Wentworth-Fitzwilliam family of Milton

Origins of the Wentworth-Fitzwilliam family

History of Milton Hall

Records held at the Northamptonshire Record Office

Printed sources


Estates in Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire were acquired from the 16th century onwards by the Fitzwilliam family. The founder of the local dynasty was Sir William Fitzwilliam, a Merchant Taylor, a Merchant of the Staple of Calais and an Alderman of the City of London; he was probably knighted in 1515. He first began building up a landed estate in Essex (Gaynes Park, sold in 1636) and then in 1502 began buying land in the Soke of Peterborough. Much later the family acquired other distinct estates, most notably in Ireland (based on Coollattin Park, Co. Wicklow) and Yorkshire, where they inherited in the late eighteenth the Marquess of Rockingham's estates centred on the great house at Wentworth Woodhouse, situated between Sheffield and Barnsley.


The oldest part of Milton Hall is the north front, which is probably built in the period c1590-1610 either for Sir William IV or V, who were both courtiers. After 1618, and for the next three or four generations, the family's income came from less lucrative sources, principally the agricultural management of their estates, especially grazing sheep on enclosed land, and from rents from their tenants. So it was not until the mid-18th at the third Earl was able to enlarge the Hall by commissioning the architect Henry Flitcroft to design the imposing south front in the Palladian style. Milton remained the principal house of the Earls Fitzwilliam until after the death of the fifth Earl in 1857, when it was agreed to divide the estate, so that the sixth Earl retained the Yorkshire and Irish estates and went to reside at Wentworth, whilst his eldest surviving brother, George, acquired the Milton Estates. In the 1880's the Earl's estates totalled 22,200 acres in Yorks with 91, 800 in Ireland, whilst the Milton Estate consisted of 23,300 acres extending along the Nene Valley roughly between Peterborough and Irthlingborough. What remained of all these estates was combined under the tenth Earl Fitzwilliam in 1952, with Milton Hall again the principal residence.


Following the death of Sir William Fitzwilliam I in 1543, the next two heads of the family (Sirs William II & III) were courtiers, holding mostly minor state appointments, but made useful marriages and enjoyed the patronage of Lord Burghley. Under Queen Elizabeth, Sir William III held appointments in Ireland, principally Lord Deputy 1560-1594, and was also Keeper of Fotheringhay Castle when Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there. Sir William V was elevated to the Irish Peerage in 1620 with the title of Baron Fitzwilliam of Lifford, and the third Baron was advanced to the Earldom in 1716. The third Earl (in the Irish Peerage) became the first Baron in the British Peerage in 1742 and four years later was raised to the Earldom; the consequent dual numbering in the two peerages frequently causes confusion (we use the numbering in the Irish Peerage in this text). In 1807, as a result of their Yorkshire inheritance, the fourth Earl altered the family name (by Royal Licence) to Wentworth Fitzwilliam [sometimes hyphenated]. One of their lesser titles was Viscount Milton, which was used by the heir apparent from the early 18th century as a courtesy title.


The Earldom descended naturally through several generations but faltered with the sudden death (without issue) of the eighth Earl in 1948, aged 38, when the title reverted to an elderly distant cousin. As the ninth Earl also had no children it was necessary to determine who would succeed to the title, so in the early months of 1951 a case was brought before the High Court in London between Capt Tom Fitzwilliam, who lived at Milton Hall, and his much older brother George James, known as Toby. The case hinged on the validity of their parents' alleged marriage in Scotland in 1886, and was ultimately resolved in favour of Capt Tom. It was only 13 months later that the ninth Earl died, and so in 1952 the title came back again to the branch of the family at Milton.


Four years after he inherited as the tenth (and last) Earl, Tom Fitzwilliam married Lady FitzAlan-Howard, but there was no issue from that marriage, and following the Earl's death in 1979, Milton Estates have therefore descended through the Countess's family from her first marriage, initially to her daughter Lady Elizabeth Anne Hastings, and then to her grandson, Sir Phillip Naylor-Leyland (see below for further detail).


William Thomas George, tenth Earl Fitzwilliam (b. 28 May 1904 d.21 Sept 1979) who married, in April 1956, Joyce Elizabeth, Lady FitzAlan-Howard (b.1898-d.June 1995) by her previous marriage in 1922 to Viscount FitxAlan of Derwent (dissolved 1955), there were two daughters, of whom the younger was:


Elizabeth Anne Marie Gabrielle (b.26 Jan 1934 d.20 March 1997) who married firstly in 1952, Sir Vivyan Edward Naylor-Leyland (b.1924-d.2 Sept 1987) and had, with other issue, a son and heir:


Philip Vivyan Naylor-Leyland (b. 9 Aug 1953) [succeeded his father as baronet in 1987] who married, in 1980, Lady Isabella Lambton, and has issue, 3 sons and a daughter.


Lady Elizabeth's first marriage was dissolved in 1960 and she married, secondly, in 1975, Sir Stephen Hastings (b. 4 May 1921 d. January 2005).


In relation to the family Northamptonshire Record Office holds the following material:

Fitzwilliam Charters twelth Century-1850 and Fitzwilliam Rolls 1532-1750s including Peterborough Quarter Sessions Rolls 1700-1710.


Papers of Sir William Fitzwilliam as Lord Deputy in Ireland, late 16th century.
Political papers and speeches of Sir Walter Mildmay, late 16th century.
Architectural plans of Milton, mainly 18th and 19thcentury. Includes 1643 plan of mansion and garden, 1675 gateway, 1690 mason's agreement, 1693 account for carpentry, 1720 elevation of stables, 1725 new wing by Robert Wright, 1726 designs for new mansion (never built), 1749-1754 designs for new mansion (never built) and extension of existing house, some by Henry Flitcroft. Accounts for extension 1750-1751.
18th century plans for a London house.
Large collection of 18th and 19th century vouchers.
Extensive private family correspondence from 1528 including Sir William Paget's letter book 1547-1549, a minister under Henry VIII.
Peterborough Abbey bailiffs' accounts and court records, late 13th century, 14th century and 15th century.
'Miscellaneous volumes' collection includes rentals, surveys, estate accounts, court books and printed works. With late 16th, early 17th century household accounts, also 1690s and 1775-1826, kitchen accounts 1584-1591, servants wages 1628-1638 and 1772-1826. Estate and household accounts for Setchey (Norfolk), 17th, early 18th century. Building accounts for Dogsthorpe 1579-1601 and Milton 1750-/SI. The 1st Earl's notebooks or almanacs.
Travel journals, Low Countries and France 1663, voyage to East Indies 1672-1674, France, Italy, Bavaria, early/mid 19thC.. Personal account books and bank books of the 4th and 5th Earls 1772-1855. Nassaburgh Hundred Subsidy assessments, 1580s, 1590s, Parliamentary journals 1640/41, Peterborough charity accounts 1740s, 1790s, election accounts for Lord Burford at Hull 1790, Higham Ferrers 1812-1831. Lucy Hutchinson's book of advice to her daughter 1731.
Papers of Edmund Burke, secretary to the Marquess of Rockingham as Prime Minister, and political theorist, (d. 1797).
Papers of Anne, Lady Godolphin and her husband Francis the 2nd Lord Godolphin. The family had estates at Baylies and Quainton (Bucks.) and around Helston (Cornwall). Personal and estate correspondence 1740-1802, including letters from Charles Lyttelton Bishop of Carlisle and references for servants. Late 18thC. household accounts and bills, including work on London house. Plans of the house in St. James' Place 1766. Papers on dispute with Helston borough 1768-1783. Lord Godolphin's account book 1743-1785 and testamentary papers. Nominations for Eton and Kings College Cambridge 1765-1784.
This information has been copied from Northamptonshire Record Office's website:
The catalogues for the charters and rolls, the Burke papers and the Godolphin papers are all available on the Access to Archives (A2A) website at: http://www.a2a.org.uk.
'The Correspondence of Lord Fitzwilliam of Milton and Francis Guybon his Steward 1697-1709' edited by D.R. Hainsworth and Cherry Walker is volume 36 of the Northants. Record Society series, 1990.
Other material relating to this family is held at other archive repositories. See The National Register of Archives for details: http://www.nra.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/.
Printed sources:
The Wealth of Five Northamptonshire Families 1540-1640 by Mary E. Finch (1956)
Burke's Peerage (various editions).
The Fitzwilliam family of Milton Hall [The text of a talk by W.T.G., Tenth Earl Fitzwilliam] edited by M.B. Osborne and D. Allanach, Bretton Local Studies Group, 1983.
Peterborough City Council. Town Hall, Bridge Street, Peterborough, PE1 1QT - (01733) 747474 - DX12310 Peterborough 1