In 1970, in advance of planned gravel extraction on sites to the south west of the village, there were major archaeological excavations mostly in areas to the west of Meadow Lane. These indicated that the area was inhabited at the latest by 2000BC. Traces were found of an early farming people, known as the 'Beaker' people, because decorated red beakers were often found in their graves. Finds included remains of houses, tools and looms.
Two Bronze Age cremation urns dated from 1000-900BC were found in 1937 by the A38, close to the old railway level crossing. One was 6" high, 5" diameter at the top and 3" diam at the base. The other was a little larger, but of much coarser construction and was 10" diameter at the top. Both are at Derby Museum.
Evidence was also found, off Meadow Lane, of Iron Age people who lived there in about 500 BC, and some pieces of iron chain, an iron sword and a stone beehive quern were found.
In 2000 AD excavations were taking place in the then new RMC gravel pits off Castleway. A major 'find' was a wood lined trough, of almost 80 gallon capacity, which is believed to have been used to heat water, by throwing in hot stones from a fire. It has been suggested that this feature dates to between 1500 and 2000 years BC . Some other finds have been made but are still to be reported.
The area around Potlock Farm, to the east of the village, is also rich in archaeological remains dating from the Neolithic period (c 3500 to 2000BC) to the Roman period. Excavations of this area carried out and reported in 1989 and 1990 describe how 'cursus' lines, consisting of parallel ditches and banks ran for hundreds of metres across the landscape, possibly up to 1000 metres long. They are similar to ditches found near Stonehenge and their original purpose is now unclear.
When the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD they built a road to Derwentia, ( now Derby), which passed about half a mile to the north west of Willington, where the A 38 now runs. They built a farmstead, with outbuildings etc. and pottery shows they were present until about 300 AD. When they left the Saxons moved in and the remains of their houses and hearths have been found . Maybe these were the first settlers in Willetun, as the village was once called
The Domesday entry in 1086 for Willington reads (translated from the Latin) as :-
'In Willington Leofric has 3c of land taxable . Land for 4 ploughs. 4 villagers and two smallholders now have 4 ploughs. Meadow 30 acres. Value before 1066 40s now 20s.
In the 11th century there was a water mill in or close to the village, since in a covenant the Abbott of Croxall granted 'free multure' (tax free grinding of corn) for the household of Richard de Hulcrombe.
In 1290 Ralph Fitz Herbert had an estate here ,and also at Repton , which he left to his son Lawrence. Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent , died and left his estate here to his son Thomas.
In 1302 John de Took gave a messuage (house and grounds) with 14 acres of land and 60s annual rent to the St Leonard Charpel, in Potlocks. John, Duke of Norfolk died in 1478 and left an estate in the area to his daughter, Anne Lady Mowbray. Gerald Meynel died in 1527 and left lands here to his son Henry whilst in 1540 George Findern, of Findern, left an estate here to his son Thomas. In the same year Henry Meynel died, leaving his local estate to is son John. Thomas Thacker of Repton died 1549 leaving lands in Willington and Repton to his son Gilbert. In 1558 John Meynel died , leaving the manor of Willington to his son John, who in turn died in 1593 leaving his estate in the village to his son Henry.)
By 1720 the various estates in the village had become consolidated and the greater part of the village, including Potlocks, belonged to the Thackers, of Repton and the Harpurs ( long before they became ' Harpur Crewe' . (para based on W Wooley's History of Derby 1720)
In 1768 there was a major change to way land in the village was owned and used. The 'Inclosure Awards' of that year were legal requirements requested by the main land owners to better consolidate the existing scattered fields they owned and divide up what was previously common land to better meet 'modern' demands. Large tracts were re-allocated to the major owners who were required to fence them off and hence denied the 'serfs and villians' of the village access to land on which they had previously freely roamed. The Awards did however better define the roads and pathways through the village and its surrounds.