Document ReferenceMi
TitleThe Family and Estate Papers of the Willoughby Family, Lords Middleton, of Wollaton, Nottinghamshire, Middleton, Warwickshire and Birdsall, Yorkshire; 12th century [c.1150]-1986
Extent774 boxes, 130 volumes, 38 files
AbstractTitle deeds, literary and artistic works, family and personal correspondence, manorial records, maps, surveys and financial papers.
Access ConditionsThe majority of papers are accessible to all readers. Access is restricted to 20th century personal correspondence and family papers in the archive. A considerable number of items within the collection are fragile and access to these is restricted pending full conservation treatment.
Admin HistoryThe Willoughby family can trace its descent back to Ralph Bugge, a Nottingham merchant, who bought lands in Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, Nottinghamshire, in the thirteenth century.

The Willoughbys acquired various other properties through marriage and purchase, chief among which were the Wollaton and Cossall estates in Nottinghamshire, in the fourteenth century, and the Middleton estate in Warwickshire, in the fifteenth century. Middleton was the favoured residence of Francis Willoughby II (1588-1665) and his son Francis Willughby the naturalist (1635-1672).

Sir Francis Willoughby (d 1596) completed the building of Wollaton Hall in 1588. It was designed and overseen by Robert Smythson. Major alterations to Wollaton Hall were made by the 6th Baron Middleton and the architect Jeffrey Wyatville in the early nineteenth century. The Hall was sold to Nottingham Corporation for £200,000 by the 11th Baron Middleton in 1925, and has been used since 1926 as a Natural History Museum.

Sir Francis had no sons, and the greater part of the estate passed to his son-in-law Sir Percival Willoughby of Bore Place, Kent (d 1643), husband of Sir Francis's eldest daughter Bridget, and a descendent of the Willoughby de Eresby family. From then on, the estate has passed in unbroken male succession to the present day. Sir Thomas Willoughby, 2nd Baronet, was created Baron Middleton in 1712.

The core of the Willoughby family estate by the early seventeenth century were the 'six manors' inherited by Sir Percival Willoughby, of Wollaton, Sutton Passeys, Cossall, and Trowell in Nottinghamshire, and Middleton and Kingsbury in Warwickshire, plus other estates chiefly in Nottinghamshire. These were reduced to four by the next generation, as Cossall and Kingsbury passed to Sir Percival's second son Edward Willoughby. However, further estates in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and elsewhere were acquired by marriage, making the geographical spread of the family's estates very extensive by the nineteenth century. Most of the family's estates outside Yorkshire were sold off in the 1920s and 1930s following the deaths of the 9th and 10th Barons. Birdsall House near Malton, East Yorkshire, became favoured as the family's principal residence from the time of the 8th Baron (who succeeded in 1856) onwards.
Custodial HistoryThe bulk of the collection was placed in the care of University College Nottingham (now The University of Nottingham) in 1947. Additional papers were received subsequently from the same source.
DescriptionThe collection comprises an extensive family and estate archive, which has been built up through a series of accruals.

It includes:

Title deeds from the 12th to the 20th centuries relating particularly to the main family estates in Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire, but also relating to many other counties. There are a particularly significant number of medieval deeds.

Family documents, including wills, marriage settlements, and other documents having an impact on the ownership and succession of Willoughby lands from the 12th century to the 20th century.

Other family papers, including correspondence from the 12th to 18th centuries, 17th-century natural history collections of Francis Willughby and his friend the scientist John Ray, and a volume of family history compiled by Cassandra Willoughby, Duchess of Chandos (1670-1735), featuring transcripts and extracts from papers which have not survived, c.1150-1959.

Personal papers and correspondence of family members, particularly Admiral Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby (1777-1849), and Captain Francis D. Willoughby (1819-1846). Disappointingly little family correspondence and personal papers survive from earlier periods.

Estate papers, including accounts, estate correspondence, inventories, maps and plans, surveys and rentals. Given the size and scope of the estates, the maps and plans are relatively few in number.

Legal papers, including the working papers of the family solicitors Messrs. Purchase, Pollock and Treadwell, comprising correspondence, drafts and copies of accounts. Later papers include correspondence, settlement and estate papers relating to the succession of the estate in 1926-1928 and the establishment of the Birdsall Estates Company, 1628-20th century.

Other significant series in the Middleton archive include correspondence, manorial records and official papers. There is a substantial amount of material relating to the family's coal mining activities from the late middle ages and other business ventures.

Further details about the contents of each of the separate accruals can be found in their individual catalogue entries. Users should follow the links in the 'Related Record' fields below to browse through each of the separate accruals.
MgtGroupFamily and estate collections
ArrangementThis very substantial family archive is divided into separate groups, with their own catalogues. These in general reflect the various times at which the different parts of the collection have been acquired.

The first catalogue, Mi 1/1 - Mi 7/183, the first part of the main collection acquired in 1947, provides a brief description of every item. The items preserve the original arrangement in which they were received by the University. This catalogue has had to be split into two on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue due to constraints of size: Mi 1-4, and Mi 5-7.

The second catalogue, Mi A-X, the second part of the main collection acquired in 1947, provides varying levels of descriptions. The catalogue includes a large number of medieval deeds (Mi D), many of which are described in detail in a separate online catalogue.
Some items in the remaining parts of this catalogue (Mi A-C and Mi E-X) are very briefly described, but many of the series are served by bundle-level descriptions. The items have been arranged by document type into different sections.

The third catalogue, Mi 2C-S, listing some of the accruals to the collection primarily between 1947 and 1960, with related additions made in 2000, provides a description of every item, or of bundles where papers of the same type were gathered together. The catalogue is arranged into different sections according to document type or provenance. The papers of Admiral Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby (1777-1849), and Captain Francis D. Willoughby (1819-1846) are to be found in this catalogue.

The fourth catalogue, Mi 3E-G, listing the 19th and 20th-century deeds and settlement papers, provides a brief description of every item or bundles of items. The items are divided into sections for general settlement documents (Mi 3G) and estate papers (Mi 3E). The estate papers are arranged by county and then by estate or document type.

The fifth catalogue, Mi 4, listing accruals to the collection between 1964 and 1974, provides a description of every item, or of bundles of similar documents. The items have been arranged into different sections according to document type or provenance.
TermAdministration of estates - England - History
FindingAidsCopyright in all Finding Aids belongs to The University of Nottingham. In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus: 5 typescript catalogues, supplemented by card catalogues. At the National Register of Archives, The National Archives, Kew: 5 typescript Catalogues Online: Catalogues for each of the sections are available on the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue. Search separately for entries for each of the five subfonds Mi 1-7, Mi A-X, Mi 2 C-S, Mi 3 E-G and Mi 4 C-X, and the entry for the main series of title deeds (Mi D 1-4855) Access to the old typescript catalogues was also made available online during the national Access to Archives (A2A) project in 2000-2004. These catalogues are now available through Discovery, hosted by The National Archives ( The versions on our own Manuscripts Online Catalogue have since been enhanced and are more detailed than the versions on A2A. Online: Family and Estate Resource relating to Willoughby family and their records, published on the Manuscripts and Special Collections website:
ReprodnNotePhotocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access conditions, the physical nature of the documents, or other relevant constraints.
Related MaterialThe University of Nottingham; Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections: Separate online catalogue entries for the subfonds within the Middleton Collection: Mi 1-7, Mi A-X, Mi 2 C-S, Mi 3 E-G and Mi 4 C-X
The University of Nottingham; Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections: MS 111, MS 250, MS 434, MS 673, MS 962 and WLC
Nottinghamshire Archives: Copies of deeds, rentals, surveys and papers for Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire, etc. c.1568-1610 (Reference: M 475); Willoughby letters c.1521-1548, and militia papers 1512-1628 (Reference M 1205-1229); Letter book of J N Martin, Lord Middleton's agent at Wollaton, 1808-1823 (reference M 11530)
The British Library: Genealogical and other papers of Cassandra, Duchess of Chandos (Reference MS 656)
Centre for Kentish Studies: Manorial, family and estate papers chiefly relating to the Willoughby family in Kent, 1258-1647 (Reference: SC/2/196/76-91).
Related RecordMS673
Publication NoteW. Stevenson, 'Report to the Commissioners on the Manuscripts of Lord Middleton Preserved at Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire' (1911)
'Principal Family and Estate Collections: Family Names L-W', (The Stationery Office, 1999), pp 144-47

Click the links below to view related name indexes

Click the links below to view related place indexes

CodePersonNameDates of existence
NA75938Willoughby; family; of Wollaton, Nottinghamshire; Lords Middleton
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