Colton has witnessed many events and given birth to and housed many people of note over its long history. Members of the Society have spent many thousands of hours researching local people, places and events that have had an impact on the lives of others, whether in Colton or further a field.
Currently, we have organised the resulting articles which are listed below. Please click on a name to see the full article.
Maybe one of these people is a relative! We welcome any further information you may have.
|A Short History of the Village
People and events that have played a part in Colton’s long history.
Bronze Age Evidence in Colton
Local finds reveal evidence of Bronze Age activity.
Saxon and Norman Colton
What the Domesday book had to say about Colton.
|The Manors of Colton
Who were the lords of the manor?
Colton in the 17th. & 18th. centuries
Some interesting incidents involving Colton residents.
Colton in the 19th. & 20th. centuries
Victorian times and Colton through two World Wars.
Colton now and its hopes for the future.
A short history of the village – a whizz through the centuries!
Although Colton now appears to be a fairly insignificant ,small village in the Staffordshire landscape, it has a long history with a lot to offer of interest to visitors from the locality and further a field.
The earliest evidence of habitation in Colton dates from the Bronze Age. Bronze age Burnt mounds have recently been found within the Parish boundary and researched. It is thought that they are evidence of occupation by one of the tribes known to be in this area of Staffordshire in this period and who built a huge fortification at Castle Ring on Cannock Chase some three miles away.
The earliest written recording of Colton is in the Domesday Book. Colton is recorded as having been held by four Saxon Thanes. It is also one of only a small number of Staffordshire villages recorded as having a Priest, which suggests that in Saxon times the village was of some significance.
Colton in the pre and post Conquest period must have been one of the largest settlements in the area because it received a Market Charter in 1240 some three years before neighbouring Rugeley Throughout the Middle ages it boasted a church, a market, burgage plots, mills and a glassworks. Evidence of all but the market can still be seen. The remains of the glasswork kilns within the Parish have been found in recent years and have been linked with the local glass working industry known to have been operating around Rugeley and Bagots Park in the middle ages. This local industry is known to have provided glass for such prestigious buildings as York Minster.
In the early 17th. Century the Lord of the Manor, Walter Aston, acted as Ambassador to Spain for James I and was created Baron Aston of Forfar for his services to the country. He occupied a substantial timber manor house in Colton of which now unfortunately there is no surface evidence but the boundaries of the ancient deer park can still be seen.
The mid 17th. Century saw a local Colton heiress, Constance Boughey; marry Thomas Whitgreave of Moseley Old Hall. He was one of the Catholics who helped Charles II escape from the Battle of Worcester. By this marriage he became a significant landowner in Colton and the Whitgreave family remained so until the 20th. Century.
At the end of the 17th. Century Herbert Aston achieved notoriety by being implicated along with Lord Stafford in the Popish Plot. It was reputed to have been partly plotted at his Manor house in Colton at Bellamour Hall. The Plot although later to be proved fictitious, caused a huge outrage in England and both men along with other suspected plotters were imprisoned in the Tower. Lord Stafford was beheaded but the hoax was revealed before Herbert Aston lost his head and he was released.
The 18th century saw the building of the canal through Colton. The canal was the seen of a brutal murder of a young woman in the 19th. Century and was the inspiration for a story in the popular crime series ‘Morse’ starring the well known actor John Thaw.
The 19th. Century saw the coming of the steam railway not objected to by the then Lord of Colton Manor Mr. James Oldham Oldham even though it came across the edge of his land.
|In the 20th century Colton slipped into the quiet obscurity of so many English villages but still remains to this date little changed.
The Bronze Age
There is evidence of human activity in the immediate vicinity of Colton for as far back as the Mesolithic Age from about 9000BC. A skull thought to be dating from this period has been found at Etching Hill about a mile away from Colton.
The earliest evidence we have of human activity at Colton itself is from the Bronze Age period- around 2000B.C. onwards. By then people were living in communities, farming the land and following established rituals such as burial rites. Society was divided up into clans with territories relating often to a place of fortification that people could flee to in times of threat. The territory around Colton belonged to the Cornovii people who had one of their fortified centres up at Castle Ring, a high point on nearby Cannock Chase.
We do not know the nature of the occupation at Colton but there is evidence in a field on the edge of the village of a known Bronze Age activity. People in this period would collect stones and heat them for some reason possibly for helping in the process of treating animal skins or even for something as simple as keeping water hot or for cooking. The evidence is stones that have been split by heat and then discarded in piles. Piles like this were found by a local Colton farmer and confirmed as what are called ‘Burnt Mounds’ by Keele University who conducted a survey of the site.
Ref. A History of Staffordshire M.W. Greenslade &D.G.Stuart Pub. Phillimore 1998
Geophysical Survey over a Medieval Glass Furnace and a Bronze Age Burnt Mound Conducted byKeele University 1998. Dept. of Earth Sciences.
Saxon & Norman Colton – 1066 and all that!
|The first written account of Colton is in the Domesday Book. This was the great survey carried out by William the Conqueror in 1086 to record what he had actually acquired when he had become King of England after the Battle of Hastings. Although the intention was to record the new ownership of the land holdings, it in fact also gives us a record of what was already there in Saxon times and who owned what before conquest.
Possibly what the settlement of Colton looked like at the time of the Conquest.
The entry for Colton appears twice in the Domesday Book… Part of the village was given by King William to Earl Roger of Montgomery , Earl of Shrewsbury and the other part to Robert of Stafford; two great Norman barons who had greatly assisted him in the conquest of England. They did not live in Colton but let the village to Azeline and Geoffrey of Gastenois, two Norman knights. The knights had to serve the barons whenever they were needed.
The first entry under the land holdings of Earl Roger in Pirehill Hundred . This he lets to Azeline. The entry shows that a Saxon called Almund who had been a freeman or land owner, had held this land previously in the time of King Edward the Confessor and had had his land confiscated by King William. There is enough land for four ploughs. The plough land estimated the arable capacity that an eight ox plough team was needed to work it. The lord has two ploughs and also 4 serfs to work the land.
The villains; peasants of higher economic status than serfs, of which there were fourteen, worked land for three ploughs. There was 17 acres of meadow which would be for grazing animals and also woods of a league long by half a league wide, 1.5 mile long by ¾ mile wide. This part of the village was valued at 40 shillings. It also supports a Priest one of the few recorded in Staffordshire. (Ref. Domesday Staffordshire 8 248a, b.)
Also part of this holding is Little Hay which in Saxon times is held by Almar and then on Earl Roger’s acquisition of the land is also let to Azeline.
The second entry is under the land holdings of Robert of Stafford again in Pirehill Hundred. (Ref. Domesday Staffordshire 249a). Here the entry shows that in the reign of Edward the Confessor it was held by two Saxon freemen (landowners) called Oda and Wulfric. Robert lets it to Geoffrey . There is enough arable land in this part of the village to need six ploughs to work it. Geoffrey owns one plough and the 10 villeins and one slave work three ploughs.
Here there is also a mill that pays 12 pence rent a year. There is 16 acres of meadow for grazing the animals and woodland 1 league long by 3 furlongs wide, 1 mile by ¼ mile. The value of this part of the village is 50 shillings.
If at the time Domesday was compiled there were five people in each of the families of the villains and serfs, there would be roughly a hundred and forty five people living in Colton as a whole with a total value of 90 shillings which compared to the other villages around Colton, made it the biggest and most valuable village between Stafford and Lichfield.
Picture drawn by Joan Anslow courtesy of Staffs. County Council
|The daily work of the villagers remained unchanged by the coming of the Norman. The Villeins had their own land to farm and had to work on the Lord’s land about one day a week and rather more at harvest time. This was in return for having their own land. The serfs had no land of their own and had to work for the lord. They were entirely dependent upon him and could not leave.
Around the village there were usually three large fields, one ploughed and sown in autumn with wheat, one ploughed and sown in spring with oats or barley and one left fallow with no crop at all. The animals would be turned out on this to graze it and manure it ready for the next season.
These fields were ploughed in strips by the Ox teams. Turning the 8 ox team around at the end of the strip meant that there would be a curve at each end giving it the shape of an s. If you look at an ordinance survey map of Colton you can still see that some of the field boundaries have this shape even today and until very recently the ridges and furrows of these strips could still be observed on one of the fields in Colton. Unfortunately they have now been ploughed out.
We do not know all the parts of Colton included in these fields other than a few clues in ancient deeds that mention strips in Hamley field, Parch Field, Trent Field and a field close to the road near where the mill was.
The mill at this time was at the crossing of the River Trent that divided Colton from Rugeley and was driven by water. It was an important asset to acquire. The rest of Colton would be meadows for feeding the animals, woods that provided timber for the lord and beech mast and acorns for the animals of the village as long as the Lord was paid.
A History of Staffordshire M.W.Greenslade and D.G.Stuart Phillimore
Domesday Book for Staffordshire Phillimore
Colton Staffordshire County Council Education Dept. Local History Source Book L49.
At the conquest of England by William, Colton was given to two Norman Barons as reward for their service. Part was given to Earl Roger of Shropshire whose tenant was a Knight called Azeline and the other part was given to Robert of Stafford whose tenant was Geoffrey. Azeline’s descendents were the Mavesyn family and Geoffrey de Gastenois’ descendents were the Wasteney family.
The Mavesyn land holdings were around where the present church is and the main part of the present village and also included the smaller Manor of Little Hay. The holdings of the DeWasteney’s extended from the village itself to an area running down to the River Trent where the mill was situated.
In 1235 Sir William D’Wasteney had permission from the King to hold a weekly market at Colton because he could derive an income from market tolls. In 1264 the D’Wasteney’s obtained permission from the King to hunt game and fence in land to stop the game escaping. This land became known as the Old Park. About 1290 the D’Wasteney’s also built a second mill, this time wind powered, on a field known as Hamley where again he could derive fees from the villagers for the grinding of corn.
We have evidence that the Manor that became known as the Church Manor passed from the ownership of Azeline to Fitz Alan and then was jointly owned by the De Colton and Mareschell families around 1177. The Patent Rolls of 1313 confirms that the Mareschell’s and the Wasteney’s are joint lords of Colton. The Church Manor then went through inheritance to the Morley family and eventually the Gresley family. The two Manors are combined in 1364 when Thomasine de Wasteney married Nicholas de Gresley .
Throughout this period we have many examples extracted from deeds, Patent Rolls, Manor court records and assize records of events and disputes that went on in the village usually about ownership of land and hedgerows but occasionally something more serious. In 1263 Nicholas de Colton stabbed Adam son of Hereward in a brawl at Dutton and fled for his life to Colton taking sanctuary, as was his right, in Colton Church. The villagers tried to guard the church to secure his arrest but were prevented by Sir William D’Wasteney who connived in his escape!
In 1271 the village itself was the scene of a shocking murder when John, the chaplain of Colton, killed Christina wife of Nicholas de Colton, whilst interposing between him and a stranger. residing at her house. John fled from justice and was outlawed.
There is little visible evidence around the village dating from the medieval period. The only building we have left standing from this period is the church of which the Tower and the present day vestry are the only remaining evidence. The buildings known as Boughey Hall Farm stand on the site of land that was given by the De Wasteney family in 1247 to St. Thomas’ Priory in Stafford where a grange farm was built and the fish ponds still visible there were probably from this period. There is also still evidence showing where the boundary around the Old Park established by the De Wasteney’s .
The Manors of Colton
After the Norman Conquest Colton had three Manors. Azeline occupied the Manor around the church and the lower end of the village that subsequently became known as the Church Manor. The Manor house is thought to have stood close to the church.
The Elizabethan Little Hay Manor House
|He also occupied the small Manor of Little Hay. The house for this Manor has always been in the same place in the centre of the village. In the 13th. Century this manor passed into the hands of the Bagot family of Blithfield Hall and remained with the family until well into the 20th. Century. There is still a house standing on the site today albeit a 19th century one. A sketch was made of its Elizabethan predecessor and the chimneys still stand in the garden.
The third manor was on land to the west of the village bordering the River Trent. The water mill on the Trent belonged to it. This Manor and the Church Manor were amalgamated into one at the marriage of Thomasine De Wasteney and Nicholas Gresley in 1365.
The Manor house was where Colton Hall Farm stands today. In the 17th. Century when Walter Aston owned the Manor, the house was said to be of a large timber construction with many rooms. This house burned down in the late 17th. Century. .
His subsequent heirs built Bellamour Hall situated close to the road running from Rugeley and the remains of this Hall can still be seen today.. A second larger Bellamour Hall was built close to the first. The Manor passed by marriage to the Blounts in 1766. It was later then sold first to the Oldham’s, a retired Indian Judge and then to the Horsfall’s who was MP for Liverpool. The second Hall was sold in the 1920’s and was demolished soon after.
Colton in the 17th and 18th centuries
Colton was by now being eclipsed by its neighbour Rugeley. Throughout these two centuries it became a small rural village with most of its inhabitants still working on the land and looking after village affairs.
Colton became home to Sir Walter Aston of Tixall in 1610 when he purchased the Manor of Colton and the hall. He became Ambassador to Spain for James I and was made Baron Forfar for his services to the crown. This hall burnt down in the late 1640’s and this coupled with the fact that his royal position used up most of his money meant that his estate upon his death was much reduced. His second son Herbert inherited the Colton estate and built a new hall at Bellamour.
There was high drama at the end of the 17th. Century when Herbert was arrested because he was implicated in the Popish plot, a plot allegedly to kill the King. He returned to Colton upon his release.
The late 17th. Century saw the marriage of a Colton heiress, Constance Boughey of Boughey Hall Farm to Thomas Whitgreave of Old Moseley Hall. He had helped rescue Charles II in his failed attempt to reclaim the throne from Oliver Cromwell.
The 18th. Century saw the coming of the canal through Colton. It brought a new sort of employment for some of the residents.
|Colton House was built in the village and still remains today as one of the outstanding houses.
Colton residents also had to do substantial repairs to the church because it was falling into a bad state of repair. The whole of the west wall was rebuilt in brick.
Colton in the 19th and 20th centuries
The 19th. Century saw lots of changes in Colton as with everywhere else in Britain.
Education was brought to the masses rather than the select few and a school for all of the children of the parish opened its doors in 1863. The school still exists today.
A group of villagers outside the alms houses known as The Barracks.
|Houses were built for the poor of the Parish in line with national thinking on how the poor of the parishes should be provided for. A row of houses known as the Barracks was built at Stockwell Heath in 1793 for the poor of Colton.
Methodism was flourishing in the predominantly working class areas of the towns and cities and eventually it reached Colton. A Methodist chapel was opened in the village and offered an alternative to the local parish church for the residents.
Occupations began to change due to the availability of transport and alternative sorts of employment. First the canal came through Colton, then the railway and then finally the car. More and more residents found work further afield than the village. This is all recorded in the Census Records for Colton that date back to the first National Census 0f 1801. Some went to work in industries in Rugeley which by then was a far bigger place than Colton. The local tanning works and brick works supplied a number of jobs for Colton people.
The 20th. Century saw the beginning of huge changes in the life of small rural villages and Colton was no exception. The Bellamour Estate was sold off in the early 1920’s and so there was no longer a local Lord of the Manor.
The village saw the death of a number of its young men in both world wars. They are commemorated on a cenotaph in the centre of the village. Although the Second World War saw no damage done to the village, incendiary bombs did fall in fields close to the centre of the village It also played host to a group of evacuees from Kent and a camp for English soldiers was set up at Bellamour and American soldiers were billeted at Colton House.
|We are in touch with some of the evacuees. This picture was sent to us by one of them – Tony Atkinson . This is the class of evacuees from Westgate on Sea. Were you possibly one of these? In which case please get in touch.
The village steadily went down from a regular daily bus service, three shops, butchers and two pubs. Now the only two businesses are the two Pubs. Like so many English villages it has lost almost all its services.
However the population has stayed consistently steady all through the centuries and now most villagers are employed much further field with virtually no one now working on the land around Colton. At the end of the 20th. Century it still remains a tight knit community with a tremendous sense of community spirit.
Colton as you enter the village.
|The number of residents is very little changed as we have had no houses built in the village in the last 5 years.(2008)
Colton today is a small rural village with very few amenities. There is still a school, a church, two pubs and a village hall but no shops. Most residents work in the surrounding towns.
|There is a thriving community however with lots of activities and events organised by the village including the history society!
For an insight into the village today go to Colton Parish Website.