The Family of Willoughby.

ANY description of Wollaton would seem incomplete without some account of the family of Willoughby, who have been established as owners of the estates there for a period of nearly six hundred years; have numbered in their generations many notable persons, and have made many alliances with other illustrious families.

"It appears that a family of the name of Bugge were either original inhabitants of this town, or settled in it about the time of King John, and that they rose to considerable eminence, as, from them sprung the Buggs of West Leak, the Biggs of Stamford, and the Willoughbies of this neighbourhood."

"Bugge Hall in Nottingham descended to Sir Richard de Bingham, Kt. . . . this ancient mansion is now the Old Angel public house at this end of St. Mary's Gate, facing the County Hall."1

In the Nottingham Date Book (1799) is a list of the public-houses in Nottingham, including the "Old Angel, High Pavement," with a footnote "This was one of the most ancient houses in the town, and in the reign of John was occupied by a distinguished family of the name of Bugge. It stood at the south-west corner of St. Mary's Gate and was demolished in 1849."

Radulphus Bugge, of Nottingham, "the original ancestor of divers good families as in Willoughby on the Wolds may be observed" (as Thoroton, p. 222, tells us) was a wealthy merchant of the staple, and purchased lands, in 1240-41, at Willughby-on-the-Wolds. He was probably buried at St. Peter's, Nottingham. He had two sons, viz., Richard Bugge de Wiluby and Radulphus, father of Richard de Bingham. The former bore for arms, Or, on two bars gules, three water bougets argent, and the de Bingham branch took for arms Or, on a fesse gules, three water bougets ar. This adoption of water bougets as their arms, seems to suggest that they pronounced their name Booge. Richard Bugge's son, as owner of the Willoughby property, became known as Richard de Willubi, Knight (temp. Ed. II.), he also "increased his patrimony exceedingly and was a lawyer and very rich, as by his will made 31 Ed. I. appeareth, wherein he appointed his body to be buried in the Church of All Saints in Willughby before the altar of St Nicholas."— Thoroton, p. 35. He died 1325, and a stone effigy, representing a knight in mail armour and his lady, which most probably is his,2 is still in the chapel of Willoughby Church. He founded, in the year 1304, a chantry at St. Peter's "for the soul of Richard Bugge, his father, and of all the faithful dead" (Calender Patent Rolls, 1301-1307). "The jury, 32 Ed. I., found it not to be the king's loss if he granted to Richard de Willughby, that he might give five Marks Rent, with the Appurtenances in Nottingham, held of the said Richard, to a Chaplain in the Church of St. Peter at Nottingham, etc." (Thoroton, p. 492). His son, another Sir Richard, succeeded him, and also did much for advancing the family. He was a justice of the "Comon Bench,"3 or Common Pleas, for a period of twenty-eight years in the days of Edward III., and acted as Chief Justice when " Scroof, the Chief Justice was gone on the king's business beyond the seas." In Stothard's Monumental Effigies, there is a fine engraving of the figure on his tomb in Willoughby Church, representing him in the legal costume of that period.

He married Isabel, sister and heir of William Mortein, of Wollaton, for his first wife, and through her became possessed of Wollaton and other properties in that neighbourhood. From this marriage descended the Willughbys of Risley,4 whose issue were not recognised.

For his second wife he had Joana, or Matilda and by her had a son, Sir Edmund Willughby, who inherited the bulk of the property. In the Visitations of Notts., published by the Harleian Society, this pedigree is shown somewhat differently from that in Thoroton's History.

In the second subsequent generation, a Sir Hugh Willughby married a daughter of the Foljambe family, but the line was carried on through the issue of his second wife, a sister and co-heir, or a daughter and heir, of Sir Baldwin Freville, who brought him the Middleton estates, in Warwickshire, from which the barony subsequently took the title. There is a beautiful alabaster altar tomb to him and his first wife5 in Willoughby Church. He was probably the last of the family to be buried there, for his son specially directed that he should be interred at Wollaton. Their grandson, Henry, must have been a distinguished man in his day. He was a knight and banneret, sheriff of Notts, and Derby (temp. Henry VIII.), and married four wives. His canopied tomb6 is in Wollaton Church, on the south side of the chancel. He became, by his third wife, Ellen, daughter of John Egerton, the father of Sir Hugh Willoughby, the great navigator, who eventually lost his life in the Arctic Seas.

Sir Henry's grandson, Henry, married Lady Anne Grey, daughter of the Marquis of Dorset and aunt to Lady Jane Grey, the nine days' Queen of England. He was killed at Norwich (temp. Edward VI.) whilst employed in quelling the rioters led by Ket. The register of burials at St. Simon's Church in that city contains the entry, "Henry Wylby of Middleton Hall in the county of Warwick, Esquire," and .... (other esquires) "weare slayne in the Kings army on Mushold Heath, the Tewes-taye being the xxvijtie daye of August 1549 anno tertio Edwardi Sexti and were buryed in the Chauncell of this Church in one grave." There is a large mural monument to his memory in Wollaton Church on the north wall of the chancel.

It was this man's second son, Sir Francis Willoughby, Kt., who built Wollaton Hall. He married a daughter of Sir John Littleton, by whom he had a family of six daughters, but no surviving male issue. His elder brother, who is said to have married a daughter of "ye Lord Paget," overheated himself when hunting, and "fell sick and dyed." Sir Francis had an unhappy married life, and several of his daughters ran away and married to escape from their mother, and it is recorded that, after her death, in 1594, one wrote to her sister to "joyn with her to thank God for their happy deliverance from all their troubles."

In his anxiety to leave a male heir, Sir Francis married again (1595), late in life, a certain Dorothy (nee Coleby), widow of John Tamworth, "who made her advantage of the declining time of her husband and his great estate, if we may believe report." (Thoroton, p. 223). He died under rather mysterious circumstances in lodgings in London, November, 1596, and was buried at St. Giles' Church Without, Cripplegate. Anyone who wishes to become further acquainted with the sorrows of his married life must refer to the article in the "New Review," 1889, " in the old Muniment Room of Wollaton Hall." He settled the great part of the estate on his eldest daughter, Bridgett, who married her distant kinsman, Percival Willoughby, of the house of Eresby, co. Lincoln, but at that time living in Kent.

We are accustomed in these days to see the name of Willoughby spelt with an o in it, but in early times the name of the place was spelt Willughby, Willubie, (in Domesday) Wilgeby. In the article in the "New Review," previously alluded to, written by Miss C. F. Gordon Cumming and the present Lady Middleton, it is stated that the o was introduced in the name at the time of the marriage between Percival Willoughby and Bridget Willughby, in order to distinguish the two branches of the family, but in Dr. Thoroton's History, p. 35, col. ii., it appears that a Willoughby (temp, 1 Edward III.) had a Charter of Free Warren, etc.; in the next paragraph, however, the same man is alluded to as Richard de Willughby, closely followed by Sir Percivall Willoughby, so spelt. In Godfrey's "Churches of Rushcliffe," p. 309, the church of Willoughby is referred to A.D. 1341, and the following page as Wylloughby (27 Henry VIII.), and Willoughby (Edward VI., 1547); and again, one of the rectors (13 April, 1320), is given as Hugh de Wyloughby. An inscription in relief in the chancel of Wollaton Church is to Perci Wylluhby qui. ob. Aug. 23, 1643; so the spelling of the name seems to have been at the caprice of the spellers of ancient days, and is scarcely attributable to the Eresby branch.

Percival Willoughby was one of those who attended King James I., as he passed through Notts, on his way from Scotland, after his accession to the English throne, on which occasion he was knighted at Worksop (20 April, 1603), and subsequently became a member in King James' first parliament. His marriage with Bridgett resulted in a fairly numerous family, who henceforth quartered the arms of the two houses of Willoughby.

Their grandson, Francis, was a man of great culture, "a prodigy of natural knowledge," Deering calls him. It was his son, Francis, who was created a baronet by Charles II., at the age of ten, in recognition of his father's great attainments, but he died young, being only twenty-two, and never married. At his death, in 1688, his brother Thomas, M.P., succeeded him in the baronetcy, and was eventuall created Baron Middleton, of Middleton, co. Warwick, on 31 December, 1711, being one of a batch of ten peers created by Queen Anne in one day. His sister, Cassandra, married the Duke of Chandos, and appears to have searched out and recorded many particulars concerning the family.

The third Baron Middleton died unmarried (1774), and the fourth died without issue7 (1781), so Henry, son of Thomas Willoughby (the brother of the second baron) became the possessor of the title and estates, with the addition of the Birdsall (Yorkshire) property, which his mother (Miss Southby) brought with her on her marriage. His son, Henry, sixth Lord Middleton, left no heir, and the estates passed to a cousin, viz., Digby, captain in the Royal Navy, who never married.

It may here be mentioned that the office of the Bailiwick of the Honour of Peveril was held by the Willoughby family for many years, viz., from 1546, when King Henry VIII. granted it to Henry Willoughby until 1617, when King James I. transferred it to the Goring family. Sir Percival, who had acquired the stewardship through his wife, Dame Bridgett Willoughby, disputed this transfer, but was unsuccessful, and King Charles I. confirmed the grant to the Gorings. It was not until 1706 that Queen Anne appointed Sir Thomas Willoughby (the first Lord Middleton) again to hold the post, and he and his successors continued in the office of High Steward (which was of some importance) until the court was abolished in 1849, the last steward being Digby, seventh Lord Middleton.

At the death of the "sailor lord," 1856, his cousin, Henry, son of Henry Willoughby, of Aspley, by Charlotte, daughter of Archdeacon Eyre, succeeded. This eighth possessor of the title married Julia, daughter of A. W. Bosvile, Esq., of Thorpe, Yorks. He lived chiefly at Birdsall and his deer forest, Applecross, so was but little known in this county. He died in 1877, leaving a numerous family, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Digby Wentworth Bayard Willoughby, ninth and present Baron Middleton, late of the Scots Fusilier Guards, who married, in 1869, Eliza Maria, daughter of Sir Alexander Penrose Gordon Cumming, Bart., of Altyre, Scotland.

The pedigree here given is not intended to be a full pedigree of this illustrious family, but is added merely with a view to showing the line of succession through many generations.

In conclusion, I have to thank Lady Middleton for having rendered me much kindly assistance in compiling this article.


(1) Blackner's History of Nottingham, p. 68.
(2) Godfrey's Churches of Rushcliffe, p. 318. (2) Vide Notts. Visitations, Harleian Society.
(4) There is a Willughby Chapel at Wilne Church, near Draycott, co. Derby, containing a fine tomb to one of this branch; there are also some brasses and a floor-stone in the chancel.
(5) His second wife was buried at Middleton. (6) See account of the Church.
(7)  When Thomas Willoughby, he was one of those present  at the Star and Garter Dinner, when the Byron-Chaworth duel took place.