Family and Estate Papers of the Willoughby Family of Wollaton, Nottinghamshire, Middleton, Warwickshire, and Birdsall, Yorkshire; 12th-20th centuries

Scope and Content

Present in the collection are series of manorial records including court rolls, accounts, manorial rentals and surveys. These relate particularly to Nottinghamshire, Kent and Warwickshire, but material relating to other counties is also included. There is also a significant group of manorial documents relating to the Peverel Court, which had jurisdiction in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and of which successive members of the Willoughby family were stewards. A considerable quantity of manorial records can also be found in the complementary group, catalogued as Mi 1-7.The estate records include household accounts and inventories from the 16th to the 17th century, maps, plans, surveys and rentals. There is a large series of estate correspondence and associated papers. Within the series of estate papers and the series of vouchers and accounts, significant groups of correspondence can be found, including letters to Lady Emma Child (née Barnard, 1644-1725), the widow of Francis Willughby (1635-1672).Relatively little family correspondence survives in this archive. A small correspondence series, dating from 1259, includes royal letters of signet. Correspondence concerning commissions and appointments etc. date from medieval times through to the appointment of Lord Middleton to the Order of the Garter in 1957. A small category of official papers include some relating to the office of sheriff in Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire, held by several family members; these include writs, accounts etc.The large series of legal papers document the various legal cases and disputes in which several family members were involved. There is a rare group of accounts and other papers relating to coal mining from the 14th to the 17th centuries in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire and a small group of documents relating to a trading venture to Newfoundland in the 17th century.Literary manuscripts, formerly part of the Library at Wollaton Hall, are also present in the collection, as are a number of printed items on a variety of subjects and ranging in date from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Some of the original medieval manuscripts and printed items were withdrawn in 2007 to be separately managed by the University, and now form the Wollaton Library Collection (WLC). Items which were more closely associated with the history of the Willoughby family, including in particular papers and books of Francis Willughby the naturalist (1635-1672), remain in the Middleton Collection. Francis Willughby (1635-1672), father of the 1st Baron Middleton, was a noted mathematician and natural historian, and an original member of the Royal Society. The archive includes illustrations of birds, fishes and flowers collected by him and by his friend and colleague, the scientist John Ray. Herbarium specimens are preserved within some volumes. Willughby and Ray conducted other forms of research including extensive investigation into the family's early muniments; many deeds in the collection bear identifying endorsements in their hands.The volume compiled by the naturalist's daughter Cassandra Willoughby, Duchess of Chandos, narrates the history of the family and contains transcripts of, or extracts from, many letters which have since been lost. A second volume of Cassandra's history, acquired separately from a private source, is listed for convenience within this catalogue.Title deeds from the 12th to the 20th centuries (Mi D 1-4855) form a major part of this collection, but the descriptions appear as a separate entity on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue due to constraints of size.

Administrative / Biographical History

The papers form part of the larger estate archive of Lord Middleton, the majority of which were generated in the course of the management of the family's extensive estate business. They are complementary in date and subject to the group of papers separately catalogued as Mi 1-7. There are many areas of overlap between these groups, which are defined as separate collections because of the date and manner of their transfer to the University.See the fonds entry for the Middleton Collection (Mi) for details about the Willoughby family, Barons Middleton, and their papers.


The collection is divided into series according to form of material and arranged chronologically within sections. Some elements are described at item level. The bulk of the collection was listed originally in the 1940s at bundle level, and many descriptions are quite summary. In a number of areas, these descriptions have more recently been expanded.

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, 472 pp At the National Register of Archives, London:Typescript Catalogue, 190 pp On the World Wide Web:Catalogues available from the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue: Mi A-C and Mi E-X, MiD.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

These papers are part of the main Middleton collection acquired in 1947 (see also Mi 1-7).

Related Material

Title deeds from the 12th to the 20th centuries (MiD).See also the fonds entry for the entire Middleton Collection (Mi); and items in the other parts of the collection (Mi1, Mi2, Mi3 and Mi4)