700 years as a family home.
The families who have lived at Donington le Heath Manor House - Circa 1290 to 1960
The De Sees family.
In a charter of 1202, William de Sees is recorded as having given the Prior of Charley Priory six virgates (around 180 acres or 72 hectares) of land in Donington. This land probably included the site of the Manor House. By the late 1270s, three virgates of this land was leased from the Priory by William le Mey of Donington and two virgates were held by Richard of Charley.
The De Herle family.
From documentary sources, we know that William le May leased land in Donington from Charley Priory. In 1293, Robert de Herle, from Kirby Muxloe, took over the lease of William le Mey's land in Donington. Ten years later Robert bought more land there from Thomas, son of Robert de Charley. We also know from medieval tax records that Isabella de Herle, Robert's widow was still living in the house in 1332.
In 1347, William de Herle, their son, died holding one messuage (a plot of land with a building), one carucate (equal to four virgates or about 120 acres) of land in Donington. This was rented from the Prior of Charley Priory for 10 shillings per year. His heir was Robert de Herle.
The Pakeman family.
From the middle of the fourteenth century, the house was probably owned by members of the Pakeman family. in 1378, Simon Pakeman died and the lands he held were listed so that the dower (widow's portion) of his wife, Agnes, could be calculated. Simon had land in Donington, Hugglescote, Wightwick, and Stanton-under-Bardon.
In 1392, the son of Simon and Agnes, also called Simon, died and a portion of his lands were given to his kinswoman Katherine, wife of Robert Dyggeby.
The Digby family.
In 1462, an Everard Digby held lands in Donington and at Tilton-on-the-Hill. He lost this land for committing a serious crime. It is probably that this was the result of the Digby family fighting against king Henry VI at the battle of Towton. Everard's lands in Donington were given to Alice Russell.
By 1510, the Digbys had regained the land as another Everard Digby is recorded as having held land at Donington from the Prior of Ulverscroft who was now in charge of Charley priory too. We know that a Sir John Digby fought at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 for Henry Tudor. When Henry defeated king Richard III and became king Henry VII he would have rewarded his supporters and is may be the case that he gave back the lands that the Digbys had lost in 1462 for their opposition to the previous kings.
In 1574, Kenelm sold his land at Donington and Wightwick (actually a part of Hugglescote that was a part of the manor of Wightwick) to his son, Everard, on condition that if he died the property would go to another son, John.
This Everard was a close friend of Guy Fawkes and he was executed in 1606 for being one of the Gunpowder Plotters. See here for more information on the Gunpowder Plot.
At the time when the seventeenth century alterations were done to the Manor House, it was probably owned by John Digby, John Digby's daughter, Anna, married Thomas Swinglehurst in 1618 and it is possible that the house was modernised and given to the couple as part of her marriage settlement.
In 1627, John Digby sold two plots of land with buildings at Donington, one to Thomas Farmer alias Ward and one to Thomas Dilke. We are not sure which of these was the present Manor House. There is no evidence to tell us how the next known owner of the house acquired the property.
By 1670, the house and its land had come into the possession of Thomas Harley, a wealthy man whose main landholdings were at Osgathorpe. When he died, he left a provision in his will setting up a charity, now known as the Harley Trust, which then owned the Manor House for nearly three hundred years.
A tenant farm.
From 1670 to 1960, the Harley Trust rented out the Manor House as a tenant farm. As the charity spent the rents on its work and the tenants could not afford to make major changes to the house, the house remained unchanged, apart for essential maintenance. Luckily for us, that meant that many of the thirteenth and seventeenth century features were left intact.
We know some details about the tenant's that lived at Donington over the three centuries that the charity owned the house:
- The Burgess family.
Surviving documents say that the Burgess family was renting the house and its land in 1804. This is why the Manor House is sometimes referred to as 'Burgess's Old House' seems to have changed 1820
- The Stones family.
The Stones are recorded as paying rents from 1820, and also paid various expenses associated with the house in 1847 and 1866.
- The Bishop family.
By 1882 Henry Stones is paying one-quarter of the rent and Thomas Bishop is paying three-quarters of the rent.
- The Hill family.
The Hills took over from the Bishops around the 1900 and stayed in the house until it was finally sold off by the Harley Trust in 1960.
- McLoughlin, V. Donington le Heath Manor House and its Connection with the Families of Donington and Hugglescote. Produced for the Friends of Donington le Heath, 1999 and 2000.
- Nichols, J.F. The History and Antiquities of Leicester. London, 1811.
Page Last Updated: 13 May 2013