Document ReferenceMS 489
TitleDiaries and letters of William Parsons (fl 1830-1881), solicitor of Nottingham, and his son Frederick (fl 1863-1915), solicitor of Nottingham and farmer of Coachford, Ireland, 1830-1886
Extent10 volumes
AbstractThe collection comprises eight diaries written by William Parsons. There is also a letter book and a memoranda and address book that belonged to William Parsons and his son Frederick. The collection provides details about the life of a solicitor and gentleman in Nottinghamshire in Victorian times and depicts legal cases, politics, leisure and family life.

Born into a relatively wealthy family, William Parsons joined his father and younger brother Samuel as a solicitor the family firm of Parsons and Sons based in St James Street, Nottingham. Parsons’ diaries record his day to day activities although he sometimes grew tired of keeping a regular account part way through the year.

He wrote about his social engagements, often followed by a resolution to live a more sober and serious life, and his professional activities, and makes general comments on life in Victorian Nottingham from the perspective of a well-off and politically engaged young gentleman.

William Parsons married Susan (Susannah) in 1834, and had their eldest child, Frederick, in 1836. Frederick followed his father into the legal profession and later became a farmer.
Access ConditionsAccessible to all readers.
Admin HistorySamuel Parsons moved to Nottingham in the mid 1790s and is recorded as a solicitor in St James Street, Nottingham in a trade directory for the year 1818. He had at least three sons, Samuel, William (born c.1809), and Thomas and a daughter, Eleanor. The family was relatively wealthy and owned land, property and shares. Samuel and William followed their father into the legal profession and the firm of Parsons and Sons was established, appearing in trade directories as such in 1831 in St James Street. By 1844, William had his own office in Park Row and by 1853, he was operating from Wheelergate and living in College Street.

William tried unsuccessfully to become a junior councillor for the Corporation of Nottingham in 1834 in a bid to push through land enclosure that would have benefited his family. He was finally elected in November 1835 as one of the councillors for Park Ward. He served as Mayor of Nottingham from 1863–1864.

In 1863, the appearance of W. Parsons and Son, solicitors in trade directories indicates that William's son, Frederick William (b.1836, son of him and wife Susannah, known as Susan), was of an age to enter the profession. William was then living in Whitemoor, a house in Nottingham. By 1869, William had moved to Clifton Villas, Beeston, Nottinghamshire while Frederick remained living in Whitemoor. By this time, William was director of the Law Union Fire and Life Assurance Company while Parsons and Son were described as 'solicitors, and clerks to Nottingham Church Cemetery Co. of 22 Wheelergate'. This remained the case until William's death in November 1881 when Frederick took over the business.

In the late 1880s, Frederick, who was a Justice of the Peace, moved to Riversdale, Coachford, County Cork, Ireland to become a farmer. He died in 1915 and was buried in a church cemetery in Nottingham.
Custodial HistoryThe diaries of William Parsons were acquired by The University of Nottingham in 1943 and the memoranda and address book of Frederick Parsons was given to The University's Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections in July 1988.
DescriptionThe diaries of William Parsons contain a wealth of information that evokes the life of a lawyer and gentleman in Nottingham in Victorian times. Parsons recorded his day to day activities and observations including seasonal events (such as Christmas, Valentine's Day and Guy Fawkes Night), leisure pursuits (such as social engagements, drinking, hunting and reading), professional activities (such as details of legal cases and visits to clients), events in his family life, and general comments on life in Victorian Nottingham (such as diet, transport, weather and class).

The collection comprises three series:

Eight diaries of William Parsons, January 1830-May 1871 (MS 489/1-8). The diaries do not contain entries for every day and Parsons often grew tired of keeping his daily account by the end of March. Entries after March are less regular, reserved for significant events such as the death of his sister or his holiday in Wales, or entries providing annual summaries.

Letter book containing the text of letters sent by William Parsons between 1 January 1880 and 18 October 1881 and by his son, Frederick Parsons between 15 November 1881 and 22 January 1886 (MS 489/9). The letter book contains correspondence, both personal and official, providing a direct insight into their professional and personal lives.

Combined memoranda and address book of Frederick Parsons, June 1886-November 1888 (MS 489/10). The book contains addresses for people and firms as far away as India and New Zealand. It also includes notes on seeds and roses that he purchased in a given year, remedies for ailments, farm accounts, and notes on tasks he was involved in as a solicitor. This volume is considerably less comprehensive than the diaries of his father.
MgtGroupPersonal papers
ArrangementThe collection has been divided into three series which bring like document types and provenance together. Within these series, items have been sorted chronologically.
TermLawyers - England - 19th century - Diaries
Diaries - England - Nottinghamshire - 19th century
FindingAidsThis description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright on this finding aid belongs to The University of Nottingham.
ReprodnNoteReprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

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CodePersonNameDates of existence
NA773Parsons; William (fl 1830-1881); solicitorfl 1830-1881
NA774Parsons; Frederick (fl 1863-1915); solicitor and farmerfl 1863-1915
NA773Parsons; William (fl 1830-1881); solicitorfl 1830-1881
NA774Parsons; Frederick (fl 1863-1915); solicitor and farmerfl 1863-1915
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