Papers 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

Scope and Content

Although 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.

Administrative / Biographical History

Admiral 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 Napoloeonic 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.


The 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.

Access Information

Accessible to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright 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, London:Typescript Catalogue, 17 pp On the World Wide Web:Catalogue available from the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue.Access to the typescript catalogues also available online on the national A2A (Access to Archives) website.

Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Custodial History

Admiral 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.

Related Material

See also the fonds entry for the entire Middleton Collection (Mi); and items in the other parts of the collection (Mi1, MiAX, Mi3 and Mi4)