Catalogue description THE DANSON FAMILY ARCHIVE

This record is held by National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library

Details of D/D
Reference: D/D



D/D/I JOHN DANSON (1766-1847)


Barber and perfumer in Liverpool


1-3 Personal papers, including apprenticeship indenture, draft will and correspondence 1779 - 1847




Solicitor, of Liverpool, originally; d. in Dublin


1-8 Correspondence, family and legal papers 1760 - 1844




Journalist, farmer, barrister, marine insurance underwriter


1/1-104 Letters from John Towne Danson 1852 - 1898


2/1-115 Letters to John Towne Danson 1876 - 1897


3/1-3 Property (including agriculture) 1853 - 1897


4/1-3 Family and Personal Papers (including diaries) 1839 - 1898


5/1-5 Travel Journals and Papers 1848 - 1895


6/1-4 Accounts and Investments (including personal and household, receipts and insurance policies) 1840 - 1898


7/1-4 Journalism 1835 - 1850


8/1-3 Legal Papers (including Liverpool New Exchange and Mersey Docks & Harbour Board) 1822 - 1893


9/1-62 Marine Insurance (including Thames & Mersey Marine Insurance Company) 1842 - 1891


10/1-58 John Towne Danson's Published Works 1848 - 1901


11/1-21 Statistics 1770 - 1891


12/1-86 Economics 1820 - 1898


13/1-49 Antiquarian Papers (including Portland Vase, Hadrian's and Antonine's Walls, Defensive Line of Ostorius, Hard Knott Fort, etc.) 1322 - 1891


14/1-6 Studies and Artistic Interests (including sketching and photography) c.1817 - 1896


15/1-14 Membership of Organisations and Institutions (including Liverpool elections, local government and volunteers) 1830 - 1898


16/1 - 17 Miscellaneous Printed and Written Material (including local pamphlets, maps and prints) c.1823 - 1909


17/1 - 36 Newspapers (annotated by John Towne Danson) 1841 - 1897




Timber Merchant in Burma


1/1 - 9 Letters, accounts and miscellaneous papers, re life as a timber merchant in Burma; also Ruby mines and vessel Pioneer c.1861 - 1897




Copy Letter Books and Correspondence, re Association of Average Adjusters and Public Work, 1872-1926


1/1 - 12 Letters from Francis Chatillon Danson 1884 - 1911


2/1 - 44 Letters to Francis Chatillon Danson 1872 - 1926


3/1 - 2 Association of Average Adjusters Correspondence, etc. 1890 - 1897


4/1 - 3 Archaeology Correspondence, etc. 1892 - 1925


5/1 - 8 Chamber ofe Commerce Correspondence, etc. 1893 - 1910


6/1 Grant of Arms 1913


7/1 - 15 Miscellaneous (including letters) 1875 - 1926


8/1 - 67 Newspapers 1885 - 1916


D/D/VI EDITH DANSON (c.1870-1950)


Wife of Francis Chatillon Danson


1/1 - 9 Letters to Edith Danson 1896 - 1941


2/1 - 10 Letters to Edith Danson and Francis Chatillon Danson 1898 - 1915


3/1 - 10 Diaries 1923 - 1947


4/1 Newspaper Cuttings 1926




Younger Son of Francis Chatillon Danson


1/1 - 32 Diaries 1912 - 1974


2/1 - 3 Correspondence 1925 - 1972


3/1 - 16 Correspondence, re Major Interests and Financial Papers 1906 - 1975


4/1 - 5 Philately Correspondence 1930 - 1970


5/1 - 5 Receipts, Reports and Accounts 1899 - 1976




Papers, re Members of the Lockett Family (John Towne Danson's Relatives) and their emigration to Australia and Canada


1/1 - 2 Family 1760 - 1900


2/1 - 14 Property 1742 - 1896


3/1 - 3 Finances 1775 - 1912


4/1 - 16 Lockett v Jacques 1848 - 1885


5 Miscellaneous 1847 - 1879


D/D/IX PHOTOGRAPHS, ETC. (1820-1970)


(To Be Listed)


1 Photographic Prints


2 Negatives


3 Slides


4 Plates




1/1 - 29 Dry Close Diaries 1898 - 1971


2/1 - 3 Danson Family Accounts 1886 - 1955




1/1 - 43 Maps 1848 - 1915


2/1 - 11 Statistical Graphs 1595 - 1845


3/1 - 10 Plans 1862 - 1890


4 Sketches 1886


5 Miscellaneous 1660 - 1880





Date: 1760 - 1976
Held by: National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Danson family of Liverpool

Physical description: 13 Sub fonds
Access conditions:

This collection is held in a reserve store and is available by advance appointment only.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The collection was donated by the Executors of the Estate of the late Lieutenant Colonel J.R. Danson, in 1977.

Custodial history:

Acc. No.: MMM.1977.143

Administrative / biographical background:

This collection is a rare example of a complete middle-class archive. It begins in 1779 with the apprenticeship of John Danson to a Liverpool barber and peruke-maker. John became Liverpool's leading barber and perfumer. He charged 1/- for a haircut in 1823! His son, William Danson, became rather an unsuccessful lawyer. Grandson, John Towne Danson, with whom the bulk of the archive begins had four distinct careers - journalist under Dickens at the office of the Daily News, editor (briefly) of the Globe, farmer, barrister, marine insurance underwriter. He was born in 1817, and from about 1852 until his death in 1898, kept copies of all his letters. He kept original letters received, too, of course! He kept a diary, accounts, day books, all bills, took photographs and sketched. He was interested in every issue - philosophy, economics, statistics, politics and science. His first book was a joint effort, The Inventor's Manual, 1843. Other titles followed: The Wealth of Households, reprinted by Oxford University Press in 1886, Our Commerce in War, Our Next War and a heavy share in the compilation of Reverend John Owen's The Sceptics of Renaissance, along with a continuous stream of pamphlets and articles. Like the typical Victorian, he loved to moralise; he occupied every minute in 'profitable' mental or physical activity, and sought to leave a full record of it all to posterity.


His son, Francis, by his local political and professional activity (as an average adjuster), along with consistent patronage of Liverpool University, the School of Tropical Medicine, the Institute of Archaeology and other good causes achieved much greater popularity. He was knighted on account of his work for the Admiralty in the First World War. His famous collection of antiquities has come to the National Museums Liverpool by bequest.


Much significant material relating to journeys abroad or residence abroad by members of the family has been found, including Australia, Burma, Canada, Middle East (1st World War and Egypt), France, Germany and Italy and the Low Countries.






John Towne Danson, son of an unsuccessful lawyer, was brought up in Liverpool, with strong seafaring connections on his mother's side. His uncle, James Towne, was the Captain of an African trader, owned by Sir John Tobin. He went to London to seek his fortune and had four distinct careers - journalist under Dickens at the office of the Daily News (and editor (briefly) of the Globe), farmer, barrister, marine insurance underwriter.


In 1859 he wrote a pamphlet which showed that Liverpool handled 50% in value of Britain's exports, and that some 4,451,000 tons of shipping had used the port in 1858-59. This made Liverpool unquestionably the world's greatest port, yet the local marine underwriting market was quite inadequate. Danson therefore proposed the formation of a joint stock marine insurance company. Thus on 23 June 1860, the first provincial joint stock Marine Insurance Company was set up in Liverpool, styled 'The Thames & Mersey Marine Insurance Company', with separate boards for Liverpool (the biggest), London and Manchester. J.T. Danson was appointed Secretary. In 1866 he became its underwriter, only to retire in 1880, in disgust at the growing practice of dealing with brokers. His second home, Dry Close in Grasmere, became his main residence, and there the archives accumulated


He was extremely versatile, interested in philosophy, economics, statistics, politics, archaeology and science. His first book, a joint effort, entitled The Inventor's Manual (1843), was followed by The Wealth of Households (reprinted by Oxford University Press in 1886), Our Commerce in War, Our Next War and a considerable share in John Owen's The Sceptics of the Renaissance, along with a continuous stream of pamphlets and articles. As a typical Victorian, he loved to moralise; he occupied every minute in 'profitable' mental or physical activity, and sought to leave a full record of it all to posterity.


Though 'autocratic, argumentative and dogmatic' according to the official history of the company, he had an amazing grasp of facts and figures. He was occasionally wrong, as where he prophesied the downfall of Lloyds


The family archives are, not surprisingly, vast - a unique mirror of the Victorian era and are held by the Archives Department. They contain very many items of maritime and social interest.


SIR FRANCIS DANSON Kt. (1855-1926)




Sir Francis Chatillon Danson was an original member of the University Court and Council from 1903, and Deputy Treasurer from 1903-1914. From 1902 he was a member of Committee of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, becoming Chairman in 1913, retaining this office till his death. He was also Chairman of the Governors of the Liverpool Institute Schools, a Governor of Sedbergh School, a keen member of the Committee of the University Institute of Archaeology, as well as being President of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, 1896-99, Chairman of Birkenhead Conservative Party, 1896-1904, a J.P., serving from 1909 on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (being Chairman of the Finance Committee from 1914 on), Chairman of the Liverpool Shipwreck & Humane Society and President of the Liverpool Philomathic Society, 1913-14. In between a full-time career as head of the firm which he himself founded in 1879, F.C. Danson & Co., probably Liverpool's leading firm of Average Adjusters, he found time to serve on the Admiralty Transport Arbitration Board from 1914, and as Government Representative on the Liverpool and London War Risks Association from 1915 and to be a member of the International Law Association. He was also an active member and sometime Chairman of his own national professional association, as well as of the Liverpool Association of Average Adjusters which existed from 1882 to 1916. He was knighted in 1920.


Sir Francis was only 71 when he died. He was never able to retire from business owing to the large number of claims dating back to the 1914-18 War. He was clearly a man with many times the mental and physical energy of most men. Yet 'his active, cheery and kindly disposition endeared him to all', said the Chairman of the Dock Board, on the news of his death.


Sir Francis had always been a worker. So hard had he worked at business prior to 1898, when he took his first partner, that he had a complete nervous breakdown. Advised by his doctors to take a complete rest, he merely changed the emphasis of his activities. From this period dates his wider involvement in public work and his lifelong interest in antiquities and archaeology. His recuperative trip to Egypt is well covered by the archives. The ephemera of his voyage down the Nile include bills from Shepherd's Hotel, Cairo, and the card of Ahmed Whaba, 'Drogman and Contractor for Cairo, up the Nile, Syria and Palestine'. From this point on he found release in building the extremely fine collection of Egyptian and classical antiquities which have now joined the collections in the Antiquities Department of the National Museums Liverpool.


Sir Francis' own letters survive in 11 wet - copy letter - books covering 1884-1911 and 1925-1926. Letters received date from 1872 - the first item being a letter of advice from his father, J.T. Danson, which has been favourably compared to that of Lord Chesterfield! From 1890 the series is almost continuous, containing over 6,000 letters. Some distinct bundles are labelled 'Association of Average Adjusters', 'Chamber of Commerce' and 'Archaeology'. An index has been compiled. Among the correspondents are Professors Sir William Mitchell Banks (Anatomy); D.B. Blacklock (Tropical Diseases of Africa, Parasitology, Tropical Hygiene); R.C. Bosanquet (Classical Archaeology); A.B. Boswell (Russian History, Language and Literature); Sir Rubert Boyce (Pathology, Dean of School of Tropical Medicine, 1899-1911); F.S. Carey (Mathematics); Richard Caton (Physiology); Sir Alfred Dale (last Principal of the University College and first Vice-Chancellor of the University); John Garstang (Methods and practice of Archaeology); Ernest E. Glynn (Pathology); R. Harvey Gibson (Botany); P. Hebblethwaite (Registrar); Sir William A. Herdman (Natural History, Oceanography); E.W. Hope (Hygiene); Sir Oliver Lodge (Physics); Kuno Meyer (Teutonic Languages, Celtic); Ramsay Muir (Modern History); Sir John L. Myres (Greek); R. Newstead (Entomology); Bernard Pares (Russian History, Language and Literature); A.M. Paterson (Anatomy); Sir Charles Reilly (Architecture); Sir Ronald Ross (Tropical Medicine and Sanitation); Sir Charles Sherrington (Physiology); J.M.W. Stephens (Tropical Medicine); J.A. Twemlow (School of Local History and Records); W.O. Williams (Veterinary Medicine); Warrington Yorke (Parasitology, Tropical Medicine); also the second Vice-Chancellor, Dr. J.G. Adami; Pro-Chancellor, T.W. Alsop; Pro-Chancellor, Sir Edward Lawrence; Registrar, Dr. E. Londini and Mr. Keith W. Monsarrat (Dean of Faculty of medicine). Letters from University benefactors include those of Robert Gladstone, Treasurer of University College; Sir Alfred Lewis Jones of West Africa and Canary Islands (bananas) fame; Sir W.H. Lever (later Lord Leverhulme); John Rankin and Pro-Chancellor, H.R. Rathbone.


The correspondence relating to archaeology and the School of Tropical Medicine is especially useful, as one would expect, since they were Sir Francis' major interests.


Professor Garstang was clearly a family friend. He writes from the excavations camp at Abydos, Upper Egypt in January 1908:


Dear Mr. Danson,


Forgive some delay in writing our doings. You will know that I have been very much howbeit pleasantly occupied in making things agreeable here for my wife. She is as happy as can be & taking to an energetic English Life with much enjoyment. Our latest achievement has been to construct a tennis court which promises to be ready in about 5 days time. We are hoping that when it is marked the rain will not come & wash out the lines, & with some probability of the hope being fulfilled - at the moment it is midday with a tremendous sunlight & warmth pouring down. The paper is curling up as I write


Our marriage went off alright, it seems a long while back now, & almost too late to thank you again for your good wishes. I thought to escape the sorrowing relatives by having the ceremony at Marseilles, but 17 of them arrived by train from Toulouse. I must say they were all very nice ..... She hasn't made much progress with English for except when we have English visitors or callers she rarely hears the language spoken. But I have no doubt she will soon pick it up. Enclosed photos taken when Mr. & Mrs. Russell Rea & niece called, we made a picnic into the high desert.


Our excavations are going well. We have a few choice objects already, mostly small, a stone statue, some beautiful scarabs, a censor, some bronze, ivory sphinx & wot not. I am going to propose an exhibition at Liverpool if we can find room at the Institute.


Next month I hope to go to Luxor & get you some vases.


With kindest greetings to all,


Yours very truly,


John Garstang


The correspondence as a whole reflects vividly, the many commitments of Sir Francis and leaves one with a feeling or breathlessness. His political activity coincided with the rise to power of Sir Archibald Salvidge, probably Liverpool's greatest political 'boss' of any party. A number of letters from Salvidge are present. The M.P. for Birkenhead sponsored by Sir Francis, Sir Elliott Lees, Bt., achieved some notoriety by representing his constituency while fighting in the Boer War. The letters of Sir Elliott are valuable source material regarding the War. Sir Francis was also a pioneer motorist, hence the considerable correspondence with early motor companies.




Sir Francis' two sons left no issue. Rudolph was killed at the Dardanelles in 1915. Raymond, b.1893, a confirmed bachelor, died in 1976 aged 82. The School of Tropical Medicine was one of the three residuary legatees of his estate, the others being the Old Sedberghians Trust Fund and Trinity College, Oxford, which received his magnificent library, including Caxton first editions. He served with some distinction in both World Wars, earning the M.C. in the 1st and as Lieutenant Colonel, commanding the Fourth Battalion Cheshire Regiment at Dunkirk in the 2nd. Not only letters but an interesting variety of other military documents and relics are in the Colonel's section of the archives. Other documents relate to the study and exhibition of the antiquities his father and he collected.


He continued his father's patronage of the School of Tropical Medicine, becoming its Chairman and giving some £20,000 towards a new clinic (which he intended to be an anonymous gift!). In 1953 he retired, aged 60 and also retreated to Dry Close, the house at Grasmere, which his grandfather had built when he retired in 1880. There among the books and antiquities, which had all been moved in 1940 or thereabouts from the family house, 'Rosewarne', in Bidston Road, Birkenhead (now an old people's home), when it was sold, the Colonel devoted himself mainly to his world-renowned collection of Egyptian and Sudanese stamps. Numerous letters have been preserved relating to this activity.

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