Barton under Needwood

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Date:1086 - 2015 (c.)

Description:Barton-under-Needwood is a large village, situated between Burton-upon-Trent and Lichfield just of the A38, the Roman road called Ryknild Street. It was formerly part of the parish of Tatenhill. In the 19th century it was a very fashionable place for Burton’s brewery owners to live.

The place name, Barton, is Old English and means a barley farm. It was a relatively important settlement in Anglo-Saxon times. In the Domesday Book of 1086, it was called Bertone and was part of the King’s lands. It was a large manor with enough land to support eighteen ploughs and it had 20 acres of meadow and a large tract of woodland. The population is recorded as two serfs, 17 villeins (an unfree tenant who held his land by performing agricultural services) and eight bordars (a small holder of land who farmed on the edge of the settlement). It is recorded as being worth £7 annually and it also had a mill. By the Middle Ages it had come to be called Barton-under-Needwood, as it was situated along the road which led into the Forest of Needwood.

Population figures for Barton in the Middle Ages, recorded in the two poll taxes of 1327 (37 adults) and 1377 (310 adults) are distorted by the inclusion of Dunstall and Tatenhill. By the time of the Hearth Tax assessment of 1666, 86 households were assessed as liable for the payment of the tax with another 46 considered too poor to pay. By the time of the first national census of 1801, the population stood at 834. In the latest population census of 2001, it was 4,522.

Barton’s parish church is dedicated to St James and was built completely in the early 16th century, one of only two such churches in Staffordshire. The cost of the building was borne by Dr John Taylor in 1517 and his initials are on the wall of the tower. Taylor was chaplain to Henry VIII and he later became Master of the Rolls. The village also has a Roman Catholic church, built in 1963. John Wesley preached at Barton in 1755 but it was not until 1828 that the Wesleyan Methodists built a chapel in Crowberry Lane. The Primitive Methodists also built a chapel in 1828 in Wales Lane.

Education has a long history in the village. A grammar school was established under the will of Thomas Russell in 1593. The building was eventually completed in 1603. The school had a difficult history in terms of the maintenance of the building and the unsatisfactory quality of some of the schoolmasters. It was these difficulties and pressure from local people which led to the creation of a school board for Barton in 1871. Russell’s grammar school became a board school in 1873. Thomas Webb, a cotton mill owner, bequeathed money for the establishment of a girls’ school in 1828. This too was transferred to the board school in 1873. In 1886 a new school was built, combining provision for boys, girls and infants. This became a council school in 1903 and eventually in 1957, became the Thomas Russell primary school. John Taylor High School opened in 1957, providing secondary education in the village.

The relative wealth of many of Barton’s inhabitants in the 17th and 18th centuries resulted in the endowment and establishment of many charities for the relief of the poor. Other welfare initiatives included a milk scheme, established in 1795 to provide a supply of cheap milk, and a cottage hospital opened in 1879.

Farming was the predominant occupation in the village for centuries, supported by a few agriculturally related trades. Two fifths of the population were employed in agriculture in 1881. The village has seen relatively little industry over the centuries apart from brick and tile making in the 19th century and sand and gravel extraction in the 20th century. From the 17th century onwards, however, Barton has largely been a village which has attracted minor gentry, professional men, brewery owners and others of private means to live there. This was given further impetus by the opening of a railway station in 1840 and a number of large houses were built in the village in the 19th century. The social standing of Barton’s wealthier inhabitants impacted in other ways too. At the time of the 1851 census, 25% of the adult population was employed in domestic service. By 1881 two fifths of the adult population were recorded as being domestic servants. 27 gardeners were also listed in that year, no doubt employed to look after the gardens of Barton’s large houses.