A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9, Burton-Upon-Trent. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2003.
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In 1086 there was land at Branston for 5 ploughteams but only 41/2 teams were actually being worked, of which 11/2 were on the demesne and 3 were worked by 5 villani and 3 bordars. There was 24 a. of meadow, and woodland measured 1/2 league in length and breadth. The value of the manor had decreased from £3 in 1066 to £2 in 1086. (fn. 1) In the early 12th century there were two demesne ploughteams and some livestock, and about half the tenanted land was then held by villeins who owed fixed labour services and half by rent-payers. Most of the cultivated land was let by the abbey for 100s. a year to a monk named Eadric, who possibly held it on behalf of his fellow monks. A villein called Bruning the reeve presumably managed the estate. (fn. 2)
Medieval Grange There was presumably a grange (or home farm) in the late 13th century, when the abbot made a grant of corn from the barn there. (fn. 3) The reeve chosen by the vill of Branston at the manor court in 1324 was styled a granger in 1327 and 'barn reeve' in 1330. (fn. 4) What was described as 'the site of the manor' of Branston was let by the abbey in 1431 to John Blount, a butcher, and Ralph Stokton for 11 years; it comprised a 'great barn', dairy (le deyhous), and cowhouse (le schepon). The lease also included 200 ewes, which the abbey allowed to be pastured in Sinai park between Holy Cross day (3 May) and Martinmas (11 November) and which were not tithable, although their lambs were, as was any corn grown on the land. In the last year of the lease the sheep were to be folded continuously from 3 May to 1 August on land called Conyngre flat and Penkholm flat. The abbey reserved two sheepfolds from the lease, as well as two meadows. (fn. 5) The farm was apparently still run directly by the abbey in 1537. (fn. 6)
Open Fields Arable, meadow, and pasture held by tenants was confined to the eastern half of the township. A field 'towards the Trent' was recorded in the mid 13th century, and in the early 14th century selions were recorded in 'Nedderholme'. (fn. 7) There were possibly three open fields: one north-west of the village where there were closes called Barley furlong in the later 18th century; one called Middle field to the east on the other side of Clays Lane; and the third called Nether field further north towards Burton Extra. (fn. 8)
Branston Holme In 1546 the tenants of Branston took a lease of pasture called Branston holme, south of the village beside the river and encircled by an arm of Tatenhill brook. The lease was probably for the period from Candlemas (2 February) to St. James's day (25 July) as the holme was common for the rest of the year, at least by 1598. (fn. 9) Lord Paget's lease of the holme to a Burton tanner, Henry Watson, in 1649 may imply that tenants then had no rights there. (fn. 10) In 1738, however, Branston holme was fenced at Candlemas and preserved from cattle until May day, when the earl of Uxbridge as lord of the manor let it until the eve of St. James's day (24 July) to a tenant; it then became common, although the lord traditionally took the first pasturage. The lord also took the first mowing of a meadow called Branston Hollow, on the south side of the holme. It too was fenced between Candlemas and May day, when it was thrown open and became common for the people of Branston, together with those of Barton-under-Needwood who had the adjoining meadow in Tatenhill parish called Tucklesholme meadow. (fn. 11)
Inclosure The open fields had been inclosed piecemeal by the later 18th century, (fn. 12) and Branston holme, which covered 95 a. in the late 1750s, and other common land was inclosed in 1773 under an Act of 1771. Only a small part of Branston green, which stretched along the south side of the village, was affected by the Act, 2 a. being allotted to Lord Paget. (fn. 13) The rest of it was not inclosed until 1823 under the Burton inclosure Act of 1812; it then covered 7 a., of which 6 1/2 a. were allotted to trustees for the poor of Burton and Burton Extra townships. (fn. 14)
Modern Farms Drainage undertaken in the early 19th century much improved the quality of the farmland on the marshy east side of the township, (fn. 1a) and new farms were established. Agricultural labourers without holdings had to make do with plots in an 8-a. field which in 1834 was cultivated alternately for potatoes and wheat. (fn. 2a)
In 1918 the farmland was devoted to dairy and grazing stock. Besides Sinai Park farm covering 193 a. with 38 a. of woodland, the largest farms were Pool Green (203 a.), Branston Court (201 a.), Lawns (167 a.), Manor (162 a.), Postern House (122 a.), and Rough Hay (75 a.). (fn. 3a) Of the 551.6 ha. (1,363 a.) of farmland returned for Branston civil parish in 1988, grassland and rough grazing covered 278 ha. and woodland 4 ha. The main crops were wheat and barley (201 ha.) and oil-seed rape (58 ha.); beans and potatoes were grown on 10 ha. There were 711 head of cattle and 161 sheep and lambs. Of the 11 farms returned, only one was over 300 ha. in size; two were between 50 and 99 ha., and the rest less than 19 ha. (fn. 4a)
The hays exempted from Eadric's lease of Branston in the 1120s (fn. 5a) are presumably identifiable as Little hay and Rough hay in the north-west corner of the township. Little hay, where fowling glades (volati) were recorded in the earlier 13th century, was enclosed in 1292. (fn. 6a) Rough hay remained open and covered between 60 a. and 80 a. in the late 16th century. Tenants in Branston, Horninglow, and Anslow, in Rolleston parish, then had unlimited pasture rights there for cattle but had to pay pannage for their pigs. (fn. 7a) In the early 18th century Lord Paget tried to exclude the men of Rolleston from Rough hay, but a settlement in 1709 confirmed their pasture rights by reason of 'vicinage'. (fn. 8a) When Rough hay was inclosed in 1773 under an Act of 1771, it covered 100 a., almost all of it allotted to Lord Paget as lord of the manor. (fn. 9a) Fences set up immediately after the Act was passed were pulled down by a gang of women, allegedly encouraged by the lord of Rolleston manor. (fn. 10a)
TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Grindstones quarried in Derbyshire were traded at Branston in the late 16th and early 17th century, presumably having been brought across the Trent at a ford near Branston village. (fn. 11a)
A factory built on the north side of Burton Road for the manufacture of machine guns was opened apparently early in 1918 but closed later in the year when the First World War ended and before production had commenced. (fn. 12a) The office block is of brick with stone dressings, and the site is fronted by a high brick wall.
In 1920 the government sold the building to Crosse & Blackwell, preserved food manufacturers of London, who remained there until 1924, having adopted Branston as the brand name for sauce and pickle recipes. (fn. 13a) In 1927 the factory was taken over by Branston Artificial Silk Co. Ltd., but was closed in 1930. (fn. 14a) From 1937 the site was used as an ordnance depot by the War Office, which retained control directly until 1964 and indirectly until 1974. From 1976 it was run as a supply and transport store by the Home Office prison service, still its use in 1999. (fn. 15a)
In 1920 Eatoughs Ltd., a firm of shoe makers in Leicestershire, converted a late 19th-century building at the east end of Burton Road beside the railway line into a shoe factory. When the company moved premises to High Street, in Burton, in 1924, the Branston factory was used for making shoe boxes by the Wilcock family, still in business there as box makers under the name Burton Box Co. in 1999. (fn. 16a)
Branston Gravels Ltd. were digging for sand and gravel between Lichfield Road and the canal by 1932. (fn. 17a) Quarrying ceased in the 1950s, and the quarry filled up naturally to make the present 40-a. lake, which was landscaped and opened to the public as a water park by the district council in 1989. (fn. 18a)
A tile factory opened by Marley Tile Co. in 1935 on the west side of Lichfield Road on Branston's southern boundary was still in production in 1999. (fn. 19a)