The 8th Baron was the eldest son of Henry Willoughby of Birdsall and Settrington, Yorkshire, and a great-great-grandson of the 1st Baron Middleton . His mother Charlotte Willoughby, née Eyre, was a daughter of the Archdeacon of York and a grand-daughter of Anthony Eyre Esq. of Rampton and Adwick-le-Street. Henry was born at Aspley Hall near Nottingham, and was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge, which he entered in 1836. He succeeded his cousin, the 7th Baron, in 1856. He favoured Birdsall House as his main residence over Wollaton Hall, and died there on 20 December 1877.
He married Julia Louisa (d 1901), only daughter of Alexander William Bosville of Thorpe and Gunthwaite, Yorkshire, and Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye, in 1843, and had:
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