Papers of Sir Hugh Willatt (1909-1996), solicitor and arts administrator, relating totheatre and the performing arts, 1843-1995

Scope and Content

The collection comprises:

  • Papers relating to the English Stage Company Limited and the Royal Court Theatre. The papersinclude correspondence, and copies of council minutes and agenda papers. 1976-1992;
  • Papers relating to the National Opera Studio. The papers include correspondence, and copies ofminutes and agenda papers. 1987-1988;
  • Papers relating to the Nottingham Theatre Trust Limited and the Nottingham Playhouse comprisingmainly printed reports and accounts. 1976-1990;
  • Correspondence and other papers relating to a visit to Nottingham made by the Calouste GulbenkianFoundation Committee in 1959 to investigate arts provision. 1959;
  • Correspondence and other papers relating to Sir Hugh's investment in the staging of the plays,Serious Money (1987), The Normal Heart (1986), and The Mystery of Edwin Drood(1987). 1986-1987;
  • Typescript play scripts of 'Scenes from a voyage to India' by John Harrison and 'the Crush ofVictory' by Anthony Steven. c.1970s;
  • Printed programmes for theatrical, dance and musical performances at venues in the UK and abroad.The Nottingham Theatre Royal, Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham Empire, Oxford Playhouse, Oxford NewTheatre, London Royal Court Theatre, London Mermaid Theatre, National Theatre, and Royal Opera Houseare the best represented. Programmes from performances by the Riverside Studios and RoyalShakespeare Company are also numerous. 1843-1995;
  • Printed theatre listings, play bills and programmes for drama and music festivals in the UK andabroad. The festivals include: Malvern, York, Chichester, Elsinore, Dubrovnik and Glyndeborne,1930s-1970s;
  • Magazines and brochures relating to aspects of the performing arts. 1900-1988;
  • Newspaper cuttings and other typescript and printed items relating to performances in the MiddleEast and Italy. Early 1940s;
  • Assorted other personal items including membership cards for the Nottingham Philodramatic Societyand Playgoers' Club, 1920s-1950s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hugh Willatt was born on 25 April 1909 and was educated at Repton School and Pembroke College,Oxford. After attaining his degree, Willatt joined the family firm of solicitors, Hunt, Dickens andWillatt in Nottingham and became a partner. From an early age, Willatt had a passion for theatre,both as a theatregoer and as an amateur dramatist. He returned to these interests in Nottinghamafter serving with the RAF in the Middle East and Italy during the Second World War. He campaignedindefatigably for a new theatre building in Nottingham to serve the Playhouse - a goal finallyachieved in the opening of Nottingham playhouse in 1963.

For his contribution to the cultural life of Nottingham, Willatt was awarded an honorary Masterof Arts degree in 1961 by The University of Nottingham. He left Nottingham in 1959 to join the firmof Silkin and Partners (solicitors) in London.

In 1960, Hugh Willatt became chairman of the Arts Council drama panel and then, in 1968,secretary general of the Arts Council itself. He retired from this post in 1975 and was knighted forhis services to the arts. His involvement in the arts continued and he became chairman of theNational Opera Studio, the Ballet Rambert, the Nottingham Theatre Trust, and the Riverside Studios,Hammersmith. He was also a member of the boards of the National Theatre and the Royal Court Theatreand a trustee of Shakespeare's Birthplace. He married the artist, Evelyn Gibbs, in 1945. They had nochildren. Sir Hugh Willatt died on 18 October 1986.


The collection has been divided by document type into sections. Within these sections, items havebeen arranged chronologically.

Access Information

ACCESS: Pending full cataloguing, access to thecollection is limited and is possible only for registered users by advance notice and agreement.


Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid available for the collection and copyright on thedescription belongs to The University of Nottingham. Listing of the theatre ephemera is almostcomplete and may be available for consultation with advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

REPROGRAPHIC: Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposesonly, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

COPYRIGHT: Permission to make published use of any material from this collection must be soughtin advance in writing from the Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections(email TheDepartment will try to assist in identifying copyright owners but this can be difficult and theresponsibility for copyright clearance before publication ultimately rests with the person wishingto publish.

Custodial History

The library of Sir Hugh Willatt was given to The University of Nottingham in 1996. The manuscriptmaterial and theatre programmes were transferred to The University of Nottingham's Department ofManuscripts and Special Collections in October 1999.

Related Material

  • The University of Nottingham: ; Printed books on the subject of theatre andthe performing arts.