Donington Hall

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Donington Hall
Donington Hall
Donington Hall is located in Leicestershire
Donington Hall
Donington Hall
General information
mansion house
LocationCastle Donington
Town or cityLeicestershire
Current tenantsNorton Motorcycle UK Ltd
Construction startedc 1790
Renovated1976; headquarters
ClientNorton Motorcycles (UK) Ltd
OwnerNorton Motorcycle Company (since 2013)
LandlordNorton Motorcycle Co.
Other information
Donington Hall (archived)
Donington Hall via Norton website

Donington Hall is a mansion house set in parkland near Castle Donington village, North West Leicestershire. The hall served as the headquarters for British Midland International airline until it was merged into British Airways on 28 October 2012. It was owned by Stuart Garner, the former owner and CEO of the Norton Motorcycle Company, and it was the company's headquarters until Norton went into administration with the name being sold in April 2020. As of July 2020, the hall is being marketed for sale on behalf of the administrator of the failed business.[1]


The house was built from c 1790[2] for Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 2nd Earl of Moira (created Marquess of Hastings in 1816), in a fanciful Gothic manner by William Wilkins.[3]

It passed in 1826 to the young George, a foxhunting addict who kept his own pack of hounds at the hall in purpose-built kennels. George died an early death in 1844 at the age of 35 and was succeeded by his eldest son, 12-year-old Paulyn, who himself died in Ireland only six years later. Paulyn was succeeded in turn by his younger brother Lord Henry Weysford Charles Plantagenet Rawdon-Hastings, later 4th Marquess of Hastings and 9th Earl of Loudon.[4]

Harry was a profligate gambler and spent the family's fortune. On his own early death in 1868, he left the hall in the failing care of his sister Edith Maud and her husband Charles Clifton, later Baron Donington and afterwards his two sons, the 2nd and 3rd Barons. In 1901 it was sold to Frederick Gratton, son of Lord Gratton of Stapleford Park.[5]

The Shields family[edit]

From 1902, Donington was the property of the Gillies Shields family. The hall was requisitioned at the start of World War I by the British government and turned into a prisoner of war camp. While interned at Donington Hall in 1915, the German naval pilot Gunther Plüschow made the only successful escape from Britain in either World War.[6]

In 1931, the then owner of the estate, Alderman John Gillies Shields J.P. agreed to allow Fred Craner use of the extensive roads on the land for motor racing, thus creating the Donington Park circuit.[7] The circuit at Donington Park was closed in 1939 due to World War II, when it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and was converted into a military vehicle depot and storage area.[8]

With the whole estate needing extensive renovations after the war, the family rented the estate out as farm land. They retained the Hall, which after the Soviet Army ensured a Communist regime in Hungary, became a refugee camp for those who came to the East Midlands. A letter to the Daily Telegraph from the Gillies Shields and Joyce Pearce thanked all those who were providing clothing, books and toys for the children, promising that once the immediate crisis was over, it was their intention to turn Donington Hall into "a home and school for children of all nationalities who now live without hope in the displaced persons camps in Germany; their parents were our allies, their sufferings caused through loyalty to our cause."[9]

In 1971, Tom Wheatcroft bought part of the estate, including the famous prewar racing circuit, from the Shields family for £100,000.[10]

Corporate ownership[edit]

In 1976, British Midland Airways purchased the hall from the Shields family to renovate and convert into their headquarters.[11] British Midland Airways moved to Donington Hall in 1982.[12] The airline was subsequently rebranded as British Midland International, employing 800 workers at Donington Hall in 2007.[13] In 2012, International Airlines Group announced it may lay off up to 1,200 BMI employees, with proposed layoffs mainly from the BMI head office at Donington Hall.[14]

In March 2013 the Norton Motorcycle Company bought Donington Hall from International Airlines Group.[15] Norton produced hand-built bikes from a nearby building called Hastings House, previously BMI Baby's call centre,[16] while Donington Hall was an events venue.[17] In 2016 Norton's chief executive Stuart Garner bought the neighbouring property to Donington Hall, the Priest House Hotel, which expanded his hospitality business. The combined properties are set in 80 acres of grounds, which are bordered by an ancient deer park and the River Trent.[18]

As of 2020, the hall is being marketed for sale as part of a wider package on behalf of the administrator of the failed Norton business.[1][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Historic Donington Hall up for sale Sanderson Weatherall, 7 July 2020. Retrieved 23 February 2021
  2. ^ Illustrated in George Richardson, A New Vitruvius Britannicus, ii (1808) pls. 31-35; the date 1793 is over a door, according to Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 3rd ed. 1995, s.v. "Wilkins, William"
  3. ^ "Donington Hall". Pastscape. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Hastings, Henry Weysford Charles Plantagenet Rawdon, fourth marquess of Hastings". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  5. ^ "The Gothic taste:Humphry Repton and the development of Donington Park" (PDF). University of Leicester. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  6. ^ Castle Donington, Derbyshire Life, accessed June 2009[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Donington Park Trophy". Retrieved 13 January 2009.
  8. ^ Wheatcroft, Tom (1999). Christopher Hilton (ed.). Hitler's GP in England. Haynes Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 1-85960-630-X.
  9. ^ "1950S: REFUGEES STIR UP EMOTIONS". Archived from the original on 27 September 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2009.
  10. ^ "Track owner reveals secret summit with F1 boss Bernie". 8 July 2008.
  11. ^ Descendants of John (Shields) Shiels
  12. ^ "the eighties Archived 10 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine." British Midland International. Retrieved on 28 December 2011.
  13. ^ "Struggling rival airline is snapped up by BMI." Europe Intelligence Wire. 5 February 2007. Retrieved on 22 January 2010. "Bmi has 4229 staff, including 800 at its Donington Hall head office"
  14. ^ "BRITISH AIRWAYS ANNOUNCES CONSULTATION TO INTEGRATE BMI MAINLINE." (Archive) British Airways. Thursday 12 April 2012. Retrieved on 12 April 2012.
  15. ^ Norton Motorcycles buys Donington Hall Derby Telegraph, 18 March 2013
  16. ^ Norton Motorcycles seeks Donington Hall occupiers Insider Media, 11 November 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2021
  17. ^ "Norton motorbike boss buys Priest House Hotel, Castle Donington". Leicester Mercury. 10 December 2015. Archived from the original on 13 December 2015. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  18. ^ Mercury, Leicester (10 December 2015). "Norton motorbike boss buys Priest House Hotel, Castle Donington". Leicester Mercury. Archived from the original on 13 December 2015.
  19. ^ Donington Hall up for sale for £13m The Business Desk 7 July 2020. Retrieved 23 February 2021

Coordinates: 52°50′15″N 1°22′38″W / 52.8376°N 1.3771°W / 52.8376; -1.3771