DENISON, John (?1758-1820), of Ossington Hall, nr. Newark, Notts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1796 - 1802
1802 - 1806
1807 - 1812

Family and Education

b.?1758, 2nd s. of John Wilkinson, Blackwell Hall factor of Potterton, nr. Leeds, Yorks. by Anne, da. of John Denison of Woodhouse, m. (1) 5 Mar. 1787, Maria Charlotte (d. 31 July 1794), da. of Isaac Webb Horlock of Ashwick, Som., 2s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) Dec. 1796, Charlotte, da. of Samuel Estwick I*, 9s. 3da. suc. his mat. uncle Robert Denison of Ossington to estates in Durham, Lincs., Notts. and Yorks. and took name of Denison 16 Apr. 1785.

Offices Held

Capt. Notts. vol. cav. 1794, Ossington vols. 1803.


Denison owed his name and wealth to a merchant uncle of Leeds, whose woollen business he carried on there and in London. After coming into this inheritance he was a force to be reckoned with in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. On 7 Oct. 1788 Earl Fitzwilliam was informed:

Mr D. is not settled in his politics and enters very lukewarm into them. He does not like party, thinks Wilberforce a very unfit Member, with not more liking for Duncombe. ... he is unacquainted yet with the politics of Notts., consequently has taken no part.1

In 1791, evading a clause in his uncle’s will, he gave up business and settled at Ossington as a country gentleman.2 He invested in East India Company stock, but had no vote for the directorate.

Denison entered Parliament as a guest of Viscount Bolingbroke in 1796. He opposed Pitt’s administration on only two issues: the land tax redemption bill, which he assailed by speech and vote in May 1798, and the sending of the English militia to Ireland to suppress rebellion, 19 June 1798. No further speech of his is known. When Addington succeeded Pitt he was in the minorities against the Irish master of the rolls bill, 19 Mar. 1801, for Grey’s motion, 25 Mar., and for Tierney’s motion, 22 Apr.; but the advent of peace conciliated him and in 1802 he offered himself at Colchester, where a long purse was needed. He stated in his address: ‘In giving my support to the present administration ... I shall not lose sight of those independent principles which have hitherto actuated my public conduct’.3

Denison did not further oppose Addington’s ministry until 15 Mar. 1804, when he voted for Pitt’s naval motion. He also voted for his defence motion of 25 Apr. which brought down Addington, and was listed a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry in September 1804 and in July 1805, despite his votes with the majorities against Melville on 8 Apr. and 12 June. He opposed the Grenville ministry’s repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. They, in turn, would not support him at Colchester. On 25 Oct. 1806 he informed Henry Lascelles:

I have given up Colchester, notwithstanding I could have placed myself at the head of the poll, but who was to pay the piper?—and with my views in Parliament it is rather too much to expect one to sacrifice thousands for the honour of a seat on the green benches.4

The same day he wrote to Lord Grenville:5

I have given up Colchester, and had I known at the time your lordship favoured me with an audience that a dissolution was at hand, I should then have expressed my intentions of doing so. In abandoning Colchester, I need not certainly have retired from Parliament. Your lordship was pleased to intimate as much; another offer of a seat has since been made me—but in relinquishing what was certainly the best interest in that borough (notwithstanding every representation that may be made to your lordship) I wished my character to stand above reproach. My motive for intruding upon your lordship at all is to assure you that I do not feel in the least hurt at the course your lordship thought it right to take with regard to me, for permit me to say, I shall continue to hope that your lordship may long remain at the helm.

As soon as Grenville was no longer at the helm, Denison re-entered Parliament as a guest of the Luttrells for Minehead, but he was inconspicuous in his last Parliament. The Whigs listed him ‘doubtful’ from their viewpoint in 1810 and his only known votes were with government, against the release of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr. 1810, against parliamentary reform, 21 May, and on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. Denison, who retired in 1812, was father-in-law of the future Speaker, Charles Manners Sutton* and father of another, the future Viscount Ossington. Indeed, most of his sons were ‘eminent in the service of church and state’.6 He died 6 May 1820, aged 62.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F34/131.
  • 2. R. G. Wilson, Gentlemen Merchants, 233.
  • 3. The Times, 21 June 1802.
  • 4. Harewood mss.
  • 5. Fortescue mss.
  • 6. Essex Review, viii. 235.