Sir Francis Willoughby, of Wollaton

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Francis Willoughby, of Wollaton

Birthplace: Wollaton,Nottinghamshire,England
Death: Died in London, England
Cause of death: "under rather mysterious circumstances"
Place of Burial: England
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir Henry Willoughby and Lady Anne Grey
Husband of Elizabeth Lyttelton and Dorothy Willoughby
Father of Dorothy Hastings; Bridget Willoughby and Margaret Willoughby
Brother of Margaret Howard; Thomas Willoughby; Elizabeth Willoughby and William de Willoughby

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About Sir Francis Willoughby, of Wollaton

Francis Willoughby of Wollaton, Sir Knight, was born 1546, Wollaton, Nottinghamshire, England and "died under rather mysterious circumstances" in lodgings in London, 16 November, 1596, and was buried at St. Giles' Church Without, Cripplegate.

Parents: 2nd son of Henry Willoughby and Anne Grey, daughter of Sir Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset


  1. in 1564 to Elizabeth Littleton (b. ABT 1546 - d. 1594) (dau. of Sir John Littleton and Bridget Pakington)
  2. in 1595 to Dorothy (nee Coleby), widow of John Tamworth

12 Children of Elizabeth Littleton and Francis Willoughby include:

  1. Bridget Willoughby married her distant kinsman, Percival Willoughby, of the house of Eresby
  2. Dau. Willoughby
  3. Margaret Willoughby (B. Spencer of Wormleighton)
  4. Frances Willoughby
  5. Dorothy Willoughby
  6. Abigail Willoughby
  7. Winifred Willoughby
  8. Dau. Willoughby
  9. Dau. Willoughby
  10. Dau. Willoughby
  11. Dau. Willoughby
  12. Dau. Willoughby

Children of Dorothy Tamworth and Francis Willoughby:

  1. Frances Willoughby

Brief Biography

Sir Francis Willoughby (1547–1596) was an industrialist and coalowner, who built Wollaton Hall in Nottinghamshire.

He was the son of Henry Willoughby, a Dorset landowner and Anne, daughter of Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset. Henry had inherited Wollaton from his uncle John Willoughby on 10 January 1549, but was killed in resisting Kett's rebellion on 27 August 1549. Francis became entitled to the family estates on the death of his elder brother Thomas in 1559. At the age of seventeen, he married Elizabeth Littleton of Frankley, Worcestershire. This proved to be a turbulent marriage and only produced daughters.

Willoughby developed coal mines on his estate at Wollaton in the 1560s and 1570s. This enabled him to maintain a lordly lifestyle, maintaining a number of gentleman retainers. He employed Robert Smythson, who had previously worked at Longleat to build him a mansion, Wollaton Hall.

By 1580, when his heir died aged six, he was separated from his wife. She offered to try for another heir, they remained separated and the queen arranged for her to have an allowance of £200 per year. He then decided to make his distant relative Percival Willoughby of Bore Place in Kent his principal heir, if he had no son, through marriage to his eldest daughter Bridget. This marriage took place in 1583, and several manors including Wollaton and Middleton, Warwickshire were settled on them in default of male issue.

Willoughby entered into a number of speculative ventures, including growing and processing woad at Wollaton, and a plantation in Ireland. These took capital, as did his ironworks, at Middleton(Warwickshire), Oakamoor (Staffordshire), and Codnor(Derbyshire) The latter was his in consequence of the debts of Sir John Zouche. These were profitable, but Willoughby was unable to pay his debts as well as providing doweries for his other daughters. He accordingly handed them over in 1595 to Percival, who took responsibility for £3000 of the debts. This was followed by the death of his wife, with whom he had been reconciled. Willoughby immediately married a widow, but died only fifteen months later, leaving his widow expecting another child, who turned out to be another daughter. Percival thus inherited the estate, but encumbered with many debts.


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.


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Sir Francis Willoughby, of Wollaton's Timeline

England, United Kingdom
October 21, 1566
Age 19
Abt. 1571 Of, Wollaton, Nottinghamshire, England
Age 19
Wollaton, Northamptonshire, England
November 16, 1596
Age 49
London, England
November 1596
Age 49