Norton was probably created by Anglo-Saxons in the 6th -7th C. Norton is believed to be derived from North Tun, Tun being Anglo-Saxon for settlement. In the Domesday Book of 1086, Nortone was recorded to have 6 ploughlands. The great historian William Burton referred to a letter he had found which stated: “I was looking for antiquities around this church when I found in a corner an old piece of a pair of organs and upon the end of every key was a carving of a boar.” It seemed a remarkable coincidence that at this period the village had changed its name to Hoggs (Hogges) Norton.
A villager called Frederick Bowen kept a series of diaries from 1881 until 1920. He was a farm labourer and miller.
He recalled that in 1881 many people were buried by snow and a number froze to death. In Atherstone hailstones fell and the town was flooded, and many went home for dinner in boats.
On 4th April 1889, the Prince of Wales came to Gopsall and later attended Leicester races. In 1891 Queen Victoria passed through Snarestone on her way to Derby to lay a stone at the infirmary.
His first diary stated that the railway from Nuneaton to Ashby had opened in 1873 and the first load of Indian corn was unloaded at Snarestone station.
He recalled Lord Curzon's coming of age when 900 bottles of champagne were consumed, and finally in 1919 Earl Howe's estate at Gotham in Nottinghamshire and Gopsall were sold and the flag pole at the hall came down forever. The last entry in his diary came in 1920 and said, "hand will not write." He died in 1922 aged 75 years.</p>
The village of Norton has always had close associations with Gopsall. Charles Jennens who built Gopsall Hall in 1750 at a cost of more than £100,000, was a great friend of the “Young Pretender” and also a close associate of Handel who is supposed to have written part of the Messiah in the stone temple in Gopsall Park.
Charles Jennens died childless and left his estate to his niece, and it came by marriage to Penn Asheton Curzon whose son was created the First Lord Howe. The Second Lord Howe was MP for South Leicestershire from 1857 to 1870. Earl Howe built the school, the schoolhouse and the alms houses in Norton in 1839 with the majority of the village belonging to the Gopsall Estate.
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.
Article by Arthur Tomlin on 7th January 1993 Norton was probably created by Anglo-Saxons in the 6th -7th C. Norton is believed to be derived from North Tun, Tun being Anglo-Saxon for settlement.
The Saxon king Eldred granted Norton a Royal Charter in 951. At that time it was known as Northton.
Present day Norton residents might be interested to discover that in the early 1700s Norton had a ‘shop’ or general store owned by an Appleby farmer, which stocked a great range of useful goods.
James How, who is appears from his probate inventory to have been a farmer with lands in Appleby's open fields, had two shops, one in Appleby and one in Norton. After his death, on 17th July, 1721, John White and Joseph Drath, the Appleby appraisers, drew up an inventory of his goods for probate, including a valuation of the stock in both shops. The Appleby shop with its attached 'working shop and chamber over' was the larger, valued at £66 while the shop in Norton had stock worth only about £20.
Like the shop in Appleby, the Norton shop had a range of useful products such as flax and hemp, wood, pitch and oil, soaps and starches.
There was also a stock of tobacco packed in boxes, with an estimated value of 10s. This represents about ten pounds of ordinary tobacco at an estimated value of a shilling a pound - a modest amount compared to the Appleby shop which stocked twenty eight pounds of best tobacco and sixty three pounds of ordinary altogether worth £4.15.8
For the women of the parish, or perhaps to meet the needs of local clothiers, he stocked mohair, silks and thread, inkle, laces and buttons. (Inkle refers to the linen thread or yarn which was woven into belts and tapes on an Inkleloom). The Norton shop also stocked foodstuffs such as raisins and currants, malt (good and bad), and sugar.
Seeds and nails were probably kept in boxes and bins and weighed out by the pound - hence the inclusion in the inventory of seven brass weights and a set of scales. James' business appears to have been quite profitable, despite his book debts 'good and bad' amounting to £19.0.2 - the amount extended on credit. A full transcript of James' inventory can be found on the Appleby website.
William Whiston was the son of the rector from 1661 -1685 Josias Whiston, who in his later years became blind, lame and deaf but still carried on his ministry in Norton
William was a great mathematician and wrote many books and was later appointed Sir Isaac Newton's Deputy at Cambridge. He attained fame with his translation of the works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historianHe disapproved of many of the principles of the Church of England and eventually joined the Baptists.
See this link for more details on William Whiston's history and achievements
The History Gazetteer and directory of Leicestershire by William White 1846 contains a large section on the history of Leicestershire, as well as some details on the villages:
The Moore family had a long association with Norton and Appleby.
Charles Moore of Norton purchased the manor at Appleby in 1599.
His second son, John, raised a fortune as a merchant in London in the East India trade.
In 1681, he became Lord Mayor of London and was elected President of Christ's Hospital in the same year. During his term of office he was knighted by Charles II for his loyal services. This great man who was born and baptised in Norton was a great philanthropist and devoted much of his fortune to the less fortunate.
Sir John died without a successor in 1702, aged 82 years.
The Norton Census provides a very detailed description of the village in 1881.
Altogether the census lists a population of 395 inhabitants scattered over 87 households, including Gopsall Hall and its attached farm cottages. The village had eight “private houses” (including the Hall), 72 “cottages”, two shops, a pub and ten uninhabited houses. There was also the Rectory alongside Holy Trinity Church and the Primitive Methodist chapel. Although most of the householder heads gave their birthplace as either in Norton or Bilston, about a third were outsiders, mainly from adjacent parishes.