Document ReferenceMi 2 C-S
TitlePapers of Admiral Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby (1777-1849), Captain Francis D. Willoughby (1819-1846), and additional Estate papers of the Willoughby family of Wollaton, Nottinghamshire, Middleton, Warwickshire and Birdsall, Yorkshire; 1641-1986
Extent10 boxes
AbstractCorrespondence, estate papers, personal and family papers
Access ConditionsAccessible to all readers.
Admin HistoryAdmiral Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby (1777-1849) was the grandson of Edward Willoughby of Aspley and Cossall, Nottinghamshire and descended from Edward, the second son of Sir Percival Willoughby of Wollaton and Middleton. He entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1790 and from 1793 to 1799 saw service in the East Indies. In 1801 he fought in the Battle of Copenhagen on board the Russell. Following a brief dismissal after a court martial for quarrelling with his captain, Willoughby re-entered active service in the Napoleonic Wars, serving in the West Indies, the Sea of Marmara, and Mauritius. He was severely injured during the naval battle off Mauritius in 1810 (during which his ship, HMS Nereide, was lost), but feeling himself capable of more service, volunteered with the Russian army in 1812. He was captured by the French and spent nine months imprisoned in France before escaping.

Willoughby took command of the Tribune from 1818 to 1822 and then retired from the Navy. He was knighted in 1827, and again, in error, in 1832, and was appointed as a naval aide-de-camp to the Queen in 1841. In his later years he concerned himself with trying to further the interests of junior officers. In 1839 he published 'Extracts from Holy Writ and various Authors, for Soldiers and Seamen', described by the 'British Critic' as 'a pious and well-intentioned compilation from a very heterogeneous set of authors'. Sir Nesbit was promoted as a Rear-Admiral of the Blue in 1847, and of the White in 1849. He died in London on 19 May 1849. A brief biography has been published; Michael Mason, 'Willoughby the immortal: an account of the life and actions of Rear-Admiral Sir Nesbit Willoughby, Kt., C.B., K.C.H. (1777-1849)' (Oxford, 1969).

Captain Francis Digby Willoughby (1819-1846) was the second son of Henry Willoughby of Birdsall and Settrington, Yorkshire, and a great-grandson of the 1st Baron Middleton. His elder brother Henry succeeded as 8th Baron Middleton in 1856. Francis was educated at Sandhurst from 1833 to 1835, and served as a Captain in the 9th Lancers. He saw active service in India, taking part in the First Sikh War of 1845-1846. He was taken ill and died at Meerut, India, on 27 April 1846.
Custodial HistoryAdmiral Sir Nesbit Willoughby's papers came into the hands of his executor, Captain James A Legard, whose son presented them to Lord Middleton in 1892. The present group of papers was received in three separate accruals between 1961 and 1963. Additional bundles of papers relating to Admiral Nesbit Willoughby were acquired in 2000.
DescriptionAlthough this sub-group, as in the case of other accruals to the Middleton Collection, includes some papers of relevance to family estates, its principal significance lies in the personal papers of two notable members of the family.

The papers of Admiral Nesbit Willoughby consist chiefly of correspondence, reports and ship log books from his professional life. Unfortunately few original papers relating to his service during the Napoleonic wars have survived. There are a number of letters which concern the writing of his book, 'Extracts from Holy Writ' and several letters from family members on personal matters. Also included amongst these papers are items of biographical interest and items relating to more recent researches upon the Admiral's life and career, particularly his involvement in the campaign for Mauritius, 1809-1812.

Captain Francis Willoughby's papers include a few items concerning his cadetship at Sandhurst (1833-1835), together with letters (1840-1846) written from India to his father and his brother Henry, and letters concerning his illness and death (1846-1849).

Other papers in this sub-group include a small number of items of correspondence on estate matters, 1641-1787; 19th century maps and survey books of the Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire estates; and inventories of Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire, 1869-1878.
MgtGroupFamily and estate collections
Personal papers
Private papers
ArrangementThe papers are divided into separate groups, arranged partly by document type (e.g. correspondence) and partly by provenance and subject matter (e.g. the papers of Admiral Sir Nesbit Willoughby and Captain Francis Willoughby). Within the different sections, material is generally listed chronologically.
TermAdministration of estates - Great Britain - History
Great Britain - Royal Navy - History
FindingAidsCopyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham. In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus: Typescript Catalogue, 29 pp At the National Register of Archives, The National Archives, Kew: Old Typescript Catalogue, 17 pp Online: Catalogue available on the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue. Access to the old typescript catalogue was also made available online during the national Access to Archives (A2A) project in 2000-2004. This catalogue is now available through Discovery, hosted by The National Archives ( The version on our own Manuscripts Online Catalogue will be more up to date.
ReprodnNotePhotocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.
Related MaterialSee also the fonds entry for the entire Middleton Collection (Mi); and items in the other parts of the collection (Mi 1-7, Mi A-X, Mi 3 E-G and Mi 4 C-X).
Related RecordMi

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CodePersonNameDates of existence
NA464Willoughby; Nesbit Josiah (1777-1849); Sir; Admiral Royal Navy1777-1849
NA465Willoughby; Francis Digby (1819-1846); Captain British Army1819-1846
NA464Willoughby; Nesbit Josiah (1777-1849); Sir; Admiral Royal Navy1777-1849
NA465Willoughby; Francis Digby (1819-1846); Captain British Army1819-1846
NA75938Willoughby; family; of Wollaton, Nottinghamshire; Lords Middleton
PL99392Wollaton Hall/Nottingham/Nottinghamshire/England
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