Pemberton, Solicitors: Legal papers, accounts and correspondence concerning the trust arrangements arising from the death of Viscount Ossington, benefiting the family of Edward Denison

Other correspondence of Edward Denison, Bishop of Salisbury, is held in a number of different archive offices and libraries:

Published Sources

  • W.M. Jacob, 'Denison, Edward (1801-1854)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [available online to subscribers,]
  • Robert Harrison, 'Denison, Edward (1840-1870)', rev. H.C.G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [available online to subscribers,]
  • Edward Denison, A Brief Record, being Letters and Other Writings of the Late Edward Denison, M.P. for Newark (privately printed, 1871). 2nd edn, edited by Sir B. Leighton and published as Letters and Other Writings of the Late Edward Denison, M.P. for Newark (London: Bentley, 1872). [2nd edn, East Midlands Collection Not 307.V38 DEN]
  • Catherine Mary Phillimore, In Memoriam, Louisa Evelyn Denison, etc. (London: John Murray, 1919)


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
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