The papers relate chiefly to Lord Howick's career as a colonial administrator, including both official papers and letters to family and friends from his early career in the Indian Civil Service, 1926-1934 (including a period as Agent of the Government of India in South Africa, 1929-1932), and from his service as Governor of Southern Rhodesia 1942-1944, U.K. Commissioner for the Union of South Africa and the High Commission Territories 1944-1952, and Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Kenya and Chairman of the East African High Commission 1952-1959.
After that period, the papers reflect his involvement in the Colonial (later Commonwealth) Development Corporation (Chairman 1963-1972), the Universities Mission to Central Africa (1960-1963), the Commission on Crown Appointments to Ecclesiastical Offices (Chairman from 1962) and the Nature Conservancy (Member and Chairman 1962-1972).
There is a small amount of material relating to banking and investments and to business interests (particularly the Swan Hunter Group of which he was Director), as well as papers concerning the Howick estates in Northumberland, including notebooks from the 1940s to the 1970s recording a whole range of estate management issues.
Personal papers include letters to his parents from school and school reports, a long series of letters to his mother from India and S. Africa 1924-1933, letters between Lord Howick and his wife, and papers relating to appointments and decorations. Notebooks covering the whole of his adult life, contain jottings on a wide variety of subjects, both official and personal. His photographs include a number of family portraits, but consist mainly of informal views of official occasions in Africa as well as numerous photographs of African game.