John Nichols’ monumental, four-volume History and Antiquities of Leicestershire (building upon an earlier work by William Burton) provides several pages of fascinating information relating to the history of Norton.

Nichols’ transcripts of deeds, awards and taxation records lists many of the principal landholders and their holdings. One deed from the late Tudor period records that Richard Hill, a yeoman, who died in 1590 leaving lands to his son William (aged 17), held a ‘messuage’; called Hill House in Norton. He also owned a garden with a hort-yard (or orchard) adjacent, the Close on the Heath, another close called Bridge Crofts, and two virgates of arable, all held by knights’ service of the queen as of the Honour of Tutbury. Another prominent landholder, Henry Kendall who died in 1592, left a ‘capital messuage’ [or principal homestead], 161 acres of arable, 30 of meadow and 40 of pasture in Norton as well as other lands in Swithland, Swepston, Twycross &c.

In 1630, during the ‘sheriffealty’ of Mr Wollaston in the reign of Charles I, the freeholders are listed as Thomas Croxsall, John Cooper and William Hill. Henry Kendall of Smythsby, co. Derby was lord of the manor in 1632 and there is further mention of him holding lands here in 1647. At the time of the Restoration Charles II included William Whalley of Norton Esq, worth ₤1,000 p.a. in his list of those eligible for the award of the order of the Knights of the Royal Oak, later abandoned to avoid opening up old animosities (!)

Nichols History of Norton Church

As usual in antiquarian works of this sort, the history of the church, its monumental inscriptions and ‘curiosities’ is well covered. The earliest parish register for Norton begins in 1561. Entries include a ‘memorandum’ from 1613 confirming a grant from William Burman the elder of Norton husbandman, and his son to Thomas Everard and William Hill, describing two cottages joined together upon two hades, ‘nigh a cottage wherein Katherine Kinton, widow nowe dwelleth’ with the surrounding grounds, all to be set aside for the poor of Norton. There is a note in the margin of the register recording that the rector, Mr Reuben Clarke, finished building the parsonage house in 1723.

Nichols also provides an incomplete list of the incumbents and the patrons until 1811, recording that the advowson was held by the prior and convent of Belvoir until 1564 when it reverted to the crown.

The rectors include:

Ralph de Querendon, resigned 1329

William de Lobenham, subdean of Sarum, 1329

Robert Bytham, resigned 1421

Thomas Farmer, 1564

Thomas Royle, died 1609

Gabriel Rosse, 1609 to 1658

Josiah Whiston, 1661 -1685

Theophilus Brookes, died 1711

Reubens Clarke, 1711 –

Lancelot Jackson, c. 1728 -1745

John Clayton, 1745 -1791

William Casson, 1796 -1811

Acknowledgements to John Nichols’ History and Antiquities of Leicestershire, Vol. 4, Pt. 2. pp 849-852

 Alan Roberts, 2004

The growth of population

Norton’s population increased from the 16 or so families listed in 1564 to the 40 inhabitants assessed for the hearth tax in 1664 (an estimated total population of around 200). By the time of the Parliamentary census of 1801, Norton contained 59 families comprised of a total of 283 inhabitants occupying 54 houses – the largest proportion of them engaged in agriculture with a handful in trades and manufacturing. By April, 1811 ‘according to Mr Carson’ (presumably from the census of that year) there were 61 houses with 290 inhabitants.

Acknowledgements to John Nichols’, History and Antiquities of Leicestershire, Vol. 4, Pt. 2. pp 849-852

Alan Roberts, 2004

The Norton Enclosure Award

Nichols provides a brief transcript of Norton’s Enclosure Award from 1749, listing 28 landholders starting with Charles Jennens, the lord of the manor, and John Clayton the rector, who received £129 in lieu of his glebe. The award describes 1,744 acres of which 377 acres of heath, waste and commons were apparently ‘of little or no value’. The list probably includes all of the principal landholders, Henry Vernon, Joshua Croxall, Thomas Ellen, George Moore Esq, William Blower and Isaac Pearson among others. A copy of this document can be seen in the Leicestershire Record Office [DE QS 47/1/1-2] together with the Tithe Award from 1749 [DE 76/DT.1/63] and a Tithe Map from 1844 [DT 1/63]. A later auctioneer’s map of the Appleby Hall Estate, from 1883, shows the Norton glebe lands stretching from the churchyard towards the Appleby parish boundary.

Acknowledgements to John Nichols’, History and Antiquities of Leicestershire, Vol. 4, Pt. 2. pp 849-852

Alan Roberts, 2004

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