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.