The date of the first settlement within Annesley Parkland is unknown. Documentary research suggests a Saxon settlement, constructed between the 5th and 11th centuries. There is no surviving evidence to locate or date the first settlement. However from historical readings and drawings it seems likely that the original settlement was situated in close proximity to the standing structure now. Most of the present buildings can be dated with some confidence to the 17th century.
Early history and Chaworth family
Following the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century, a motte and bailey castle was constructed to control the royal parkland. The exact date for the building of the castle is unknown, but historical evidence indicates that it had possibly fallen into disuse by 1232. The castle was built by the Marc family and was most likely abandoned because the castle no longer carried the defensive requirements, and the living standards of a then 'modern' manor house were far more comfortable.
At a similar time to the construction of the medieval hall, a church was also constructed. Today, this lies as a ruin to the north of the current hall. During the reign of Henry I (1100-1135), Robert de Chaworth settled in Nottinghamshire and married the daughter of William de Walchiville, Lord of Marnham. The Chaworth family were descendants of the Chaources family of Maine, in northern France. Marriage alliances extended the Chaworth family’s properties in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. By the 15th century Annesley Parkland was owned by the Chaworth family, who used the medieval hall as a hunting lodge. During this period the parkland was heavily planted with woodland.
By the 16th century, deer parks became a less important pastime and resource. Instead the land was used for agriculture and a number of estates were redesigned into parkland landscapes. Instead of the land coming second to the manor, it was now incorporated into a large self-sufficient parkland and landscape design. Within the parkland was a village, west of the manor house, whose inhabitants worked the land. Adjacent to this village were thought to have been woods, orchards, gardens, remaining deer parks, and lakes and ponds.
During the 16th century Annesley Parkland underwent extensive alterations to the hall and surrounding land. A new hall was built of part stone and part timber construction. Evidence of the 16th century building has been found in the large bressumer in a very thick north south stone wall with a four-centre arch, indicating living rooms to the west.
Making way for a new landscape
To make way for the additions of the 17th century, it was thought that the medieval village of Annesley was demolished. In 1629, William Seniors documented the parkland. It provides evidence of a number of lost buildings and the loss of the village, also documented were a barnyard (east of hall), a brewhouse, and stabling, which was an extension to the gatehouse range. During the 17th century it was not unusual for villages to be destroyed in order to make way for this new formal style of landscaping. It is thought that the village was demolished to make way for the kitchen gardens. As well as the alteration and addition of buildings, the parkland underwent change too.
The late 1600s marked a new phase in the development of landscapes, which created a more formal style of channelled vistas with riding routes and pleasure grounds. The 17th century changes at Annesley are illustrated in Thoroton’s plan of 1677. The twelve ridings (pathways) shown on Thoroton’s plan of the park cut directly through woodland and would have picked out key vistas including ponds, the medieval castle, and views towards Newstead. This plan indicates how much change took place within the parkland between this time and Lord Byron’s visits to the estate.
Lord Byron’s inspiration
During the 1700s the formalised parkland developments were continued with the addition of tree lined avenues (Byron’s Walk), entrance lodges (South Lodge, Fish Pond Lodge, Butlers Lodge, Agents Lodge), ponds and lakes, open vistas, kitchen gardens, and a cricket ground. The parkland was viewed as an extension to the main living quarters as opposed to a secondary entity, and was designed for pleasure as opposed to the need for a subsistence style of living. Mary Chaworth, daughter of George Chaworth, was the first love of Lord Byron, who was the now famous poet who lived at Newstead Abbey. He wrote numerous poems describing Annesley Parkland and the surrounding area with the 'The Dream' being the most famous, which describes Byron’s love for Mary at a meeting on Diadem Hill.
A luxury manor house
The last major building works appear to have been the Victorian extension of 1865 during a period of great wealth and power, no doubt due to the opening of the coal industry in the area. Annesley Hall was becoming a more luxurious manor house with modern commodities of the time. A large Victorian Wing extension was erected to the north of the hall, further north were an ice house and water tanks.
Places to visit
Two fires in 1997 and 2015 at Annesley Hall ripped through the internal historical details leaving just a shell. Some of the landmarks within the parkland are still present, but unmarked including Byron’s Walk, the motte and bailey castle, the Arboretum, and the Pleasure Grounds. Learn more about a visit to Annesley Old Church, the hall and parkland.
Information source: Annesley Park Management Plan. ASHFIELD DISTRICT COUNCIL & EMD LTD - DECEMBER 2017