The Baron’s Children Who Become Village Legends
Coalville solicitor Charles Leslie Hale became Labour MP for Oldham and later Baron Hale in the House of Lords. His children Dorothy Lesley Hale and Ian William Percy Hale returned to Swannington after their father’s death and became stalwarts in the newly formed Swannington Heritage Trust.
None of them used their first names, being known as Leslie, Lesley and Bill respectively.
Charles Leslie Hale 1902-1985
During his life Charles Leslie Hale lived in or owned a series of houses, including:
- Broadwell, Bardon Road, Coalville – his parent’s home.
- A house in Ravenstone where Lesley and Bill were born.
- Highfield House, St George’s Hill, Swannington – the former isolation hospital – Lesley recollected building a snowman on the drive, thus blocking her father from driving to the house.
- The White House, Loughborough Road, Whitwick.
- The Grove, 58 Main Street, Swannington – Leslie bought the house from Annie Moss in August 1937 for his widowed mother-in-law Dorothy Ann Latham. He sold it to his partner Mander in August 1946 when his mother-in-law joined his family at the White House, Whitwick.
- 12 Gordon Mansions, Torrington Place, London WC1.
- 92 College Road, Camberwell, Greater London, SE21.
Hale was the son of Benjamin George Hale, a managing director. He went to the Ashby Grammar School and trained to be a solicitor in Leicester. He passed his exams so quickly that he had to wait until his 21st birthday before he was allowed to practise. Thereafter Hale practised first in his hometown Coalville, later in Nuneaton and finally in London. Partner in Hale and Mander solicitors, Coalville (now Mander Cruickshank).
Leslie received nationwide coverage in 1938 after being turfed off a train from Russia at the Polish / German border. The Nazis detained him for a few hours until visa issues were sorted. The amount of coverage for a relatively trivial incident reflects the tensions between the UK and Germany at the time. When war started Leslie joined an anti aircraft unit.
Labour Member Of Parliament
Leslie Hale joined Leicestershire County Council in 1925, aged twenty-three. He was a councillor for more than 20 years, representing the Snibstone ward.
Four years later he contested Nottingham South unsuccessfully for the Liberal Party. In 1935 Leslie joined the Labour party. He became their prospective parliamentary candidate for Oldham in 1938, the Second World War meant that there was not an election until 1945 when he became one of the MPs in of the two-member constituency of Oldham. He represented this constituency until 1950, when it was abolished and split into two divisions. Leslie became Member of Parliament for Oldham West, a seat he held for 18 years until 1968, when he resigned for health reasons after 23 years as a MP.
He was created Baron Hale, of Oldham in the County Palatine of Lancaster on 24 April 1972. He died on 9 May 1985.
Lesley was immensely proud of her father and his political achievements such as campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty and for action to be taken on asbestos. A couple of years before her death Lesley took the painting of her father to Oldham and presented it to the council.
Dorothy Lesley Hale 1927-2015
Lesley was born in 1927. As the daughter of a Coalville solicitor and county councillor she made an early debut into public life at the age of three years. The Leicestershire Evening Mail of the 17th July 1930 reports on a fundraising garden party at Ravenstone Hospital opened by Mrs. Tilney of Sutton Bonnington Hall. Little Miss Lesley Hale, daughter of Mr. C. L. Hale, presented a box of chocolates to Mrs. Tilney, and herself received a box for doing it so prettily.
The Leicester Evening Mail of the 5th July 1947 reported The degree of Bachelor of Laws with honours was conferred on Miss Lesley Hale, of Whitwick, by Mr. Anthony Eden, Chancellor of Birmingham University Yesterday. Miss. Hale is the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Hale, of White House, Whitwick. She is the first local girl to obtain this degree. Mr. Hale is the well-known Coalville solicitor and is M.P. for Oldham.
Lesley became articled to her father and worked in London.
Hosting Village Events At The Grove
After working as a solicitor in London, she came to live in Swannington after her father’s death. Lesley and Bill bought “The Grove”, partly on the basis of their fond memories of their grandmother living there. It is one of the oldest houses in the village, it is situated opposite the village hall.
Lesley was always very generous in offering the use of her beautiful garden at “The Grove”, hosting picnics, concerts, garden parties etc.
Swannington Village Archive
Lesley worked tirelessly researching for the village Heritage Trust, and other historical groups. Lesley’s lasting legacy is the village archive in the millennium cupboard in the village hall. Lesley worked tirelessly to build up the archive, with some assistance from her brother Bill and Denis Baker. Lesley obtained copies of documents from a wide range of sources including:
- Records Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.
- Diocese of Leicester (established November 1926).
- Diocese of Peterborough (prior to November 1926).
- Lambeth Palace (Church of England).
- Bernard Daws archive (St George’s church research)
- Science Museum (Hough Mill records).
- Newspaper cuttings from Coalville Times, Leicester Mercury and other Leicestershire newspapers.
- Property particulars from Coalville estate agents.
- Election pamphlets.
One of the greatest benefits of the archive is that there are records from so many different sources in one place.
Swannington Women’s Institute
Memories from WI members:
- We were all very sad when Lesley Hale, one of our longest standing members, died in September aged 88. When her great friend Kath moved into a home she was also our oldest member.
- When Liz Read had the idea of forming a WI in the village, Lesley was one of its first members when it started in 2003. Lesley wanted to support the new venture in the village but hadn’t thought she would stay after the first few meetings. However, when she discovered that there were so many interesting and varied things to see and do, and so much fun, laughter and friendship, not to mention food, she stayed for 12 years until she died.
- She was extremely knowledgeable, very interesting to talk to and always interested in the members’ and their families. She was also great fun. She often came into the Thursday afternoon art class to say hello and see what everyone was doing. Sometimes she managed to arrive at teatime!
- She came to as many WI events as she could — who could forget her at Liz’steLparty? — and really loved our annual outings.
- She was a very independent and could be quite prickly, as anyone who offered to help her upstairs or up at of the chair very soon found out. Over the last couple of years she became frailer, but just a few weeks before she died, when she was quite ill, she very enthusiastically contributed some of her favourite poems to a our centenary collection of 100 poems.
- She was quite a character- we all miss her very much.
Ian William Percy Hale 1930-2010
Ravenstone born Bill Hale was educated at Ashby Grammar. His father’s main residence remained at Whitwick until after Bill had completed his schooling, then transferred his primary home to London where he was in Parliament.
During his national service Bill gained his aviation certificate. He then trained and worked as a quantity surveyor.
Restoration Of Hough Mill
After their father’s death in 1985 Bill and Lesley returned to Leicestershire. Once in Swannington Bill and his friend Denis Baker reconnected over a pint or two, as Denis talked about the newly formed Swannington Heritage Trust. Bill became a very active member.
After the Trust bought Hough Mill in 1994 Bill used his quantity surveyor expertise to draw up the tender documents for the structural restoration. He was active in liaising with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, mill groups and regulators.
Hough Mill Ancillary Buildings
The ancillary buildings at Hough Mill were very much Bill’s brainchild.
- First of all came the Jerry Leakins building in 2002 to house a composting toilet, electricity generator and a small exhibition.
- Then in 2006 the Neaverson Centre was built to provide a workshop and exhibition area. At the same time rainwater harvesting was implemented to support a flushing toilet.
Bill was active in the planning, costing and construction of these buildings.
Bill was a driving force behind the construction of the replica horse gin in the Gorse Field over the winter of 2003-4. Likewise the horse and handler steel statues in 2006.
After the Trust purchased the spinney in 1993 Bill was involved in the felling and replanting. In particular he managed the planting of the arboretum area in the east of the spinney, with a range of UK grown examples of trees from all over the world.
Now and Then – Trust Magazine
Bill was the first editor of Now and Then the Trust’s magazine in March 1992. He wrote part of the magazine, edited and formed the content, and printed the copies.