A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9, Burton-Upon-Trent. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2003.
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Although there was prehistoric activity in the Burton area and a Roman road ran through the later parish, it seems that there was no settlement at Burton itself until the early Anglo-Saxon period. A minster church was refounded as a monastery at the turn of the 11th century, and in the late 12th century the abbey established a borough. Never large, the town started to expand only in the earlier 19th century as its brewing industry began to assume national importance. Part of Horninglow then became a suburb, as did Stapenhill and Winshill on the Derbyshire side of the river later in the century, With the decline of brewing in the late 20th century, there has been an emphasis on developing business parks away from the town centre, notably beyond the confined limits of the county borough which was abolished in 1974. The creation of the East Staffordshire district, for which Burton is the centre, has enabled expansion into Branston and Stretton which are now suburbs of Burton with large private housing estates.
There is little evidence for human activity in the Burton area in the Mesolithic period, although flints have been found and the burial of a woman on an elevated platform beside the river Trent in Branston may also be Mesolithic. (fn. 4)
To the south of Burton a woodhenge near Catholme Farm, in Barton-under-Needwood, was part of what appears to have been a ceremonial complex of the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. (fn. 5) There is, however, no direct evidence of settlement there, although a Neolithic cremation pit has been found nearby. Bronze Age burials took place at the river terraces in Barton, and there was a settlement in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age south of Catholme Farm. (fn. 6) What were probably Bronze Age objects have also been found north of Burton, (fn. 7) and there seems to have been an Iron Age cremation cemetery south of Stretton village. (fn. 8)
The Roman Ryknild Street ran diagonally through the later parish of Burton linking camps at Wall, near Lichfield, and Little Chester, near Derby. (fn. 9) The suggestion that there was a camp south of Burton at Branston (fn. 10) is derived from the supposed existence of a Roman settlement in that area called 'Ad Trivonam'; the documentary source, however, is spurious. (fn. 11) Ryknild Street may have been crossed on the southern edge of Branston by a Roman road from Leicester. (fn. 12)
An urn and a later 3rd-century coin have been found at Shobnall, and possibly a Roman sword at the crossing of the river Dove in Stretton. (fn. 13) A bronze torc found at Clay Mills, in Stretton, was possibly of Celtic origin, dating from the 1st or early 2nd century. (fn. 14) Elsewhere in the Burton area, there were Romano-British settlements at Stapenhill and Catholme, in Barton, both of which may have continued to exist in the early AngloSaxon period. (fn. 15)
Several times between 666 and 669 Wilfrid, the proRoman bishop of York, exercised episcopal functions in Mercia, whose king, Wulfhere, gave him land in various places on which he established monasteria (monasteries or minsters). Burton was almost certainly one of the sites: the name Andresey given to an island in the river Trent near the parish church means 'Andrew's isle' and refers to a church there dedicated to St. Andrew, known to be one of Wilfrid's favoured saints. Andresey came to be associated with the legendary St. Modwen, and 'Mudwennestow' (Modwen's holy place) was an early name for the settlement. (fn. 1) The name Burton, coined apparently in the 8th century, means 'a settlement at a fortified place' and indicates that it had acquired a civilian importance as a defensible site. (fn. 2) By that date the main settlement was possibly on the west bank of the river, where a monastery was later established.
Burton's fortified status may have attracted the attention of the Vikings, and after the dispersal of the 'great army' at Repton (Derb.) in 874 it seems likely that Burton fell under Viking control. Place names indicate Scandinavian influence, (fn. 3) and several personal names of Scandinavian origin were still used in the area in the early 12th century. (fn. 4a) The royal grant of estates in the Burton area made by King Edmund about the time of the restoration of the Five Boroughs to English control in 942 may suggest that Burton too had only just been recovered. (fn. 1a) The estates were granted to Wulfsige the Black, possibly an ancestor of the Mercian nobleman Wulfric Spot, who owned Burton later in the 10th century and re-founded the minster there before the year 1000 as a Benedictine abbey, probably as a family mausoleum. (fn. 2a)
The abbey seems to have soon lost some of its estates to Eadric 'Streona', who rivalled Wulfric's family for influence in the West Midlands. (fn. 3a) The royal grant of Horninglow to the abbey in 1012 may have been a recovery, (fn. 4b) but other estates were still held before the Conquest by the earls of Mercia. The family, however, were probably protectors of the abbey, and Earl Leofric's nephew, also Leofric, was the last pre-Conquest abbot. (fn. 5a)
THE MIDDLE AGES
The disturbed pattern of land ownership in the late Anglo-Saxon period meant that Burton abbey did not retain an area of privileged jurisdiction like some other large monasteries, and its manors around Burton were assessed for tax, their hidations being recorded in Domesday Book in 1086. There was also tax-assessed land at Burton itself where Guild Street derives its name from land called 'the Gildeables' in 1462, meaning land that was geldable (liable to tax). (fn. 6a) Nonetheless the abbey retained some tax-free inland at Burton, (fn. 7a) although it is not certain how far the abbey had progressed towards establishing control over its peasantry on that inland by the end of the Anglo-Saxon period. Manorialization can most likely be associated with the appointment of Normans as abbots from 1085: surveys drawn up in the early 12th century show that smallholdings had been created in the outlying settlements (Branston, Stretton, Wetmore, and Winshill) and in Burton itself. (fn. 8a) The abbey also had two granges on the edge of the town, at Bond End and Shobnall, as well as ones in the outlying townships, although the latter were sometimes held by lessees. (fn. 9a)
The early 12th-century surveys were commissioned by Abbot Geoffrey, who came from Winchester cathedral priory in 1114 and ruled Burton until 1150. Largely responsible for the rebuilding of the abbey church, he promoted the cult of the local saint, Modwen, and composed a Life which included an account of her miracles, the most striking of which concerned revenants (the living dead) at Stapenhill. (fn. 10a) Geoffrey was also energetic in protecting the abbey's rights and privileges, although the phrase 'in the borough and outside the borough' used in Henry I's confirmation of the abbot's powers of jurisdiction was almost certainly common form and need not imply that Geoffrey had founded a borough at Burton. (fn. 11a) It may be significant, however, that several tenants of the abbey who held only houses and no land in the early 12th century paid what was later a standard burgage rent of 12d. (fn. 12a)
According to an early 16th-century history of the abbots, it was Abbot Nicholas (1187-97) who first made the borough, comprising the vill and 'the new street', presumably the present High Street and New Street. (fn. 13a) The borough was extended to include Horninglow Street in 1200 and other streets off High Street later in the 13th century. (fn. 14a)
No parish church was established for the inhabitants, who had to make use of part of the nave of the abbey church. Indeed, even though the abbey was never a large house, with the number of monks ranging from 30 in the earlier 13th century to 12 at the dissolution in 1539, (fn. 15a) the abbey church and conventual buildings dominated the town.
The 1200 extension of the borough by Abbot William Melburne coincided with the confirmation by King John of a Thursday market and a three-day fair in July. It may also have marked the completion of the great stone bridge across the Trent. (fn. 16) The discovery in 1201 of alleged relics of St. Modwen presumably encouraged pilgrims to visit the abbey church and so may also have helped to develop the town's economy. (fn. 17) A vintner was living in the town in the mid 13th century (fn. 18) and two taverners were recorded in the earlier 14th century. (fn. 19) Several inns existed around or near the market place: the Swan on the Hoop, mentioned in 1425 and 1454; (fn. 20) an unnamed tavern (1468); (fn. 21) the Angel (1546); (fn. 22) and the Bull's Head (1550). (fn. 23)
The cloth trade was important. In the later 13th century the abbey was included in a list of English monasteries which supplied wool to the Florentine market, coming second only to Croxden abbey in Staffordshire. (fn. 1b) There were clothworkers in the town in the 13th century and in the 1340s the abbey acquired a fulling mill on the Trent. (fn. 2b) The abbey was sufficiently wealthy to undertake building campaigns which may have stimulated specialization in the town. (fn. 3b) In the absence of surviving monastic financial accounts, such craftsmen are unrecorded, although there were goldsmiths and a Burton man provided glass for windows in Tattershall church (Lincs.) in 1482. (fn. 4c) More significantly Burton by the late 15th century had replaced Nottingham as a centre for alabaster carving. (fn. 5b)
Burton generally ranked with middling towns in Staffordshire and was overshadowed especially by Lichfield, only 12 miles to the south-west and on a major road, unlike Burton. (fn. 6b) Derby, 11 miles to the north-east, was also of greater regional importance. (fn. 7b) Burton's relatively undeveloped character as an urban centre is also suggested by the absence of houses of friars. Nor was there apparently an almshouse, although there may have been a leper house in the early 14th century, presumably near the parish boundary. (fn. 8b)
An early 14th-century borough rental reveals that the abbey together with obedientiaries such as the almoner, infirmarer, and kitchener directly held a large number of burgages and tenements and that there were no other substantial landowners in the town. (fn. 9b) In the 15th century, however, one burgess family, the Blounts, became prominent and built themselves a mansion house in Anderstaff Lane. (fn. 10b) A school which existed by 1453 was probably for boys in the abbey, but a grammar school for the town was evidently established by Abbot Bene in the early 16th century, (fn. 11b) and its foundation stimulated the creation of a common fund for the town which continued after the Reformation as the town lands trust. (fn. 12b) Like other towns Burton suffered an economic decline in the early 16th century: many of the 193 houses, shops, and cottages in the town in 1546 were reported as 'ruined and decayed', and about a sixth of the properties normally let at will were then vacant. (fn. 13b)
There is some evidence that the leading townsmen acted collectively on occasion, but they never acquired powers of self-government, even though there was a guild by the later 15th century, with a hall and chapel in the market place. Like the manor, the borough was administered by the abbot throughout the Middle Ages, and under a royal grant of 1468 the abbot became justice of the peace in the manor. (fn. 14b) Previously magistrates may have had problems enforcing order because of the ease with which miscreants could cross over the county boundary into Derbyshire. It was possibly on that account that Burton became a base for some supporters of Lollardy in the aftermath of the Oldcastle revolt in 1414. (fn. 15b)
When George, duke of Clarence, arbitrated in 1467 between the abbey and Sir John Gresley of Drakelow (Derb.), he was acting as a 'good lord'. (fn. 16a) William, Lord Hastings, was a trustee in a Burton land transaction in 1465, as was his grandson George, Lord Hastings, in 1512 and 1515. (fn. 17a) George, who lived near by at Ashbyde-la-Zouch (Leics.), was one of those who appealed in 1527 for funds for Burton bridge, and as earl of Huntingdon he was steward of the manor in 1535. (fn. 18a)
Burton in National History
The royal treasure was lodged at Burton in 1186 en route for Chester in connexion with Prince John's proposed mission to Ireland, (fn. 19a) and in the 1230s the abbey was used as a secure place for storing money raised in Staffordshire for royal aids. (fn. 20a) The main advantage was probably Burton's situation at an important river crossing. By the time of John's visit as king in 1200 the river bridge had reached its full extent, and its strategic importance is indicated by its choice as a defensive point by rebels in 1322. (fn. 21a) Other royal visitors were Henry II in 1155, Henry III in 1235 and 1251, Edward I in 1275 and 1284, Edward II in 1322, and Edward III in 1328. (fn. 1c)
Because of its strategic relationship with the Lancastrian stronghold at Tutbury, Burton was involved in the rebellion of Thomas, earl of Lancaster, against Edward II. In June 1318 the archbishop of Dublin and two other bishops, acting as mediators, conferred with the earl in a garden at Horninglow as part of negotiations which resulted in the treaty of Leake later in the year. (fn. 2c) In March 1322 the earl barricaded the west end of Burton bridge to prevent its use by Edward II and his army. (fn. 3c) Advancing from Coventry, Edward was advised on 3 March to divide his forces, one part to cross the river Trent by a 'lower bridge' three miles away, possibly at Willington (Derb.), and another by a ford at Walton-on-Trent, south of Burton on the Derbyshire side of the river. By 7 March Edward had arrived at Cauldwell, in preparation for the Walton crossing, but was delayed by floods until 10 March, when he advanced on Burton from the south. The Lancastrian forces then set up lines on a field outside the town, with the intention of engaging the king in battle. In the event, the rebels dispersed, Earl Thomas fleeing first to Tutbury and then further north, where he was taken at Boroughbridge (Yorks.) and executed later in the month. Although no battle had taken place, a year later in March 1323 the king granted the advowson of the nearby church of Tatenhill to Burton abbey in commemoration of 'the glorious victory' over his rebels at the town. (fn. 4d)
During his campaign against rebels in the Midlands, Henry IV stopped at Burton in 1402 and 1403, (fn. 5c) and in 1414 Henry V stayed in the abbey when supervising the work of justices of the king's bench sitting at Lichfield. (fn. 6c) It was probably from the latter king's visit that one of the rooms in the abbey was called the 'king's chamber', a name recorded in 1545. (fn. 7c)
THE PERIOD 1530-1700
The Dissolution of Burton Abbey
The Reformation saw control of Burton transferred from ecclesiastical to secular hands. The existence of Burton abbey was first seriously threatened early in 1538 when Francis Hastings of Ashby-de-la-Zouch (Leics.), expecting its imminent dissolution, asked Thomas Cromwell for the abbey and its lands. Later the same year the Crown attempted to alienate some of the abbey's property, and the shrine and cult of St. Modwen were suppressed. (fn. 8c) When the abbey was eventually dissolved in November 1539, however, the Crown was considering proposals to convert it and several other former monasteries into colleges of secular priests. Ultimately only three were erected, Burton, Brecon, and Thornton (Lincs.); the basis on which this choice was made is unknown. (fn. 9c) Burton college, founded in 1541, proved short lived. It was dissolved in November 1545, probably because Sir William Paget, Henry VIII's secretary of state, whose father had probably been born in Staffordshire, (fn. 10c) was looking to establish a block of estates in the county. The site of the college and all its lands, including the manor of Burton, were duly granted to Paget in January 1546. He also received lands at Beaudesert, in Longdon, which had formerly belonged to the see, and his creation as Baron Paget of Beaudesert in 1549 suggests perhaps that he saw Beaudesert as the caput of his properties. (fn. 1d) Nonetheless, in 1546 he had obtained a licence to fortify his house at Burton, (fn. 2d) and c. 1560 he drew up a series of plans to convert the former cloisters there into a grand house. (fn. 3d) His death in 1563 meant that no building work was begun, and the Pagets thereafter were content to use the remaining claustral buildings when they occasionally visited Burton, as Henry, Lord Paget (d. 1568), did to hunt at the nearby Sinai park, in Branston. (fn. 4e)
The Paget Family
Thomas, Lord Paget (d. 1590), was frequently resident in Burton, especially from c. 1573. (fn. 5d) With him came all the trappings of a great noble household: visits of musicians from Leicester, Stone, and Uttoxeter; (fn. 6d) of the choirmen from Lichfield cathedral; (fn. 7d) and of players from other households, including that of Sir George Hastings. (fn. 8d) A Twelfth Night masque was performed in 1580. (fn. 9d) Paget's presence in Burton tightened his grip on the town, especially its religious life, and as an ardent recusant he sought to promote Roman Catholicism, employing recusants as his household servants and even providing mass wafers rather than ordinary white bread for the celebration of communion in the parish church. He patronized William Byrd, the church-papist composer, who stayed in Burton in 1580; Byrd's room over the gatehouse then had a pair of virginals. (fn. 10d) Paget also had a private choir at Burton which, though it provided secular entertainment, probably also sang mass for the household. (fn. 11c)
In the early 1580s Paget's household at Burton became entangled in the plotting around Mary, Queen of Scots, then imprisoned in various locations in Yorkshire and Derbyshire. (fn. 12c) After involvement in the Throckmorton Plot Paget fled abroad in 1583; he was attainted for treason and died at Brussels, and his English estates, including Burton, were forfeited to the Crown. In 1586, while Mary was imprisoned at Chartley in Staffordshire, the government, seeking evidence of her complicity in plotting against Queen Elizabeth, placed a brewer, William Nicholson, in the former abbey precinct in Burton. He gained Mary's trust, conveying letters to and from her hidden in beer barrels, but revealed them to her keeper, so implicating her in Anthony Babington's plot to assassinate Elizabeth and place Mary on the English throne. (fn. 13c) Babington, a minor Derbyshire gentleman and an ardent Roman Catholic, had been known to Lord Paget and had stayed at least one night c. 1583 in a Burton inn kept by one of Paget's servants. (fn. 14c) Ensnared by Nicholson's evidence, Mary was taken from Chartley to her trial and execution at Fotheringhay castle (Northants.), spending the night of 21 September 1586 at Burton on the way. (fn. 15c)
The Hastings family of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, which had wielded some influence in Burton before the Reformation, attempted to step into the power vacuum in the town left by Paget: (fn. 16b) Henry Hastings, earl of Huntingdon, headed the feoffees of the Burton town lands in 1595, the year of his death. (fn. 17b) In the later 16th century the family was noted for its puritanism, and under its patronage Burton rapidly experienced a godly reformation. Evangelical protestantism was preached and a regular 'exercise' or meeting of local godly clergy was held in the town; godly standards of moral discipline were probably also enforced, with at least one pair of transgressors punished by a charivari (or shaming ritual) in 1618. (fn. 18b) By the mid 1590s most of the clique of leading clothiers and wealthy inhabitants who controlled Burton were members of the godly. (fn. 19b) The puritanism of some in Burton had a radical edge, and the town gained notoriety in 1596 for the linked cases of the witchcraft of Alice Gooderidge and the alleged diabolical possession of Thomas Darling, the so-called 'boy of Burton'. The investigation of the former and exorcism of the latter were promoted as a propaganda tool by some of the godly, who included Edward Wightman, a failing clothier who afterwards turned to alehouse keeping. A decade later Wightman began a descent into heterodoxy that culminated in his execution at Lichfield in 1612, the last person in England to be burned at the stake for heresy. His heretical views, however, appear to have found no supporters. (fn. 1e)
William Paget (d. 1628), who had been brought up as a protestant, was restored to his father's estates, including Burton, in 1597 and to the barony in 1604. Neither he nor any of his descendants, however, chose to live in the town, and visited only occasionally to hunt at Sinai park. (fn. 2e) The family, however, retained a significant and unrivalled authority in Burton, and by 1619 Lord Paget had resumed his father's position as the leading feoffee of the town lands. (fn. 3e)
The Civil War and its Aftermath
The townsfolk of Burton were strongly parliamentarian in the first civil war: an incomplete list made in 1662 claimed that 127 former parliamentarians lived in the parish, a figure surpassed in the county only by Stafford. (fn. 4f) The most prominent was probably Daniel Watson of Nether Hall, a lawyer before the civil war, who was a captain of dragoons in the Derbyshire horse. (fn. 5e) Burton's allegiance was probably a function of its continued puritanism, and possibly its clothing industry; the influence of Lord Paget (d. 1678) was probably unimportant for he wavered, initially declaring for the parliament in 1642 but joining the king in June 1642 and then defecting back to parliament in September 1644. (fn. 6e) The town's puritanism also probably lay behind a panic which ran through Burton early in 1642 that Staffordshire's Catholics were hoarding gunpowder and plotting rebellion. Lord Paget investigated and found the rumours baseless. (fn. 7e)
Possessing a strategic river crossing that was noted in the 1640s as 'the chief passage from South to the North', (fn. 8e) and situated between parliamentary Stafford and Derby and royalist Lichfield, Tutbury, and Ashby-de-la-Zouch, it is not surprising that Burton was fought over throughout the civil war and lacking walls or, except on its east side, natural defences, it changed hands at least a dozen times between 1642 and 1646. Burton was the rendezvous for the royalist forces of the earl of Chesterfield and his son Ferdinando Stanhope late in 1642, (fn. 9e) but the establishment of a parliamentarian garrison at Derby brought Burton to the attention of the conservative parliamentarian Sir John Gell and the rest of the Derbyshire county committee. In February 1643 Gell placed a foot company in Burton under Maj. Johannes Molanus, a Dutchman who had come to England to assist with drainage projects in Lincolnshire, (fn. 10e) but the garrison withdrew later the same month in order to bolster an attack on the royalist stronghold of Newark (Notts.). (fn. 11d) After capturing Lichfield for the king at the end of April 1643, Prince Rupert placed a garrison at Burton, but it was promptly driven out by the forces of Gell and Lord Grey of Groby, commander-in-chief of the East Midlands Association. They installed Capt. Thomas Sanders with a garrison of 200 foot, 60 dragoons, and one cannon drawn from the forces of Derbyshire. (fn. 12d) Sanders quickly deserted Gell's command and placed himself and his troops under another parliamentarian officer, Col. Richard Houghton, and the Staffordshire county committee: Sanders was more radical than Gell, and may have feared that his appointment with only a small force in poorly defended Burton was Gell's way of removing a potential rival. (fn. 13d) That garrison was stormed on 4 July 1643 by an army under Queen Henrietta Maria in a bloody confrontation in which the church was damaged and the town was, according to Gell, 'most miserably plundered and destroyed'; (fn. 14d) so much booty was taken that the queen noted that her soldiers 'could not well march with their bundles'. (fn. 15d) Thomas Tyldesley, a Lancashire royalist in the queen's army, was knighted for his service in taking the town. (fn. 16c) The royalists remained in control for the next six months and fortified the bridge, but were again driven out by Gell's troops in January 1644. (fn. 17c) No garrison appears to have been established, and Burton was soon again under royalist control, although it was attacked and 'plundered' in a parliamentarian raid in April 1644. (fn. 18c) The king's forces from Lichfield were quartered in the town in July 1644 but they were driven out by Gell's troops. (fn. 1f) A fresh parliamentary garrison of both Derbyshire and Staffordshire troops was installed in the town in November 1644, (fn. 2f) but by February 1645 Burton was once more under royalist control, and it was there that Charles I made his headquarters briefly at the end of May 1645. (fn. 3f) It was firmly and finally under parliamentarian control by early 1646, when the town contributed both money and beer to the parliamentarian forces besieging Tutbury and Lichfield. (fn. 4g)
After the Restoration Burton was a dissenting centre, with large Presbyterian and Baptist conventicles meeting there and five excluded ministers active in the parish, causing some Anglicans to doubt the loyalty of the population to the new regime. (fn. 5f) Nonconformity remained strong in the town until the early 18th century: within ten years of the passing of the Toleration Act in 1689 six houses had been registered for dissenters and there were Presbyterian, Baptist, and Quaker meetings in Burton. (fn. 6f)
The Town's Economy
The main industry of 16th-century Burton was the production of woollen cloth, principally kersey, probably for the local market, and in 1610 Burton was described by its constables as 'a town using the trade of clothing'. (fn. 7f) The textile trade expanded in the second half of the 16th century, with the existing medieval fulling mill on the river Trent supplemented by two new ones, built in the mid 1550s and 1574. Parts of the industry were organised on a large scale: in the 1580s John Clerk claimed that his dyehouse employed 300 people. The investment demanded by such large-scale enterprises concentrated the industry in a few hands, and the trade was dominated by a small number of families, notably the Lowes, Caldwalls, and Clerks (or Clarks). Textile production declined in the mid 17th century. By 1700 the fulling mills were in poor repair, and shortly thereafter all three ceased cloth production. In the later 17th century the effects of the civil war were blamed for the collapse of the industry, but changes in the national market and the move to lighter cloths were probably more important. Indeed, there was some diversification of the industry in the town to the production of felt hats and other, lighter woollen textiles.
Burton was also noted for alabaster carving, principally for church monuments: John Leland noted the 'many marbelers working in alabaster' in the town in the mid 16th century. (fn. 8f) The industry was small scale, with production centred in a few workshops, but its product was distributed widely: there are surviving monuments attributed to Burton workshops across the Midlands, and one Burton alabasterer had a shop in Bristol and may have exported Burton work overseas. In the 1570s, however, the standard of Burton work declined. Lord Paget, seeking a monument for his father and brother in Lichfield cathedral, employed a sculptor from Bruges (in modern Belgium) rather than Burton. The industry in Burton was reprieved by the arrival of Dutch carvers in the late 16th century, but in the mid 17th century Burton was eclipsed by Nottingham as a centre for alabaster work. (fn. 9f)
From the late 16th century commentators remarked on the 'poorness of the inhabitants', and in 1694 Burton was described as 'very much ruined and decayed in its buildings and the inhabitants in general much impoverished'. (fn. 10f) There were, for example, no notable new buildings in Burton between the Reformation and the late 17th century, but there were at least two substantial inns, both in High Street: the George on the east side (mentioned in 1573) and the Crown on the west side (1619). (fn. 11e) A reduction, however, in the number of innkeepers from 57 in 1624 to 38 in 1656 may be a further sign of Burton's economic decline. (fn. 12e) Nevertheless, analysis of the hearth tax returns of the 1660s suggests that Burton contained no greater proportion of poor folk than other Staffordshire towns, and far fewer than some towns elsewhere. (fn. 13e)
What Burton did lack was a significant group of prosperous merchants or other minor gentry. The depression of its staple industries, and its lack of selfgoverning status, did not encourage the development of a wealthy local oligarchy. The Blount family, which had been prominent in the later middle ages, declined in importance after the Reformation, and although Elizabeth Paulet (née Blount) founded an almshouse for women in 1593, the family had ceased to be resident in Burton by 1617. (fn. 14e) Thereafter no substantial gentry family moved into the town until the Every family of Egginton (Derb.) acquired 'the great house' on the east side of High Street in 1676. (fn. 1g)
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
Burton was a moderately prosperous town during the 18th century, although brewing and textile manufacture became important only towards the end of the period. High Street remained striking for its length with houses down both sides, some of which came to have breweries behind them, but the most notable changes in the townscape were the new parish church of the 1720s and new market hall of 1772, both replacing medieval predecessors. (fn. 2g)
The town's economy underwent a significant change after the river Trent was made navigable for boats in the early 1710s, under an Act of 1699. (fn. 3g) George Hayne, the Derbyshire merchant who effected the navigation, was particularly involved in transporting cheese and salt from Cheshire to London, and it was the cheese trade through Burton which attracted Daniel Defoe's attention in the mid 1720s, although Hayne also carried Burton ale. (fn. 4h) Writing in the 1730s the Staffordshire antiquary Richard Wilkes remarked that the navigation was of 'infinite service' to the town and its neighbourhood, making Burton a distribution point for goods sent to places in the Midlands and especially enabling the import of timber and bar iron chiefly from Scandinavia. (fn. 5g)
Indeed, the development of a small-scale iron industry in Burton was a notable feature of the 18th century, starting with the conversion c. 1720 of a disused fulling mill into a forge. (fn. 6g) In the mid 1750s Burton attracted the attention of a Swedish ironmaster who was secretly inspecting English ironworks, and he noted how the river navigation gave 'this part of the country undeniably great advantages'. (fn. 7g) The navigation was especially beneficial to the export of ale and beer to Russia, as well as to London, and encouraged the steady growth of the brewing trade in Burton: an advertisement in the Derby Mercury for the sale of a brewery in 1784 referred to Burton's 'centrical situation' with 'communication with every capital Sea Port in the kingdom'. (fn. 8g)
As a further improvement in communications, the road to Lichfield was turnpiked in 1729, so providing easier access to London. The mail from London, however, still had to be collected at Lichfield until 1796, (fn. 9g) and Burton failed to develop a regional importance: although there was an excise office by 1726, there were no banks until the end of the century. (fn. 10g)
Woollen clothworking had declined in the late 17th century but hat making became important in its place, and in the 1780s the Lancashire cotton manufacturer, Robert Peel, opened mills in Burton. (fn. 11f) It was probably employment at the cotton mills that caused the town's population to rise by a quarter between 1789 and 1801. (fn. 12f) Brewing, in contrast, was in the hands of several small family concerns and had not yet become a major employer. (fn. 13f)
The Paget Influence and Town Lands Feoffees
Unusually for a landowner Lord Paget (d. 1713) took an active interest in the town. He had been the undertaker of the 1699 Trent navigation Act, and he had apparently supported an abortive attempt to inclose common land in 1694. (fn. 14f) His son, Henry, earl of Uxbridge (d. 1743), was less directly involved in the town's affairs, although it was alleged that he connived at the demolition of the medieval parish church in 1718. (fn. 15e) In the early 1770s Henry, Lord Paget, paid for a new town hall in the market place, probably as a means of gaining local recognition, being only a distant cousin of the earl who died in 1769. (fn. 16d) Henry, who secured a recreation of the earldom in 1784, also made generous charitable distributions to the poor of Burton in the 1770s. His concern, however, that 'the beauty of the view' from the town should not be marred by excessive felling of timber over the river in Winshill wood may have been motivated by more presonal considerations. (fn. 17d)
In 1705 the manorial bailiff, John Hixon, complained to Lord Paget that after the latter last went abroad the town had been 'governed by lawyers' and that the residents had become 'perverse and selfwilled'. The chief protagonist was Isaac Hawkins, whom Hixon in 1711 described as a 'self-ended man'. Hawkins was then one of only three surviving feoffees of the town lands (the other two being Lord Paget and John Wakefield, a mercer), and he was scheming to have his supporters named in a new enfeoffment. He favoured the appointment of burgesses only, but as Hixon reported many burgesses had only small tenements, worth less than 40s. a year, and were unable even to buy bread for their families; several 'know neither letters nor figures', and so were especially vulnerable to manipulation. For his part Lord Paget was anxious to empanel his supporters, chiefly because the feoffees were named as ex officio commissioners for the Trent navigation under the 1699 Act. (fn. 1h) Hixon was duly appointed a feoffee but apparently not Hawkins, who at any rate did not attend a meeting of the new feoffees to pass accounts that year; he died in 1713. (fn. 2h) Lord Paget also died in 1713, as did Hixon in 1714, (fn. 3h) and the leading feoffee thereafter appears to have been Hawkins's son-in-law, William Browne, the parish minister. (fn. 4i) Browne was still a feoffee in 1746, along with his son, two Hawkins cousins, and several other ministers; the chief commercial representative was Henry Hayne, the lessee of the Trent navigation (d. 1757). (fn. 5h) When the navigation lease expired in 1762 and a new one was made in favour of the Birmingham ironmaster, Sampson Lloyd, Lloyd's chief local supporter was another lawyer named Isaac Hawkins, the cousin of Isaac Hawkins (d. 1713), and it was the successors of that Isaac's legal practice who dominated the feoffees in the late 18th century. (fn. 6h)
The feoffees financed the town's early improvements in public welfare, such as street paving and lighting. (fn. 7h) A body of improvement commissioners was established under an Act of 1779, and their first action was to lay a sewer along High Street. Thereafter the commissioners were relatively ineffective: the town lands feoffees continued to fund public works, and the provision of a night watch in 1793 was the result of a public subscription.
Social Character of the Town
It was possibly one of the large houses in High Street that was occupied by the newly-married Robert Shirley (from 1787 Earl Ferrers): his son and his sister's negro servant were baptised at Burton in 1756. (fn. 8h) Another sign of genteel residents may be the inoculation of several people against smallpox in Burton in 1744, the practice then being somewhat a matter of fashion. (fn. 9h) Assemblies were held in the new hall built in the market place in the 1770s, and a music society was established later in the century. (fn. 10h)
Nonetheless, Burton acquired none of the hallmarks of a leisure town, in contrast with the cathedral city at Lichfield. Passing through the town in 1739, Lady North was forced to stay at an inn 'which we hope to get out of as soon as possible', (fn. 1i) although another lady traveller was well accommodated at the George in 1767. (fn. 2i) The horse race meeting, first recorded in 1718, was apparently last held in 1732 and not revived until the 19th century, and probably as a consequence theatre companies gave the town a miss. (fn. 3i) There were no coffee houses, and the bookshop which Nathaniel Johnson (Dr. Samuel Johnson's brother) ran in Burton in the earlier 1730s, as a branch of the shop established by his father in Lichfield, was not a success. (fn. 4j) Nor did the conduct of a dancing master, Christopher Tole (or Joul), reflect well on town society: one of the leaders of a Tory mob from Burton, he assaulted the Whig duke of Bedford at the Lichfield races in 1747. (fn. 5i) Burton's lack of sophistication was remarked on in 1782 by a German traveller, who had to endure the curious gaze and hissing of householders as he walked along the length of High Street. (fn. 6i)
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
A visitor to the town in 1801 thought that the mainly 18th-century houses along the riverside meadow on the east side of High Street were handsome and formed a pleasing picture. Several manufactures were conducted with 'briskness and success', and the town had a 'flourishing appearance'. (fn. 7i) The breweries were concentrated in the town centre, and by the 1850s Station Street was suffering from severe congestion caused by the increasing number of horse-drawn waggons carrying casks of beer to the station, which had been opened in 1839. In order to ease the problem the brewers laid down private railway tracks in the 1860s, but as output continued to increase normal traffic was impeded by constant delays where the lines crossed the main streets. (fn. 8i)
A desire to escape from the growing industrialization of the town centre led to the development of Stapenhill as a middle-class suburb. Also, St. Paul's Square west of the railway station was built in the 1870s, providing a new focal point away from High Street. Most of the working-class housing was built from the 1850s in Burton Extra, parts of Horninglow, and Winshill by private speculators but also by building societies. (fn. 1j)
The steady growth of the brewing industry meant that Burton was spared the confused and rapid urbanization experienced elsewhere in the country, and in 1874 the local medical officer of health, although worried about overcrowding, noted that the town was well spread out and that the breweries formed 'breathing spots' amidst the houses. Nonetheless, he criticized the brewers for failing to provide houses for their workers. (fn. 2j)
Efforts to improve town-centre conditions were at first confined to the provision of new Anglican churches and schools: Holy Trinity church (1824) and school (1827) in Horninglow Street and Christ Church in Church Street (1844). The New Street area was particularly deprived, and as late as 1894 the vicar of Christ Church reported unfavourably on parts of it. (fn. 3j) Improvements in public health were slow, chiefly because the brewers in 1853 promoted a local Act to extend the powers of the improvement commissioners, in preference to the adoption of the 1848 Public Health Act which would have provided wider powers under a Local Board of Health. Burton Extra and Horninglow ratepayers tried to pre-empt the new local Act by applying to be allowed themselves to adopt the Public Health Act. The Board of Health inspector appointed to investigate the matter, however, was obliged to reject their application, because it would have been anomalous not to include the town itself; nonetheless, he particularly regretted that the local Act included no provision for an improved water supply. (fn. 4k) Indeed, poor water and drainage were highlighted in 1874 by the medical officer of health, who thought that the death rate of 25 in 1,000 was too high for a relatively small town. Exacerbated by brewery waste, the problem of sewage disposal was eventually tackled by the municipal corporation, which opened a sewage farm in 1885. (fn. 5j)
The Town's Economy
In the first decades of the 19th century the chief source of employment was the cotton works, and it was feared that their closure in 1841 would adversely effect the town's economy. (fn. 6j) Indeed, there was only a moderate increase in population until the expansion of the brewing industry later in the century. By 1861 the combined population of the town and Burton Extra was almost three times that in 1801, and a doubling of the 1861 figure had taken place by 1878, when a municipal borough was created to include the newly built-up areas of Horninglow, Stapenhill, and Winshill. A further doubling to 50,000 had taken place by 1900, enabling the adoption of county borough status in 1901. (fn. 7j)
In 1851 the breweries employed probably about a third of the working male population of Burton and Burton Extra, rising to probably over half by the late 1880s. (fn. 8j) The only other major employer was the Thornewill & Warham ironworks. (fn. 1k) Because brewing took place chiefly during the winter months, at least until the late 19th century, men were employed in what elsewhere would have been a slack time, and it was claimed in 1851 that there were few towns in which the labouring class enjoyed a greater degree of comfort. (fn. 2k) The brewer Michael Thomas Bass thought that he paid good wages, and some of his workers averaged £2 a week in the late 1840s. (fn. 3k) Apart from the coopers, brewery workers were not well-organized, and in the late 1860s it was noted that although Burton had trade unions they 'happily . . . seldom attain any special prominency'. (fn. 4l) Despite some unrest in the early 1890s it was not until 1911 that a Burton branch of the Workers' Union was established. (fn. 5k)
The lack of other employment was blamed on the lord of the manor and principal landowner, the marquess of Anglesey, (fn. 6k) whose estate policy of not granting freehold tenure but retaining land on leasehold for lives discouraged, it was argued in 1851, capitalists from bringing new industries to the town. (fn. 7k) The policy was moderated in 1863, when fixed-term leases for 99 years were introduced. (fn. 8k) Much of the Anglesey freehold in the built-up part of Burton was relinquished in the late 19th century, and when the surviving estate of 5,091 a. was sold in 1918 it comprised mostly farmland in the outlying villages. (fn. 9i)
The Leading Brewers
Because of the success of his brewery, Michael Thomas Bass became a national figure, and in its obituary notice of 1884 The Times called him 'the prince of brewers'; locally he was styled 'the Burton Patriarch'. (fn. 10i) His public benefactions were confined mostly to Derby, where he was Liberal M.P. between 1848 and 1883, although Bass was also anxious to provide good working conditions for his employees in Burton: (fn. 11g) in 1853 a home visitor was appointed, possibly in response to a report made earlier in the year by a Board of Health inspector. (fn. 12g) Bass himself, however, made no special effort to support the opening of Burton's infirmary in 1869 and it was another brewer, William Henry Worthington, who later made the largest private donation to that institution. (fn. 13g)
The leading brewers preferred to display their wealth in erecting and endowing Anglican churches, both in the town and the outlying villages. (fn. 14g) John Gretton (d. 1867) paid for a church opened at Winshill in 1869; Michael Thomas Bass for St. Paul's in Burton in 1874 and for its daughter church St. Margaret's in 1881; Holy Trinity was rebuilt mainly at the expense of Sir Henry Allsopp and his family in 1882; and John Gretton (d. 1899) paid for St. Mary's at Stretton in 1897. The spiritual investment continued into the early 20th century, members of the Bass family paying for All Saints' in 1905 and St. Chad's in 1910. As the brewers grew in wealth, so their churches became more elaborate and London architects rather than local ones were commissioned. Indeed, the churches are an outstanding feature of Burton's townscape, in contrast to the 'dreary' aspect of some of its domestic architecture. (fn. 15f)
The growing public prominence of the Bass family was mirrored by the declining influence of the marquesses of Anglesey as lords of the manor. When a natural history society was formed in 1841, the patron age of the 1st marquess was solicited, (fn. 1l) and when the marquess laid the foundation stone of Christ Church in 1843 he was described in the newspaper report as 'the Abbot of Burton', a reference to his family's acquisition of the abbey's estates in the 16th century. (fn. 2l) The opening, however, by the 2nd marquess in 1864 of the new bridge over the river Trent was apparently the last public ceremony performed by a member of his family. (fn. 3l) In 1876 the 3rd marquess sold the market rights to the improvement commissioners and in 1884 his successor sold the advowson of St. Modwen's church. (fn. 4m) In 1886 the 4th marquess also relinquished his rights to the ferry across the river at Stapenhill; the foot bridge which replaced the ferry was paid for by Lord Burton (Michael Arthur Bass) and the opening ceremony in 1889 was performed by his wife. (fn. 5l) In 1903 the thespian 5th marquess attended a performance of The Mikado given by the local operatic society, and promised to bring his own theatre company to Burton. It duly performed an Oscar Wilde play in St. George's Hall in 1904, but without the marquess, then ill at Paris. (fn. 6l) His successor held office as mayor in 1911-12, (fn. 7l) but after the sale of the Burton estate in 1918 the family's influence was confined to the patronage of certain Anglican churches. (fn. 8l)
As the leading brewers grew richer they moved out to country estates. Michael Bass (d. 1827) lived in the Every family's former house on the east side of High Street, (fn. 9j) and his son Michael Thomas continued to live there until he moved in the 1840s to Holly Bank (the present Hollyhurst House), in Barton-under-Needwood, and then to Byrkley Lodge, in Tatenhill. (fn. 10j) He later built a substantial house at Rangemore, also in Tatenhill, where he died in 1884. (fn. 11h) When his son Michael Arthur, created a baronet in 1882, was elevated to the peerage in 1886, he took the title Baron Burton of Rangemore and Burton-on-Trent; the order of the places in the title was reversed when a second barony was created in 1897 to enable the title to pass to his only child, a daughter Nellie Lisa. (fn. 12h) John Gretton was living in Bass family's former house in High Street in the late 1840s. He later moved to Bladon House, in Winshill, where he died in 1867. (fn. 13h) Of the other major 19th-century brewers, Henry Allsopp had moved to Foremark (Derb.), evidently in the late 1840s, (fn. 14h) and in 1860 he moved to Hindlip (Worcs.) as lord of the manor; it was as Lord Hindlip that he was elevated to the peerage in 1886, the year before his death. (fn. 15g) Albury House, in Stapenhill, was built in the 1860s for Sydney Evershed. (fn. 16e) William Worthington died in 1871 at Newton Park, in Newton Solney (Derb.), later the home of Robert Ratcliff (d. 1912). (fn. 17e)
Civic and Social Life
The influence of the brewers in town government was naturally strong, and when the municipal borough was established in 1878, 6 of the 8 aldermen were brewers, and one of them, William Henry Worthington, was elected mayor. (fn. 18d) Although the Bass and Worthington families were Anglicans, other brewers and prominent citizens were Methodists, and it may have been as a consequence of the latter's careful attitude to public finance that there are few signs of the development of a 'municipal culture': the baths of 1873 were privatelyfunded (by two Anglican brewers), and it was not until 1897 that the corporation opened a public library. (fn. 1m) Yet in 1883 when a new market hall was built, soon after the corporation had purchased the market rights, councillors commissioned a decorative panel showing King John granting the borough's 1200 charter, evidently in an attempt to emphasise the town's antiquity. (fn. 2m)
The town's horse race meeting was discontinued in 1841, and for the middle classes Burton offered little relief from 'the ordinary and monotonous routine' of daily life. Local newspapers were not successfully established until the mid 1850s. (fn. 3m) Circuses were popular, but Oscar Wilde who in 1883 gave a lecture in the newly-opened St. Paul's Institute attracted only a small audience. (fn. 4n) From 1865 the Bass brewing firm organized biennial day-trips by railway for its workers. Annual by 1883, they last occurred in 1914. (fn. 5m)
In one respect, however, Burton achieved intellectual pre-eminence. In the 1870s the distinguished chemists employed by the breweries formed a dining club called the 'Bacterium Club', at which scientific matters were discussed, and it has been claimed that Burton was then 'the home of real bio-chemistry'. (fn. 6m)
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Burton in 1902 was described as 'one vast brewery....a very City of Beer - Beeropolis', (fn. 7m) and although Edward VII's visit to Burton that year was chiefly in order to see the improvements made by Lord Burton to his house at Rangemore, he also inspected the Bass breweries. (fn. 8m) Despite some contraction in brewing, unemployment seems not to have been a major problem in Burton, partly it seems because few mothers with children went out to work. (fn. 9k) Nonetheless, a Distress Committee set up under the Unemployed Workmen Act of 1905 had received 520 applications over the winter of 1905-6, and a permanent labour exchange was opened in 1910. (fn. 10k) A commercial development committee established by the corporation in 1907 had some success, mostly after the First World War, in attracting new industries on the town's outskirts: (fn. 11i) notably, a rubber works in Horninglow (1916), a food-processing plant (later a silk factory) in Branston (early 1920s), and a tyre factory at Stretton (1929). Small-scale ventures included a motor car factory, established in 1911 and still going in 1920. (fn. 12i) A proto-type aircraft designed by a Burton man made a test-flight in 1929, but no production followed. (fn. 13i) Some of the new industries were particularly suited for the employment of women, (fn. 14i) and so failed to attract many new residents to the area. Partly as a result of that there was an overall decline in Burton's population, which at least meant that unemployment did not become a major problem in the 1930s. (fn. 15h)
The main reason for Burton's somewhat sluggish economy was the lack of space for expansion: brewery railways and sidings were extensive and left little room within the county borough for industrial development. Burton, indeed, was one of the country's smallest county boroughs, but proposals to expand its area were rejected and in 1962 the government announced its intention to reduce Burton to a municipal borough. National events intervened, but in 1974 Burton lost its borough status completely and was incorporated into the newly-formed East Staffordshire district. (fn. 16f)
The demolition of brewery buildings in the 1960s, following the rationalization of plant after amalgamation, and the removal of brewery railways in the 1970s opened up land for commercial development, notably the sidings between Hawkins Lane and Wetmore Road, which have been replaced by the district council with small-scale industrial units. (fn. 17f) In the 1990s Bass Developments plc started to develop a 200-a. site on the south-west side of the town along the A38 as a business park. The area first completed is called Centrum 100 and includes the corporate services headquarters of Bass plc, opened in 1993, and a Holiday Inn (one of a Bass-owned chain), opened in 1997. (fn. 18e) Business parks have also been established beyond the confined limits of the former county borough, notably at Stretton and Barton-under-Needwood.
As a result of the success of the business parks, Burton's overall rate of unemployment has fallen, especially in the last decade of the 20th century, at a greater rate than elsewhere in the county, and the general impression is one of activity and growth. The town's inner wards, however, remain a deprived area and have a high level of unemployment, notably among the immigrant community from the Pakistani part of Kashmir, which began to arrive in Burton in the mid 1950s. As a consequence the government in 2001 awarded a substantial regeneration grant to Burton Community Partnership to tackle the area's social and economic problems.
The removal of breweries and railway crossings in the historic town centre has helped in the regeneration of High Street and Station Street, with new shopping centres and recreational facilities, and the meadowland south of Burton bridge has been laid out with paths as an attractive public space called the Washlands. Achitecturally the most striking area, however, remains St. Paul's Square with its Victorian church and town hall, testimony to the period of Burton's pre-eminence.