Burton-upon-Trent: Introduction

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9, Burton-Upon-Trent. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2003.

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'Burton-upon-Trent: Introduction', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9, Burton-Upon-Trent, ed. Nigel J Tringham( London, 2003), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol9/pp3-5 [accessed 19 July 2024].

'Burton-upon-Trent: Introduction', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9, Burton-Upon-Trent. Edited by Nigel J Tringham( London, 2003), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol9/pp3-5.

"Burton-upon-Trent: Introduction". A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9, Burton-Upon-Trent. Ed. Nigel J Tringham(London, 2003), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol9/pp3-5.

In this section


The ancient parish of Burton-upon-Trent, covering 7,730 a., (fn. 1) comprised the townships of Burton, Burton Extra, Branston, Horninglow, Stretton, and Winshill. A borough was established in Burton township in the Middle Ages, and Burton Extra is so called because it was that part of the original settlement which lay outside the borough. The medieval parish church was also the church of a Benedictine abbey, with the laity being confined to part of the nave, and it was not until the 19th century that new Anglican parishes were created in the town and outlying villages. (fn. 2) The place-name Burton, meaning a 'settlement at a fortified place', was coined probably in the 8th century, possibly replacing an earlier, unknown name. (fn. 3) The form Burton-upon-Trent (Burton super Trentam) was adopted from the early 14th century (fn. 4) and remains in use, although Burton-on-Trent (sometimes unhyphenated) has gained currency in the 20th century. (fn. 5)

In 1853 the borough was extended to include much of Burton Extra and part of Horninglow, and a further extension in 1878 took in the rest of Burton Extra, a further part of Horninglow, and most of Winshill. The 1878 extension also included part of Stapenhill, originally a township in the Derbyshire ancient parish of the same name. Branston, Stretton, and the rest of Horninglow remained outside the borough as their own civil parishes. Burton became a county borough in 1901, but lost that status in 1974 when county responsibilities were returned to Staffordshire county council. (fn. 6)

This article concentrates on the urban area, starting with a general overview of Burton's history by chronological period, followed by sections on particular topics. The outlying villages are treated separately, as is Stapenhill township.


Burton lies at the narrowest point in the valley through which the river Trent flows north between the Needwood plateau on the west and the South Derbyshire plateau on the east; the town centre lies on a terrace on the west side of the river at c. 152 ft. (46m.), only a few feet above the flood plain. (fn. 1a) Further west, beyond the line of the Trent and Mersey canal, the land rises gently to c. 170 ft. at Shobnall Grange and c. 165 ft. at the site of Queen's hospital and then more sharply, up to an escarpment marking the 200 ft. (61 m.) contour line. The high ground covered by Sinai park, in Branston, and the former Outwood common, in Horninglow, reaches over 300 ft. (91.5 m.), the highest point being 356 ft. (108.5 m.) at Rough Hay, in Branston, on the western edge of the ancient parish. To the east of the river the land rises steadily to 414 ft. (122 m.) near the point where Ashby Road passes into Bretby (Derb.).

Figure 4:

Burton from the east in the late 1860s

Figure 5:

Burton-upon-Trent and Stapenhill

The river terrace is covered with alluvium and glacial drift, and the gravels contain pockets of water, hard and rich in inorganic deposits as a result of percolating through gypsum-bearing rocks embedded in the Keuper Marls of the Needwood plateau west of the town. It is that hard, rich water which enabled Burton brewers to produce their distinctive product. Beneath the marl is mudstone, and further down Bunter Pebble Beds. Sandstone outcrops on the east side of the river, especially in Winshill where it has been quarried. The soil on the river terrace is mostly a permeable loamy soil.

Streams flow into the river from both east and west, notably Brizlincote brook in Stapenhill, Dale brook in Winshill, and Tatenhill brook on Branston's southern boundary. Shobnall brook rises in the south-west corner of Horninglow township (modern Outwoods civil parish) and runs along the south side of Shobnall Road. Before being culverted it turned northwards near the end of Moor Street and flowed along the west side of the town, joining the west arm of the river Trent at Wetmore. (fn. 1a) It is met near Moor Street by a stream which flows north from Branston and whose stretch in Burton Extra was known as Kimer sitch in the 18th century; it is possibly what was called Balk brook in the later 14th century. (fn. 2a) Another stream rising in the southeast part of Branston and also flowing northwards into Burton forks around an area formerly known as Fleet green, where marshland called the Black pool in the 13th century gave its name to a modern street. (fn. 3a)


  • 1. Census, 1871.
  • 2. Below, established church.
  • 3. Below, general hist. (middle ages).
  • 4. e.g. S.R.O., D. 603/A/ADD/1179 and 1196-7.
  • 5. Henceforth the shortened style 'Burton' is used instead of 'Burton-upon-Trent' for the township name.
  • 6. Below, local govt. (improvement commrs.; municipal borough).
  • 1a. This and the next para. are based on Owen, Burton, 1-5, and fig. 1 (after p. 190); Molyneux, Burton, 147-8, 164-9, 180-7, 199- 204; Geol. Surv. of Gt. Britain, sheet 140 (1982); Soil Surv. of Eng. and Wales (1983).
  • 1b. S.R.O., D. (W.) 1734/2/3/133; Plan of Burton (1847; 1857).
  • 2a. S.R.O., D. (W.) 1734/2/1/102, m. 14; D. (W.) 1734/2/3/131 (ref. to Kimersitch common); Underhill, Burton, 221; Plan of Burton (1857).
  • 3a. S.R.O., D. (W.) 1734/2/3/131; S.H.C. 1937, p. 55.