A brief history of Ansley Parish

Ansley is first mentioned in 1086 when it was surveyed, together with Hartshill, in the Domesday Book among the manors held by the then recently deceased Countess Godiva, the wife, mother and grandmother of successive Anglo-Saxon earls of Mercia. Located within the characteristic woodland landscape of the Warwickshire Arden, the place-name is probably derived from Old English ‘ansetleah’, the first element of which related to an isolated hermitage and the second, ‘leah’, generally associated with areas of woodland pasture.

It was probably King William II who gave the overlordship of Ansley to the earls of Chester, their tenure continuing into the early 13th century, after which it passed by marriage into the inheritance of the earls of Arundel. But they were not the lords of the manor as the earls of Chester gave this estate to their tenants, the lords of Hartshill, the first of whom may have been Hugh, falconer to earls Ranulf I (1120-29) and Ranulf II (1129-53). Hugh died in the early 1160s and was followed by his son, Robert, grandson William and their descendants until around 1368 when the death of John II de Hartshill without a male heir brought the manor by marriage to the Culpeper family.

Ansley was a rural, agricultural community faming the land on which it lived, the local landscape preserving many traces of ridge and furrow earthworks that indicate the former presence of medieval fields. Medieval Ansley sat within a diverse wooded landscape that embraced arable land, mostly growing barley and rye, pasture land, meadowland and heath; the people of Ansley worked within a woodland economy – a combination of small field arable farming, stock raising and crafts. The population, around 225 in the early 14th century, was scattered across the parish but there was something of a focus around Church End, centrally placed within the parish and the location of St Laurence’s Church. Modern Ansley Village, to the south of the parish, was a later development for ribbon making for the Coventry silk industry .There being virtually nothing in Ansley Common to the east, other than open cast and bell pits until the sinking of Ansley Hall Colliery.

At the beginning of the 21st Century there were approximately one thousand dwellings in the parish in three centres of community, Ansley Common, Ansley Village and the smallest hamlet Birchley Heath, with under 100 homes. Both Ansley Common and Ansley Village contain houses specifically built to house coal miners and their families. Miners from the Common and the Village worked in the pits in the area namely, “Ansley Hall”, “The Tunnel” and “Arley”. There are also many outlying farms and cottages scattered around the parish, which is part of the former North Warwickshire Coalfield. 

Ansley Hall Colliery was sunk in 1878, it did not become a profitable venture until William Garside Phillips arrived from Yorkshire and took charge. After his death in 1929 his son Joe, ran the business until the nationalisation of the coal industry when the family left the parish. Ansley Hall Colliery closed in 1959 followed by other local pits.

The residents of Ansley have gradually found employment in surrounding towns and cities. Today there is only small scale employment in the few industrial sites within the parish. The development of the area towards Nuneaton with new estates and infill is increasing the number or dwellings substantially. The current local authority are hopeful that the land outside these areas will retain some of its ancient rural appearance.