History of Norton Parish
These notes have been compiled from several sources. For more information about the owners of the land ‘Landed Estates and the Gentry’, vol .iii by Anthony Ruscoe is recommended. If anyone can correct errors or add information, the Webmaster would be very pleased to hear from you.
Norton is unusual in Shropshire by having a village green. This is often a sign that a village was originally an organised settlement in what was previously woodland.
The earliest references to Norton are in the Doomsday Book. Count Roger Montgomery had received almost all of Shropshire from William the Conqueror. Under him, a certain Helgot, who lived at Castle Holdgate – between Much Wenlock and Ludlow – held nineteen manors, including ‘Nortune’.
Helgot’s tenant at Norton was called Azor and he farmed 3 hides (perhaps 300 acres) plus 6carucates (about 600 acres of arable). A carucate was the amount of land which could be ploughed by one 6-ox plough team in a year, so there must have been a sizeable settlement in Norton at that time. There was also a wood capable of fattening 200 swine. Probably half the land area had been cleared and the remainder was woodland.
The church was not built until about 1080, although there was one at Mucklestone at the time of the Conquest.
Transfer of land to the Abbott of Shrewsbury.
Herbert, Helgot’s son, gave the manor of Norton to the Shrewsbury Abbey in about 1100, and it became part of the Abbot’s manor of Betton.
Betton was also a manor at the time of Domesday held by Ulfketel and it also comprised Tunstall, Ridgewardine and The Lees (Adderley). It was larger than Norton. Gerard de Tournai gave some of the manor to the Abbot of Shrewsbury in about 1080. In the 1130’s Tunstall was also given to the Abbott, so, by the mid 1100’s, the Abbott of Shrewsbury owned all the land in our neighbourhood. In 1190 Stephen of Oakley, paying rent to the Abbott, held Norton. He must have been an awkward soul as he had lawsuits both with his neighbours and the Abbott!
By 1540, Henry VIII had annexed all the monasteries for himself and then proceeded to sell them. In that year he granted (a euphuism for sold) Rowland Hyll the manor of Betton, which included Norton. Two years later Rowland was knighted and became Lord Mayor of London in 1549-50. In 1555 he founded the old Market Drayton Grammar School.
By 1561 the Grosvenors of Bellaport seem to have owned most of Norton and then by 1606 the land and manorial rights had been bought by William Cotton.
In early times this was not part of Norton, but of Bearstone, which was a manor in its own right in 1086. Much of Bearstone to the north would have been wooded and it is probable that this was cleared in the middle ages. It is likely that Bellaport Old Hall was built in Tudor times for the Grosvenor family in this newly cleared area.
In about 1600 the estate passed to the Mainwarings of Ightfield and then a few years later to William Cotton, a citizen and draper of London. He also seemed to look after Sir Roland Hill’s interests in Shropshire. The family was from Coton near Wem.
By 1606 the land and manorial rights had been bought by William Cotton.
The Cottons owned Bellaport and Norton for quite a long time, being handed down through the generations.
A later William Cotton formed a liaison in 1737 with Rebecca Webster, who was a servant girl. The family disapproved, he was disinherited and they went away to Nottingham together. After two children had been born they married and had a further four children. William made up with his father after nine years and the inheritance line was settled. This was to be William, his eldest son, failing that, his second son and after that the daughters. However, the second son, Rowland, died first and the elder son was committed as a lunatic. The daughters then began to claim their brother William’s property.
A highly complicated legal battle began between the daughters and Rowland’s heirs. The problem that arose was whether William was legitimate (being born before his parents married) and therefore entitled to inherit. The sum of money spent on the case was incalculable and everyone seems to have run short of money. The estate was put up for sale in 1827 and the husband of one of the daughters bought most of it. This was the Rector of Norton, Lawrence Cokburne. DW Davison of The Brand also bought that land to the west of the Adderley road.
The new owners built the new Bellaport Hall at what had been Bellaport Dairy House Farm.
The Grosvenors, who owned The Brand from about 1600, sold the estate to the Davisons in about 1680. George Davison remodelled Brand Hall circa 1700. The frontage and Styche family crest, granted in 1737, was added by George Davison’s son Samuel forty years later (George Davison’s grandfather was a Styche, but took his step father’s name of Davison). The Davisons owned it until 1838 when it was sold to Purley Silitoe. The area was in the order of 250/300 acres. Purley Silitoe was a very wealthy London merchant, who was also a friend of architect Sir John Soane, who had built Pell Wall Hall for him (completed in 1829). A barrister by the name of Martyn Harcourt Griffin later inherited it and the Griffin family sold it in 1892. Hugh Ker Colville bought the land to the north of the railway line and Radford Norcrop that to the south, including the Hall.
Rowland Hill acquired Betton after the dissolution of the monasteries, although Ridgwardine seems to have belonged to the Hinton family for much of the period before and after – until 1729. By 1586 Betton belonged to a John Preston, except for Betton Coppice and Betton Wood, which was sold to William Grosvenor of Bellaport. Betton was then sold to William Church in 1608 and Tunstall in 1611, where they built the hall in 1732. The Church family and descendants owned Betton until into the 20th century and added Ridgewardine in 1729. They originated from Nantwich, where Richard Church had built Church’s Mansion.
In 1783 it was divided between heirs so that Eleanor, who had married Rev P Broughton, had Tunstall Hall; Lawrence Norcrop, who had married Mary Church, received Betton Hall and most of the land, and Walter Yonge Betton Coppice. At the end of the 1800’s Radford Norcrop also owned The Brand and the family went to live there. Betton Hall was let and was the birthplace of the fascist Sir Oswald Mosley in 1895.
Some land to the west of the estate was sold in 1921, the remainder when John Radford Norcrop died in 1959.
Tunstall remained with the Broughtons until the Second World War.
Sir Oswald Mosley (1896-1980) – Leader of the British Union of Fascists
Sir Oswald Mosley was the eldest of three sons of Sir Oswald Mosley, Fifth Baronet of Ancoats (1874-1928), and his wife Katherine Maud Edwards-Heathcote (1874-1950), daughter of Captain Justiman Edwards-Heathcote of Market Drayton.
He was born in 1896 at Rolleston Hall, near Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, but when his parents separated, because of her husband’s constant unfaithfulness, his mother took the children to live at Betton Hall which was owned by her brother who also owned and lived in Betton House.
He started as a Tory becoming a Member of Parliament and moved through Socialism and the New Party towards Fascism and then he became Leader of the British Union of Fascists (the “Blackshirts”). He married twice; first in May 1920 to Lady Cynthia Curzon (Cimmie) daughter of Lord Curzon of Kedleston, a distinguished former Viceroy of India from 1898 to 1905 and Foreign Secretary. This marriage produced three children. Cimmie died of peritonitis in 1933. He married secondly his mistress Diana Guinness, nee Mitford, one of the six famous Mitford sisters. This marriage produced two children.
Early in World War II he and Diana were arrested and imprisoned for three years. He died in 1980. During the early part of the 20thcentury he lived at Apedale Hall near Newcastle under Lyme owned by the Heathcote family. This Hall is now demolished.
The following Information was kindly supplied by Edward Gill, who lived at the Hall for some time during his stay in Norton as an evacuee.
Betton Hall passed into the Crompton family who had a paper making business in Bury, Lancashire. The firm was James R Crompton which had been established in 1856. The Crompton family in Bury was quite extensive and included Samuel Crompton (1753 – 1827), inventor of the spinning mule for use in the textile industry. I sat on a chair in the Hall which had belonged to him.
Before the war the family lived in Bury where they had a large house in Chesham Road.
Rosemary, who looked after us at Betton Hall during the war, told me that they were also related to the Author Richmal Crompton, who was born in Bury and whose mother Clara, was a Crompton. Richmal Crompton’s father Rev.Edward John Sewell Lamburn was a Master at Bury Grammar. At the time of Richmal’s birth in 1890, the family was living in Manchester Road, Bury but in 1896, they moved to spacious Malvern Villa in also in Chesham Road. She was a famous author of children’s books in the ‘Just William’ series and had books published from 1922 to 1970.
Ralph Crompton always referred to Betton Hall as his ‘cottage’ which I think was simply their place in the country; places like Betton Hall were fairly cheap in those days – you could get lot for £6,000.00. I believe they bought it in the 1930s. Mrs. Crompton lived there during the week with her daughter Rosemary and companion Miss Baylis; Mr. Crompton used to motor down at weekend, usually on a Friday. Their sons, Philipp and John were up at Oxford University and both were in the University Air Squadron. I’m not sure whether Ken went to University, possibly not as he was in 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force which was formed at Hendon in February 1936 but moved to Speke in May of that year. It could be that Ken worked in the family business in Bury. They certainly all came to Betton at weekends. They also had a younger daughter called Barbara who came and went. She married Randell Frederick Hicks Darwall-Smith who was a teacher and occasionally played cricket for Surrey.
Mrs. Crompton died in 1943 and her husband Ralph in 1958. Following Mr. Crompton’s death, Betton Hall was sold and the building still stands in 2013. Barbara died, Rosemary was in a Convent at Monmouth and Philipp, the only surviving son, then living in Cheshire, continued to run the business. He played polo for Tarporley and hunted with the Cheshire Hounds. He died in 1981, whilst out riding a horse – he probably suffered a stroke. Rosemary died at Ty Mawr Convent in 2006, having been there almost 60 years. Whilst Philipp was head of the firm, they established a factory at Lydney in Gloucestershire. I’m not sure when Philipp sold out or to whom but by the time he died, the family had severed all connection with it.
For most of its past, the parish has been an agricultural society. However, in the 17th – 18th Century there was a local iron industry at Norton Forge. A number of such forges existed along the river Tern, utilising power from the river to drive water wheels. These, in turn, operated trip hammers to pound red-hot cast iron, turning it into the more useful wrought iron. The forges were heated by charcoal from local woods and its production no doubt resulted in the destruction of remaining tree cover in the area.
When the Rev Cokburne died, he left the Bellaport Estate to one of his relations, Rev. Hugh Ker Cokburne, who also owned land in Yorkshire, Wales and the Isle of Wight.
He in turn settled the estate on his niece Elizabeth Ker, who married Thomas Colville of Stirling, but he died in 1851 and she married again to Edward Coulson of Hull, who owned the estate until his death in 1876. Elizabeth Ker’s son from her first marriage then inherited it. He Married Agnes Davenport of Maer and added the Bearstone estate and the Northern part of the Brand to his holdings. He died in 1930, but the estate had been sold prior to that.
The social conditions in early Victorian times evidently were not very good. A new Rector, the Rev Fredrick Silver arrived in the parish in May 1850. He found the parish in a ‘deplorable condition’, and immediately commenced the work of restoration. Evidently he was not short of money!
The day school was dilapidated and he rebuilt it at his own cost. He encouraged the farmers of the parish by presenting to them a new steam threshing machine and was
free of cost a parish doctor who attended on set days and he built a surgery which he kept well supplied with drugs. This Good Samaritan instituted Sunday evening lectures at the Rectory, for which a special room had to be built to hold all the people.
The Rev. Silver was responsible for levelling the churchyard and the establishment of the Remote Graveyard and chapel, which was consecrated in 1865.
The Rev Silver earned widespread popularity and fame, and died in 1884 having been in the parish for 34 years.
Rev. Fred Silver, son of the head of London firm S. W. Silver and Co, Indian merchants and importers, used two large rooms of the rectory at St Chad’s (since demolished) as a museum in the late 1800’s displaying a unique exhibit of valuable curiosities. Open to the public, this included some paintings by the Old Masters, Egyptian earthenware, a fine collection of Indian butterflies, and a sword actually worn and used by Lord Clive in India.
The railway line from Market Drayton to Stoke on Trent had stations at Norton in Hales, Pipe Gate (for Pipe Gate and Woore) and Keele (for Keele and Madeley) and Newcastle. The line opened for both freight and passengers on Tuesday 1 February 1870 by the North Staffordshire Railway company. It was a double track line.
It has been recorded in ‘The Stoke to Market Drayton Line’, by C R Lester, that Mr John Eardley, farmer of Norton, together with 3 kindred spirits, drove by pony and trap to Newcastle in time to catch the very first train to Market Drayton. After suitable refreshment they caught the next train back – and after further refreshment returned home!
Residents of Norton were very well served by the railway, if they could afford a ticket! In 1892, they could catch the 8.42 train in Norton, change at Stoke, and be at London Euston at 12.55. Having completed their meeting or shopping, they then caught the 4.00pm train from Euston and arrived back in Norton at 8.40pm.on weekdays or 9.14pm on a Saturday. In the pre first world war period, there were 7 or 8 trains in each direction from Norton every day.
Special trains were run from Stoke bringing large crowds to Norton for the annual ‘harvest home’ festivals. Following a church service in the afternoon, the visitors resorted to the rectory grounds, where a meal was provided under canvass and the Market Drayton town band played!
Such a service could not last. Before the second world war, bus services were seriously affecting passenger transport and lorries similarly the freight. Insufficient use was being made of the line post war, so Norton station closed to both freight and passengers on 7thMay 1956, the last train being on 5th. The old gates on the road leading to the station can still be seen, and the station has been converted to a private house. The old station master’s house still stands and has recently been modernised.
The area was hit badly by Cattle Plague (Rinderpest) in 1865/6. It started at Bearstone in October 1865 and in January 1866, weekly prayer meetings were held to try and avert the plague, and on March 7th a Fast Day was proclaimed. This was to no avail as 54 head of cattle died at Norton Farm within 14 days later that month.
William Hamlett introduced corn drills, replacing hand sowing, to Norton in 1883. Presumably the drills were hired out because the farmers had to provide their own horses and Wagoner.