Dr John Disney is best known for the creation of the eponymous chair of archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and the donation of the ‘Disney Marbles’ displayed in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Professor David Gill gave the 2015 Morant Lecture on the theme of ‘Dr John Disney and Essex’ in Ingatestone parish church. The church contains the grave of Thomas Brand-Hollis who bequeathed The Hyde, near Inagatestone, along with its collection of classical sculptures, to Disney’s father, the Reverend John Disney. The Reverend Disney had been co-minister of the Unitarian Essex Chapel in London alongside his brother-in-law the Reverend Theophilus Lindsey. Brand-Hollis was one of the main supporters of the chapel.
The Reverend Disney’s brother, Lewis Disney-Ffytche, lived at Danbury Place near Maldon. His daughter Sophia married (Dr) John Disney, and her sister Frances married (Sir) William Hillary (best known for founding the RNLI).
Dr Disney was recorder of Bridport in Dorset, and on moving back to Essex after his father’s death, stood as MP for both Ipswich and Harwich. He served on the committee to bring the railway to Chelmsford and Colchester. As a member of the Chelmsford Philosophical Society he helped to establish the Chelmsford Museum. He was also a key figure in the establishment of the Colchester and Essex Archaeological Society.
In later years he was a member of the board of Le Nouveau Monde Mining Company that was involved with the California gold rush.
Slides for the lecture can be found here.
- The Collection of John Disney: Antiquarian and University Benefactor
- The Wonderful World of Disney: Collecting Classical Antiquity