Castle Donington has a delightful and eclectic mix of buildings, with architectural styles from four centuries cheek by jowl in this small town whose main street climbs from the Trent valley up the hill past the site of the castle, church and compact shopping area of mainly small local businesses. There is a large industrial estate and business park on the edge of town to the north whilst Donington Park, the airport and its business park are on the southern edge of Castle Donington.
The A50, from its junction with the A6 at Stoke, passes just north of the town where it also joins the nearby M1. To the south the A453 leads to the A(later M)42 to Birmingham. Local bus operators provide services from Loughborough and the airport through the town to Shardlow and Derby or Long Eaton and Nottingham. The nearest railway stations are at Long Eaton (7kms), Loughborough (15kms) and Derby(20kms). The nearest airport is, of course, the East Midlands Airport with both passenger flights and a large cargo handling hub.
Donington Park, was home to motorcycle and car racing, hoping to host the 2010 F1 Grand Prix, but after failing to get sufficient funds in place the company went into administration. It is uncertain that the track will host anything at the moment given the state of the track but it is hoped that Donington will not disappear into history just yet...
A brief history...
Building of the castle which led to 'Dunitone', as mentioned in the Domesday Book, getting its modern name was started in the middle of the twelfth century to command the crossings of the Trent which flows along the west and north edges of the hill on which it stood. Levelled by King John's troops in 1216 and rebuilt some 75 years later the castle, a stone built structure with a curtain wall and five towers, was totally demolished in 1595. Most of the stone was taken away to extend Langley Priory and build the first Donington Hall although fragments can be found in buildings around the castle site.
The crossing of the Trent at nearby Kings Mill, also mentioned in the Domesday Book, was not the only river crossing watched over by the castle. Recent gravel workings uncovered the remains of several Norman bridges, together with a 12th.C. mill dam, over the then course of the Trent, more than a kilometre nearer to the town than the present river. Evidence of Saxon use of the river for fishing, together with a fragment of a Saxon stone cross, was found nearby whilst less than a kilometre away two Bronze Age log boats were found, one of which is preserved in Derby Museum. The Vikings also left their mark with the naming of streets like Bondgate during the Danelaw.
Construction of the church of St. Edward, King and Martyr was started in the 13th.C. although it is named after a Saxon king which suggests it replaced an earlier church. The three stage battlemented tower and slender octagonal spire date from the early fourteenth century.
Donington Hall, built in 1595, was demolished and rebuilt in the 'Strawberry Hill Gothic' style in 1793. The hall and surrounding estate was developed between the wars to provide a golf course, boating and eventually a motor racing circuit. After being requisitioned by the army during WWII it later became the headquarters of British Midland Airways (now BMI) whilst the motor racing circuit was improved to become the world class venue we see today.
The expanding East Midlands Airport was developed from the wartime airfield, a satellite landing field for RAF Wymeswold, decommissioned in 1946 to open almost twenty years later to replace Derby Airport at Burnaston which was too small to handle the increasing demand for air travel.
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