words supplied by Sandra Noon
The Village of Hanslei, Ansley as it is known today, predates the Doomsday Book, which was written in 1086. As with near-by Astley, Ansley was a clearing in the forest of Arden, the village began alongside the Bourne Brook close to the place were the church of St Lawrence stands today, the brook forming part of the border on the south west side.
During the 11th century due to the death of her husband Leofric, Lady Godgifu, Godiva as she is more commonly known, owned the land. It is believed that the oldest part of St Lawrence’s church dates back to this time, and as the church is dedicated to St Lawrence; it may well have been commissioned by Abbot Lawrence a close acquaintance of Lady Godgifu.
In the early part of the 12th century Ansley, along with the neighbouring village of Hartshill, came in to the possession of William de Hardreshulle given to him by King John. William de Hardreshulle bestowed St Lawrence’s church to the nuns of Polesworth, who retained possession until the time of the Reformation when it once more became the property of the King. Tenants farmed the remaining land.
Lands belonging to the Hardreshulle’s were passed down to the Colepeper’s in the late 13th century. In the early part of the 14th century Sir Alexander Colepeper rented out 50 acres of land to Henry Ludford, and in the early 15th century he gave the land of Ansley and the land which Ansley hall stands on to Henry Ludfords grandson John, although this was contested by Alexander Colepeper’s descendents who claimed the deeds had been stolen, the mater was resolved by arbitration, and the Ludfords retained the land by agreeing to pay rent to the Colepeper’s, after changing hands several times it was finally purchased by George Ludford, descendent of Henry Ludford, in the early 17th century.
Ansley Hall evolved over several years under the supervision of the Ludford family, and was made up of a group of buildings set out in an irregular pattern around a central courtyard,
By the end of the 17th century Ansley Park had been established, and by 1814 it is described as being well stocked with deer.
Near by there is a place called the ‘hermitage’ believed to be constructed from the remains of ‘an ancient oratory’ of which Thomas Warton wrote a poem.
Thomas Wartons Poem
Beneath this stony roof reclined,
I soothe to peace my pensive mind;
And while, to shade my lowly cave,
Embowering elms their umbrage wave.
And while the maple dish is mine,
The beechen cup unstained with wine.
I scorn the gay licentious crowd,
Nor heed the toys that deck the proud.
Within my limits lone and still
The blackbird pipes in artless trill;
Fast by my couch, congenial guest,
The wren has wove her mossy nest;
From busy scenes and brighter skies
To lurk with innocence she flies;
Here hopes in safe repose to dwell,
Nor aught suspects the sylvan cell.
At mom I take my ‘customed round
To mark how buds yon shrubby mound,
And every opening primrose count
That trimly paints my blooming mount;
Or o’er the sculptures quaint and nide,
That grace my gloomy solitude,
I teach in winding wreaths to stray
Fantastic ivy’s gadding spray.
At eve, within yon studious nook
I ope my brass-embossed book,
Portrayed with many a golden deed,
Martyrs crowned with heavenly meed;
Then as my taper waxes dim
Chaunt ere I sleep my measured hymn.
And at the close the gleams behold
Of parting wings bedropt with gold.
While such pure joys my bliss create.
Who but would smile at guilty state ?
Who but would wish his holy lot
In calm oblivion’s humble grot?
Who but would cast his pomp away
To take my staff and amice gray.
And to the world’s tumultuous stage
Prefer the blameless hermitage?
The hermitage once looked very different from that which we see today, as the following pictures shows.
The hermitage is known locally as the ‘baron’s cave’, the purpose of this cave like building is unknown.
Until the late 19th century Ansley was predominantly an agricultural area, with a small number of weavers, and a small amount of mining. Around 1879 the Ansley Hall Coal and Iron company purchased land from the Ludford family and began mining on the opposite side of the road to the Hall, which was also purchased, and became a social club were the miners could relax after a hard days work. However the mine did not prosper until William Garside became the manager. Below is a picture take of the hall around this time.
As a result of the mine opening Ansley prospered and a road was built joining the existing village around St Lawrence’s Church with the mine and Ansley Hall. Which became the new centre for the village.
Today the only trace of the mine is the buildings situated on the same side as the hall; these were used as mine offices and shower room for the mines. These buildings have been used for motor repairs for some time now. The hall has now become flats.