Most of the collection consists of correspondence. This covers the Duke's public activities including, as Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, militia and yeomanry business and the civil unrest in Nottingham in 1816 and 1831. Much of the former is concerned solely with administrative detail.
There is also correspondence covering the Duke's private affairs. Notable correspondents include Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere (1773-1865), who wrote from various locations in which he served as a military officer, including France, Spain and India. Subjects include military matters and politics. William Gladstone also features among the correspondents, as it was under the Duke's patronage that Gladstone found a route to Parliament. Much of the subject matter concerns local politics. The correspondence also relates to family issues, notably the collapse of the marriage of his son, the 5th Duke.
Estate business features amongst the papers. There is a large accumulation of correspondence sent to John Gally Knight (1741-1803), a lawyer and the Duke's Guardian, regarding estate matters.
The Duke published several political pamphlets during his lifetime, covering specific issues such as the Maynooth Grant, and more general thoughts on the state of the nation. The collection contains correspondence concerning these publications.