Norton Canes and its history

Norton Canes is a village and civil parish on the southern periphery of Cannock Chase District, in Staffordshire, England. It is situated 3 miles (4.8 km) out of the centre of Cannock. At the 2001 census it had a population of 6,394 and an area of 3,746 acres (15.16 km2) of which 86% is green open space.

The Cannock Chase Coalfield once had 45 collieries within 2 miles (3.2 km) of Norton Canes, employing over 5,800 men, as well as 2 large surface mines; the last pit in the area closed in 1993. One colliery was owned by the Jerome family, hence Jerome Road now on the site of the pit. This was the family of the author Jerome K. Jerome. Norton Canes borders Chasewater – a collection of man-made lakes formed through old mining pits and a reservoir that feeds the canal system of West Midlands. Chasewater is a popular leisure destination offering facilities for water-skiing and yachting, mountain biking, jogging, walking and bird watching.

Norton Canes straddles the UK’s first and only Toll Motorway, the M6 Toll which has its northern Toll Plaza and Norton Canes Services is the only services for that motorway. (Norton Canes Services).

Norton Canes is home to Europe’s first drive-through chemist.

Previous history
The Etymology of the Name Norton Canes

Norton (derived from Old English north ‘north’ and tun ‘farmstead’ or ‘estate’) is an extremely common place-name, so much so that most of them have been given an affix to help distinguish them. In this case the first record of the affix is Norton-sur-le-Canok, meaning ‘Norton-on-Cannock (Chase)’. It seems almost certain therefore that Canes is a corruption of Cannock. (Mills, p.256; Poulton-Smith, p.88)

Stone-Age Norton Canes (c.10,000 – 2,000B.C.)
There is no known evidence for settlement of the Norton Canes area during the Stone-Age Period.

Bronze-Age Norton Canes (c.2,500 – 700B.C.)
The sole evidence for Bronze-Age activity at Norton Canes is a bronze arrowhead recovered from the area of Norton East (SK0208). This proves at least that man was engaged in hunting on the margins of Norton Bog, which would have been home to many species of aquatic wildfowl and fish. (AHDS)

“In the southern part of the county was an extensive morass, Norton Bog, now a great mining centre; but here still linger noticeable bog plants, as the black schcenus (Schcenus nigricans), the butter wort (Pinguicula vulgaris), the marsh violet (Viola palustris), the marsh crowfoot (Ranunculus Lenormandi) and the marsh bedstraw (Galium uliginosum); … and the wild moorlands about Cannock and Norton, notwithstanding the proximity of large colliery workings, are still a home for many of the heath-loving species, as Cladonia pyxidata, C. cornucopioides, C. digitata, C. rangiferina and Cladina syhatica. …” (VCHS, Vol.1, pp.43-4, 66)

Iron-Age Norton Canes (c.800B.C. – A.D.43)
There is no evidence from the Iron-Age period in the Norton Canes area.

Roman Norton Canes (A.D.43 – 410)
The only known evidence for Roman activity in the area is nonetheless quite substantial, being the Roman military highway now known as Watling Street which, after travelling arrow-straight due west from Wall about 4¼ miles (7km) to the east, makes a marked change of alignment at the railway bridge near Brownhills West Primary School (SK 031064) about a mile to the south-east of the village, and continues WNW for a length of 7¾ miles (c.12.5km) passing within ½-mile to the south of Norton, to Gailey, where another alignment adjustment occurs and the road continues again due west almost to the border of Wales. It is quite possible, however, given the proximity of the Roman road that some relic of the Roman era waits to be discovered at Norton Canes, particularly to the south of the village. (OS)

Early-Medieval Norton Canes (A.D.410 – 1066)
Again, physical evidence for activity in Norton Canes during the Dark-Age and Anglo-Saxon period is lacking, but the documentary evidence of Domesday implies that a settlement must have existed at the time.

Domesday Nortone (A.D.1086)
“In Offlow Hundred [the Bishop of Chester holds] LECEFELLE (Lichfield), with its dependencies. … These members belong to this manor: … NORTONE (Norton Canes) and WERELEIA (Great Wyrley), 4 carucates of land; … All these lands are waste.” (The Domesday Book, 1086, 2.16)
The other members of Lichfield were Packington, Hammerwich, Stytchbrook and Rowley; Packington lies just north-west of Tamworth and is therefore beyond the scope of this website.
The Domesday entry for the village of Nortone is very brief and does not tell us much about the Anglo-Saxon village other than the settlement came under the jurisdiction of the City of Lichfield, which was itself counted amongst the many properties of Robert de Limesey the Bishop of Chester. The Nortone entry is conflated with that of the neighbouring village of Great Wyrley, there being four carucates or ‘ploughs’ of land in the two settlements, amounting to a total of 480 acres, both villages lying waste at the time the Domesday record was compiled.

Medieval Norton Canes (A.D.1066 – 1540)
The most interesting evidence from the Medieval settlement of Norton Canes was found in 1969 during the digging of a pipe trench just east of Washbrook Lane on the northern outskirts of the village (SK 0129 0818). The workmen laying the pipe discovered a number of pottery ‘wasters’ or malformed pottery vessels which were too damaged to be sold, along with pieces of kiln ‘furniture’, the ceramic bars and stands used within a pottery kiln to keep the pottery vessels separate during firing. Although the actual kiln itself was not discovered the recovery of ‘wasters’ and ‘furniture’ has been taken as almost conclusive evidence for a Medieval pottery kiln in the area which was seemingly in production throughout the 14th century. The only other archaeological sites which date from the Medieval period are the remains of two homestead moats, both of which lie in the southern part of the village: the first lies to the east of Butts Lane and south of Norton Green Lane (SK 0155 0775), the site marked as Spring Cottage on old OS maps, the second lies to the west of Butts Lane just south of Jack Close (SK 0122 0764), south-east of the point where Norton Hall Lane becomes Church Road, the site later occupied by Norton Hall itself; both of these moated sites are thought to have remained in occupation during the post-Medieval period. (AHDS)

Post-Medieval Norton Canes (A.D.1540 – 1901)
The Hamlet of Little Wyrley
The best example of Post-Medieval architecture in the parish is situated about 1¼ miles to the south-west of Norton Canes village in the hamlet of Little Wyrley. Here, to the east of Wyrley Lane and south of Grove Lane, lies Little Wyrley Hall (SK 0120 0593), which was built in the 16th century with additions made in the 17th. Interestingly, a ‘Hall’ class 4-6-0 steam locomotive named Little Wyrley Hall was built by Great Western Railways in March 1950 and saw service at Cardiff in South Wales until it was withdrawn from service in March 1965 and scrapped shortly afterwards. (AHDS; OS; WEB)

Canals, Railways and Coalmines
First mentioned in 1300, the Crane Brook forms the eastern boundary of the parish and used to flow via Biddulph’s Pool (formed in 1734) into Norton Bog north of the Watling Street. In 1798, however, the Crane Brook was dammed below Norton Bog to form a reservoir for the Wyrley and Essington Canal which lies just outside the southern boundary of the parish, running from Coppice Side Industrial Estate in Brownhills (SK 032052) to Fishley Bridge No. 1 near Pelshall Wood (SK 008041). For many years the large canal reservoir was named ‘Norton Pool’ but in 1956 was renamed ‘Chasewater’ shortly after it’s usage had been converted into that of a pleasure park, featuring sailing and motorised watersports; the parish boundary runs through it’s centre. In 1858 the Birmingham Canal Navigations Co. opened up the Cannock Extension Canal from Pelsall Junction (SK 019044) on the Wyrley and Essington Canal striking almost due north through Norton Canes Docks just south of the A5 (SK 020068), to Little Norton, just behind the modern Apex Buisiness Park (SK 020079) and thenceforth to Rumer Hill Junction (SJ 992089), which now lies beneath the southern end of the Landfill Site beside the A460 Eastern Way Bypass. By 1863 the Cannock Extension was extended northwards to Prospect Place (SJ 998113) just south of the East Cannock Colliery, the place now occupied by the Beechwood Business Park; the final length of the canal being just under 5¾ miles. All of the canal lying to the north of the A5 was abandoned in 1963, a total length of just under 4¼ miles, although the southern section of just over 1¾ miles still remains. (HCS, Vol.14, pp.195-205; OS; WIKI)

Canals, Railways and Coalmines
By the late 19th century there were a number of railways serving the Norton Canes area, although all are now dismantled. In 1858 the South Staffordshire Railway Company opened the Norton Branch Mineral Railway from Norton Junction (SK 029042) on the existing SSR line to Norton Green (SK 024077) just east of Norton Canes village in the area of Braemar Road. The branch line served the collieries in the immediate area of Norton Canes and closed in 1964 shortly after the last pit ceased production. The Cannock Chase and Wolverhampton Railway Company was incorporated in 1864 to build a network of branch lines from Anglesea Sidings at New Town just north of the Watling Street (SK 056066) on the existing South Staffordshire Railway, via Norton Chase Junction between Brownhills and Chasewater (SK 038086) on the Midland Railway to the collieries in Rawnsley and Hazelslade, served from the Coopers Lodge Junction (SK 026123) on the Cannock Chase Railway The Cannock Chase and Wolverhampton Railway was completed in 1867 and closed down in 1960. The London and North Western Railways Company constructed the Fiveways Branch Mineral Railway between Norton Green (SK 024077) and Five Ways (SK 015098), serving an outlying shaft of the Coppice Colliery Co. (see below); the branch line opened in 1894 and closed in the 1960’s. (AHDS; OS)

Canals, Railways and Coalmines
There were six colliery companies operating mines in Norton Canes parish. The Brownhills Colliery had a number of shafts, on Wyrley Common itself (SK 024059) and just south of the A5 on the northern edge of Wyrley Common (SK 028063). The Conduit Colliery had two main shafts, one close beside the south side of the A5 south of Norton village (SK 023067), and another situated in the eastern part of village at the northern end of Conduit Close and east of Bellsize Close (SK 020080). The Coppice Colliery had several pits in the area to the south-east of Norton, one north of the A5 in the area now encapsulated by Cherwell Drive and Shannon Drive (SK 031067), one situated on the northern edge of Brownhills Common south of the A5 (SK 035059) and another in the area now occupied by the Coppice Side Industrial Estate (SK 033063); there was another outlying shaft situated just south-west of Five Ways (SK 015098) at the northern periphery of the parish. The Wyrley Grove Colliery, also known as the Grove Pit, was situated close beside the Cannock Extension Canal east of Little Wyrley (SK 018060) and was the site of ‘The Grove Pit Disaster’ on 1st October 1930, which happened on the same day as the Airship R101 Disaster and was thus eclipsed by this more devastating blow to national pride. The Norton Green Colliery also known as the Moat Colliery was located beside the Medieval Moat near Spring Cottage (SK 016075), from whence it earned its nickname (see above). The Norton Canes and Fishley Colliery, on old maps often denoted as just the Fishley Colliery, was located on the southern periphery of parish (SK 007045) near the Wyrley and Essington Canal (see above), with Pelsall Colliery lying just outside the parish to the east. (OS; SRO)

Modern Norton Canes (A.D.1901 – Present day)
The most notable development of modern times in the Norton Canes area is the building of the M6 Toll Road, the Brownhills Northern Bypass section, which passes through the area just to the north of the Watling Street Roman road and south of Norton Canes village and the Chasewater Reservoir, the development destroying 8¾ acres (3.53ha) of the Chasewater and Norton Bog Sites of Biological Importance (SBI’s) in the process.

Previous history taken from Cannock Chase History website.