History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
After Robert and Isabella died the house was rented out before being sold to the Pakeman family in the 14th century and then to the Digbys. One of the Digby owners was Sir Edward Digby, who was implicated in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot to kill James I.
The original building consisted simply of a hall over an undercroft, with projecting wings behind the hall. The wings now help enclose a courtyard. Many of the original medieval lancet windows survive, along with later 17th century windows inserted when the hall was 'modernised' in 1618 when large mullioned windows were inserted on the ground floor, and a large fireplace inserted for warmth and for cooking.
The ground floor windows were simple rectangular lancets, while upper storey windows were more decorative, suggesting that the family living quarters were on the upper floor.
In the late 17th century the house was leased to tenant farmers. Sometime around this time a large barn was erected nearby (now used as a tea room). The manor was used as a farmhouse until the mid-20th century, and in latter years as a pigsty.
Leicestershire County Council restored the house in the 1960s, using some rooms for a display of artefacts related to the house and its owners. Other rooms have been restored to reflect how the house looked at different times in its history. There are medieval rooms, and other chambers showing what it was like in the Tudor and Stuart periods. There is plenty of authentic Jacobean furniture, some of it original to the house.
Richard III's Bed
One of the prize exhibits at Donington-le-Heath is a medieval bed from the White Boar Inn on High Cross Street in Leicester, said to have been slept in by Richard III on his way to the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Like any important personage in the late medieval period, Richard travelled with his own bed; in fact, a well-made bed was a prize possession. So he brought his own, personal bed to Leicester while marching to battle at Bosworth.
In the reign of Elizabeth I the owner was a man named Clarke. The landlord's wife was making the bed one day when a gold coin fell from the bed. The woman looked closely at the bed and found a secret hiding place built into the bottom of the frame. Inside the hidden pocket was a horde of gold coins, many dating from Richard III's reign and some much older.
One version of the story says that the innkeeper's wife was murdered once the secret was divulged. What we do know for certain is that the bed stayed at the Blue Boar and remained a popular attraction for centuries to follow.
Is the story true? Well, the bed base may well be medieval, but it is embellished with elaborately carved posts and a headboard which are certainly late additions, dating from the 16th to the 18th century. Whatever the truth of the legend, it is still a fascinating piece of historic furniture!
What makes the Manor House so interesting is that the structure has altered very little over the 7 centuries since it was built.
Around the house are gardens replanted in traditional 17th century style, including an herb garden, a decorative hedge maze, an orchard, and a flower garden. The gardens are not a restoration; that is, we do not know exactly what the original gardens surrounding the manor would have looked like. Rather, they are laid out to represent a typical 17th century garden for a small country manor like this.
Don't come to Donington expecting a grand mansion; the Manor is essentially a farmhouse. What is fascinating is seeing how the house was used at different times in its history and how people lived here in the 13th century.
Most photos are available for licensing, please contact Britain Express image library.
About Donington-le-Heath Manor
Address: Manor Road, Donington-le-Heath, Coalville, Leicestershire, England, LE67 2FW
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: 1 mile south of Coalville, off the A50
Website: Donington-le-Heath Manor
OS: SK421 126
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
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13th century (Time Period) -
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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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