A Brief History of the Campsite

Willesley Hall

The origins of the church stretch back to the reign of Edward the Confessor and it is fairly certain that the Manor house would be quite close by and would be much earlier than the church. In 1002 Willesley was granted to Burton Abbey by Wulfric Spot. By the time of Doomsday it was largely in the hands of Henry de Ferriers. Later reorganisation left half of the estate with the Abbot of Burton and Half with De Ferriers. The majority of the manor was tenanted by the De Willesley family. From the early 1200s the Ingwardbys were lords of the manor until early 1400s. William de Ingwardby divided the manor between his two daughters. His eldest married John Abney, the other Thomas Stokes. In 1424 the Abneys bought the Stokes share of the estate and took possession of the manor. The family owned the Hall until 1791 when Thomas Abney died, 10 generations.The core of the last house was built by James Abney, High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1656, later being enlarged by Edward Abney in the 18th century. Later that century, the 155 acre park was laid out, which included linear planting with walks and a large 24 acre lake which is reputed to have drowned the former village of Willesley. The Hall and Church were further extended in 1840 by Charles Abney.

The Hall passed to the Hastings family in 1791 by marriage after Parnell Abney, and sole heiress of Thomas Abney married Major General Charles Hastings in 1788. Charles Hastings had a successful military career. He spent his later years at Willesley Hall until he shot himself on 30th September, 1823. He requested that acorns would be planted over his grave so that he may have the satisfaction of knowing that his body would serve to rear a good English oak. An Oak tree can be seen in the church yard enclosed by iron railings around a grave in the North West corner of the church yard.

The Hall passed to Captain Frank Abney Hastings, his younger son. He entered the British Navy, but was later dismissed so he joined the Greek navy. After a good career he died in battle in 1828. Sir Charles Abney Hastings inherited the Willesley and Packington estates. Charles did extensive alterations to the hall and did a lot for the community. He established the school in Packington, Nothe Street Ashby and sponsored the building of the bridge in Ashby. He died a bachelor in 1858. He left his estate to kinswoman Lady Edith Maud Hastings.

Soon after moving in, she planted an avenue of lime trees from the hall to Ashby Castle, the home of her ancestors. This can still be seen along the large field bordering the golf course. She later moved to Donnington Hall and died in 1874. Her husband died in 1895. Their son Charles continued family traditions but the family suffered heavily in the Great War. Edward Hastings and Rawdon Hastings (heir) were killed in 1915 and then in 1920 the earl died at the Manor House in Ashby. The Widowed Countess decided to sell.
The house was sold to Major J. Ashworth, a solicitor from Nottingham, who leased the park in 1921 to the local Golf club (who eventually bought it in 1946). From 1925 the house became a hotel under Mr. Chapmen but from 1936, when it finally closed, the house remained empty and decaying until 1952 when the site was bought by the Ashby and Coalville Scout District. The hall was demolished in 1953.

2014

The campsite website (www.willesley.org.uk) was redesigned and relaunched by Jonathan Ince.

2007

The karting track was completed; also, the old water tank was dug out to form the pot-holing activity. Archery and the spiders frame were also introduced to the site. In May, the bouldering wall was completed. Following the activities being installed, there was the centenary camp where 731 campers attended.

2006

The crate stacking activity was first set up. Central heating was installed into the gatehouse.

1994

LPG tank was installed. Then in August, the cabin used for the tuck shop was acquired. On the 2nd of October, Radio Leicester had a 2 hour broadcast about the site.

1993

2 Refurbished bells re-hung in bell tower. Then, on the 25th of April, the climbing tower was erected.

1992

75 years of cub scouting celebration – the big trees on the main field were planted. Later in the year was the Willesley 40th anniversary camp – visited by Garth Morrison Chief Scout.

1991

The Oakthorpe Colliery winding and headstock arrived at the site (this is now located outside the Wardens caravan). Also, the second Wardens caravan was purchased. Later in the year, the church was reopened.

1990

The bottom carpark was constructed. Also, the “Go A Million Camp” was held where 699 people (from 17 groups) attended.

1986

Pine woodlands (3.5 acres) was bought £3700. Also, the first Warden’s caravan was purchased.

1966

The gatehouse was formally opened by the Duke of Rutland. Also on the 10th of March, the bottom field was purchased for £70.

1956

This was the first district camp at the site. Each group had to clear their own camping plot.

1952

Central site purchased (3 acres) for 75 pounds and 15,000 dressed bricks bought from J.S.Plant Builders. Consisted of a derelict Hall, ruined coach house, stables, gatehouse, greenhouses, summer house and ice house.