Employment in Colton
Colton is a small village set in the rural Staffordshire landscape. For many centuries the two manorial Lords who owned the majority of the land in and around Colton would have employed the majority of residents in Colton. The only other hints that we have of possible earlier employment for villagers other than farm labouring duties, are that we know there were three mills in Colton so there must have been millers. We also know that there was a thriving market in the Middle Ages so there must have been people peddling wares. We also know that there was a very productive glass industry around the area in the Middle Ages and it is possible that some Colton men worked in this.
Picture courtesy of June Meddings
|Our most productive source of information about employment for villagers comes from the Census records begun at the beginning of the 19th. Century although some information can also be gleaned from the Parish records of births and marriages.
There were a few shops in the village in later years and certainly ale houses. There were other businesses in the village as well such as a corn merchant at the Malt House, a couple of slaughter houses and a blacksmiths. The last butchers shop was in front of the pub now called the Greyhound and closed its doors finally between the wars.
Colton is situated about a mile away from the small town of Rugeley and therefore a lot of those not employed on the farms worked in Rugeley. As with the whole of England lots of the women in the Parish were employed in service either in the village or in nearby Rugeley. A Colton girl, Eliza Tharm, worked in service for Rugeley’s infamous Dr. Palmer the poisoner!
Both a railway and a canal went through the parish boundaries of Colton and the census records that a number of locals worked on these. The railway employees increase as the 19th Century progresses reflecting how much the railways were being used. Rugeley had quite a big tanning works and Colton people are seen to be working there well into the first quarter of the 20th. Century.
A number of shoe makers and tailors are also shown to be living in Colton and could again reflect the leather and tanning that went on in Rugeley. Whether these were outworkers working from home is not known. Brick workers also feature throughout the 19th. Century and could reflect that the whole area around this part of Staffordshire had many little brickworks making bricks out of the marl found geologically here in this area.
Again from the census records, actually in Colton itself we know that over time there was a Maltser, a tea merchant, two slaughterhouses, a blacksmiths and a couple of publicans running the two pubs in the village. We know that there were a small number of shops including butchers. The last shop, our village post office, closed at the very end of the 20th century.
After the First World War the Rugeley area saw the development of the coalmining industry and until the last mine closed down in the 1980’s a number of men living in Colton earned their living in these pits. Two or three of them lost their lives in mining accidents.
As with everywhere else people mainly travel some distance to work nowadays but there are still just a handful that earn their living in the village itself like the two village publicans!