A Brief History

By Deborah Giles

Norton is a Saxon name for a village whose past extends much further back. Archaeological discoveries show signs of human activity in the area right back to about 3000 BC. People from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age inhabited the landscape followed by the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons. It was during the Anglo-Saxon period that written evidence about Norton first appeared. A charter relating to Norton dating from AD 1007 is the earliest document to survive. Following the Norman Conquest, Norton appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was listed in the lands belonging to the Abbots of St Albans. A detailed insight into the medieval period of Norton’s history, with the obligations of the villagers to their lord, can be seen through the records of the manorial courts, which survive from AD 1244. Following the Dissolution of St Albans Abbey in 1539, the manor of Norton passed into private hands, but its courts continued to record the activities of its inhabitants down to 1916.

In addition to the court records other documents, such as parish registers and vestry minutes, have survived to show how the villagers lived and died over the centuries. Norton was always a small place with fewer than 500 population and yet it reflected the history of any village in England. Its inhabitants were struck down by the Black Death, took part in the Peasants Revolt, were caught up in the extremism of the Civil War, learnt to be tolerant in the following years, enacted social reform and eventually became part of an early experiment in town planning by being part of the first Garden City.

Norton village, looking towards St Nicholas's Church and The Three Horseshoes -  notice the sign on the left

Norton village, looking towards St Nicholas's Church and The Three Horseshoes - notice the sign on the left

Deborah Giles has written a book, Norton before the Garden City, which can be purchased from David’s Bookshop, Eastcheap, Letchworth Garden City, Herts SG6 3DE. Priced £8. Also available from Amazon.

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