Stone axes from Westmoreland have been found near the village centre and there is an important Bronze Age burial site about 1½ miles to the east of the church at the charmingly named Butterbump Farm (Butterbump is the traditional name of the bird of the marshes, the Bittern). Excavation has shown that it was in use about 1500 BC and pollen analysis of nearby peat has proven that, even in those distant times, many agricultural crops were being grown here.
A great deal of Roman pottery has also been found in the nearby fields together with pieces of roof tile, which indicate that a Roman villa was in the vicinity although its site has never been discovered. There is also a large and mysterious earthwork in the field on the right of the road as one leaves towards Gunby. Many suggestions have been put forward for its origins, a clay pond for a Roman pottery, Danish encampment, medieval cattle pound and so on, but no convincing evidence has been found for any of these.
Despite it's small size Willoughby has it's place in history. The Willoughby family took their name from the village and Captain John Smith who helped to found Virginia, USA, was born here.
In the early 20th century the village was much more self contained than it is today and most daily wants could be satisfied within the village. The eight small farms that existed in the 1920's have gradually combined into two large farms of today. This consolidation and the development of more sophisticated machinery has meant a decrease in the number of farm workers and the village population. Over the last twenty five years village amenities have declined. Regular transport links by railway and bus services have been cut and owning a private car has become a necessity. The corner shop has been closed, as has the Post Office, but the Garage remains. The village has grown, however, with new dwellings being built throughout the village and newcomers from many parts of the country adding new dimensions to village life. The tenor of the village is still very agricultural but it is an evolving community at the beginning of the 21st Century with fresh ambitions and new directions.
The Willoughby Village History Group formed in January 2001 has produced a book charting the history of the village from earliest times to the present. More details can be found here.