As well as the manorial court records, details of which are given on “Documents – Manorial Court Records”, there are a wealth of other historic documents relating to Norton. These are also the focus of transcription by members of the Section. Some of the documents worked on to date include:
The surviving parish records of baptisms, marriages and burials at St Nicholas church in Norton (the originals of which are held at HALS) start in 1579. Remarkably, this is an unbroken series which continues up to the 21st century.
In 1915, H F Hatch published a transcription of marriages in Norton (1581-1812), but the accuracy of this transcription has subsequently been discredited. In July 1955, a complete transcription of baptisms, marriages and burials, listed in an alphabetical index was typed and issued by Thos. F Allen (a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists). Copies are lodged with the society, HALS and at the Norton parish office.
Diana Davies has recently transcribed Mr Allen’s work into an Excel spreadsheet, adding further years bringing it up to the 1990s. Diana has kindly given us a digital copy for use by NCAG members.
Transcription of memorial inscriptions in St Nicholas’ churchyard
A comprehensive census, Memorial Inscriptions – Norton and Bygrave was compiled by Garry Neesam and published in 1991 by the Hertfordshire Family & Population History Society – now the Hertfordshire Family History Society (HFHS). This work was updated by NCAG members in 2008 and put on a database. It shows all of the inscriptions and gives their location, along with a map. Diana Davies, of the parish office, has subsequently updated and made minor corrections to this work.
Enclosure Awards 1796-8
“The Act for the Inclosure of the Parish of Norton was one of the momentous events in the history of the parish because it changed so much that had remained constant for centuries. Such Acts were increasingly passed in the eighteenth century as major landowners realised the benefits of farming large tracts of land in one place rather than in strips” – Deborah Giles wrote in “Norton before the Garden City”.
NCAG members have transcribed the Awards from the originals, kept at HALS and taken photographs of various maps describing the changes.
Census records 1841-1911
The surviving records of the ten-yearly national census are held at Kew, in the National Archives. However, excellent photographs of these records are readily available from various commercially-run websites. Members have transcribed all of the censuses available for public viewing (1841-1911) onto Excel spreadsheets and are analysing them to detect interesting changes in social trends.
From the early 19th century, trade directories were published to advertise the goods and services available from local businesses (similar to today’s telephone directories and yellow pages). NCAG have scanned and transcribed the 1859 Post Office Directory and 1890 Kelly’s Directory. As well as providing an interesting potted historical and geographical account of the village, the names of its more wealthy inhabitants and tradesmen are listed.
1637 Church Terrier
This document was transcribed and published in the St Albans Diocesan Gazette in 1912. A scanned copy of the article was purchased from HALS and subsequently transcribed by NCAG.
The Terrier gives details of the location in Norton of each strip of land owned by the Church. Although the map which originally accompanied the document no longer exists, there are sufficient details of field names to enable the reader to identify some of their locations. Of particular interest is that the field strips are listed under the heading of Norton’s medieval three field crop rotation system. The map below shows broadly where the three fields were located. So, although the feudal system itself (with all its legal mechanisms for tying peasants to the manor) broke down during the 15th century, the agricultural system was still broadly in use two hundred years later.
The Lannock Archive
This is an archive of legal documents relating to the Pryor family which has recently been made available to the public and is now held at HALS. NCAG and other local historians had the benefit of a preview of the collection at the private residence of Roddy Pryor at Weston Lodge.
John Izzard Pryor was a very successful brewer in Baldock in the late 18th century. He used his wealth to purchase many properties in the surrounding villages. NCAG members have photographed various fascinating documents relating to the legal proof of ownership of properties in Norton. One of the most remarkable was a handwritten copy of the granting of the manor of Norton in 1542 by Henry VIII to Sir Richard Williams, alias Cromwell.
Wills are a very important source of historical records. At HALS, there are over 100 documents relating to Wills covering the period from 1450-1600. Sue Flood, formerly Herts County Archivist, translated for us all of the Wills before 1540 and some of their details are included in the HRS book Records of the Manor of Norton in the Liberty of St Albans, 1244 – 1539. NCAG members aim to photograph and transcribe the remaining Wills in this collection.