The Family and Estate Papers of the Willoughby Family, Lords Middleton, of Wollaton, Nottinghamshire, Middleton, Warwickshire and Birdsall, Yorkshire; 12th century [c.1150]-1986

Scope and Content

The collection comprises an extensive family and estate archive, which has been built up through a series of accruals.

It includes:

Title deeds from the 12th to the 20th centuries relating particularly to the main family estates in Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire, but also relating to many other counties. There are a particularly significant number of medieval deeds.

Family documents, including wills, marriage settlements, and other documents having an impact on the ownership and succession of Willoughby lands from the 12th century to the 20th century.

Other family papers, including correspondence from the 12th to 18th centuries, 17th-century natural history collections of Francis Willughby and his friend the scientist John Ray, and a volume of family history compiled by Cassandra Willoughby, Duchess of Chandos (1670-1735), featuring transcripts and extracts from papers which have not survived, c.1150-1959.

Personal papers and correspondence of family members, particularly Admiral Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby (1777-1849), and Captain Francis D. Willoughby (1819-1846). Disappointingly little family correspondence and personal papers survive from earlier periods.

Estate papers, including accounts, estate correspondence, inventories, maps and plans, surveys and rentals. Given the size and scope of the estates, the maps and plans are relatively few in number.

Legal papers, including the working papers of the family solicitors Messrs. Purchase, Pollock and Treadwell, comprising correspondence, drafts and copies of accounts. Later papers include correspondence, settlement and estate papers relating to the succession of the estate in 1926-1928 and the establishment of the Birdsall Estates Company, 1628-20th century.

Other significant series in the Middleton archive include correspondence, manorial records and official papers. There is a substantial amount of material relating to the family's coal mining activities from the late middle ages and other business ventures.

Further details about the contents of each of the separate accruals can be found in their individual catalogue entries.


This very substantial family archive is divided into separate groups, with their own catalogues. These in general reflect the various times at which the different parts of the collection have been acquired.

The first catalogue, Mi 1/1 - Mi 7/183, the first part of the main collection acquired in 1947, provides a brief description of every item. The items preserve the original arrangement in which they were received by the University. This catalogue has had to be split into two on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue due to constraints of size: Mi 1-4, and Mi 5-7.

The second catalogue, Mi A-X, the second part of the main collection acquired in 1947, provides varying levels of descriptions. The catalogue includes a large number of medieval deeds (Mi D), many of which are described in detail in a separate online catalogue.

Some items in the remaining parts of this catalogue (Mi A-C and Mi E-X) are very briefly described, but many of the series are served by bundle-level descriptions. The items have been arranged by document type into different sections.

The third catalogue, Mi 2C-S, listing some of the accruals to the collection primarily between 1947 and 1960, with related additions made in 2000, provides a description of every item, or of bundles where papers of the same type were gathered together. The catalogue is arranged into different sections according to document type or provenance. The papers of Admiral Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby (1777-1849), and Captain Francis D. Willoughby (1819-1846) are to be found in this catalogue.

The fourth catalogue, Mi 3E-G, listing the 19th and 20th-century deeds and settlement papers, provides a brief description of every item or bundles of items. The items are divided into sections for general settlement documents (Mi 3G) and estate papers (Mi 3E). The estate papers are arranged by county and then by estate or document type.

The fifth catalogue, Mi 4, listing accruals to the collection between 1964 and 1974, provides a description of every item, or of bundles of similar documents. The items have been arranged into different sections according to document type or provenance.

Access Information

The majority of papers are accessible to all registered readers. Access is restricted to 20th century personal correspondence in the archive. A considerable number of items within the collection are fragile and access to these is restricted pending full conservation treatment.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all Finding Aids belongs to The University of Nottingham.

In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus:

5 typescript catalogues and card catalogue place name index to Mi 1/1 - Mi 2/78.

At the National Register of Archives, London:

5 typescript Catalogues

On the World Wide Web:

Catalogues for each of the sections are available on the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue: Mi 1-7 (Mi1), MiAX, Mi2, Mi3 and Mi4, and the entry for the main series of title deeds (MiD). The typescript catalogues are also available online on the national A2A (Access to Archives) website. Please note that the A2A catalogues are often less detailed than the ones available on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Family and Estate Resource relating to the Willoughby family and their records, published on the Manuscripts and Special Collections website.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access conditions, the physical nature of the documents, or other relevant constraints.

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

Custodial History

The bulk of the collection was placed in the care of University College Nottingham (now The University of Nottingham) in 1947. Additional papers were received subsequently from the same source.

Related Material

The University of Nottingham; Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections: MS 111, MS 250, MS 434, MS 673 and WLC

Nottinghamshire Archives: Copies of deeds, rentals, surveys and papers for Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire, etc. c.1568-1610 (Reference: M 475); Willoughby letters c.1521-1548, and militia papers 1512-1628 (Reference M 1205-1229); Letter book of J N Martin, Lord Middleton's agent at Wollaton, 1808-1823 (reference M 11530)

The British Library: Genealogical and other papers of Cassandra, Duchess of Chandos (Reference MS 656)

Centre for Kentish Studies: Manorial, family and estate papers chiefly relating to the Willoughby family in Kent, 1258-1647 (Reference: SC/2/196/76-91).


W. Stevenson, 'Report to the Commissioners on the Manuscripts of Lord Middleton Preserved at Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire' (1911) 'Principal Family and Estate Collections: Family Names L-W', (The Stationery Office, 1999), pp 144-47

Geographical Names