Marton' History & What to Research
Marton (Location and Description)
Marton is a small parish and village 7 miles northeast of Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. The north and west boundaries are formed by the rivers Leam and Itchen, which unite close to the church. At the confluence of the rivers the ground is just under 200 feet high, but rises to just over 250 feet in the south east of the parish.
In the 2001 census 484 people lived here compared to 376 in 1911. There are 201 households.
The name Marton was spelt Mortone in the Domesday Book and is interpreted by the English Place-Name Society as meaning ‘farm by the pool’. There is evidence of a Romano-British farmstead near the playing fields that was by the edge of this pool that could have existed south and west of the village centre. Certainly Marton was a notable settlement at least from late Anglo Saxon times when it was the centre of a larger administrative area of territory known as a Hundred.
Marton: What we would like to know
There is much work to be done on Marton’s history. George Timms who established the village museum, but sadly died a few years ago, is the only person to have researched on any breadth on the subject. Only a little of that work has been published in a small (42 page) A4 booklet called “The Annals of an Ancient Parish” (1985). There is a little more in Volume 6 of the Victoria County History (pages 170-173) but as was the style of that publication at the time it concentrates on the obscure nature of manorial lineage and church architecture rather than the lives of the people over the years, however, there is also a picture of the church as painted round about 1820. Clearly there is a need for a village Local History Group to share out the many sources that do exist. Pick your own century and theme and become the village specialist! What could you go for?
· On present knowledge Marton’s most important historic period was during the Saxon era when it was the centre of one of the five administrative divisions that made up Warwickshire. These were called hundreds and tended to be based on an ecclesiastical centre. Such centres were the most ancient churches before the landscape was split up into parishes. These were minster churches that acted as missionary centres and any chapels that were built in their area paid dues to the mother church. Evidence of these payments exist for all the parishes east to the Leicestershire border. However, this is another aspect of history that has only received attention in the last few decades and there is much work to be done at the local level. Needless to say written evidence is sketchy for the Saxon period especially in our part of Warwickshire, but there is a lot of secondary evidence about for someone who wishes to take this further and perhaps they can solve why there is not much evidence in the landscape (or the church) of Marton’s illustrious past and why we went into decline. (Even losing our moot – people’s parliament, to Knightlow Hill).
· Even before the Saxon period Marton had some importance, as the discovery of a high status Iron Age burial when building the railway through the village would indicate. The location of an Iron Age fort nearby, built just before the Roman invasion, and the significance of the Foss Way built just after the Roman invasion just to the north of the village indicates that Marton was on the borders of a number of significant territories. The discovery of Roman remains in the village especially remains of a Romano-British building near the playing fields suggests that Marton was a settlement centre for at least two millennia. Only careful study of the landscape and field-walking can reveal more about a period so long past.
· A similar approach using landscape archaeology could reveal further insights to development of the village streets. Why is the church tucked into a corner? Why does High Street bifurcate at its eastern end (Under the open fields system it is often the remainder of an old animal funnel where they come off an area of common land). Has the main road always been in its present location? Might it have once gone past the church on its way to a shallower part of the river where it could be forded before the bridge was build where the river would have been narrower but deeper and previously more difficult to ford?) Was the triangle of roads by the church once a village green and then later built upon? Do the bumps in the field behind the church by the river and between the river and the road indicate cottage platforms of a bigger village in the past and Marton has shrunken in population. From other villages it is not impossible to speculate that this could date back to the time of the Black Death. This area of history is a rich ground for speculation but the evidence is not so easy to come by. NB There IS NO evidence for the above, please don’t quote as fact!
· Any work on interpreting the landscape ties in with the map evidence that is available from many different printed and original sources. A computer literate villager could create an invaluable source of a computer file of all the maps layered by age that could be interrogated by those working on different projects and added to as documentary evidence can be tied down to specific information.
· The normally helpful Domesday Book should be a useful source but it is a matter of judgement as to whether the information ascribed to Marton is quite what is seems because of some confusion over the name. Sadly such errors of transcription are not uncommon with this document but unravelling its secrets continues and someone may be able to interpret the truth by reading the latest literature.
· The role of the nuns of Nuneaton Priory in the life of medieval Marton has only been touched upon in the formal records of ownership when they were given responsibility for the church in 1155-60 and soon afterwards were noted as possessing land in the village that soon amounted to a substantial holding. Some medieval female skeletons found near the church in North Street in 1959 were said to be those of nuns, but this can only be speculation.
· Research into who owned the lordship of the manor of Marton is a bit of a fruitless task for much of it history as there appeared to be as many as three different manors within the parish boundary – not an uncommon occurrence. By 1700 they all seemed to have been merged into the ownership of the Biddulph family from Birdingbury. It would be useful if someone could sort it all out. There are some manorial documents in the Warwick Record Office and elsewhere, but it is tempting to believe that there maybe some still in a private Biddulph family archive.
· The church and its architecture. A plough through the archives at Litchfield gives lots of evidence for the changes to the church over the years especially its rather severe renovation in the nineteenth century (see here for newspaper article which refers to this). But there are more fundamental questions that we could ask about when it was built, why it was build where it was. Lots of recent work on church archaeology allows us to interpret building in a depth not previously possible, for instance the orientation of the building could indicate the time of the year it was erected.
· The parish registers date from 1660 for births marriages and deaths, but few other records from the parish chest survive. A useful list of the gravestone inscriptions is available in the Records Office but has only a rather vague location map and does not deal with more modern burials. Nevertheless there is an important task to be undertaken in creating a database of the names from the parish register as a basis for a broader database of all names encountered over the years in a Marton context.
· Non conformist religion in Marton has a history dating back to before 1833 when the congregational chapel (still standing at the southern end of High Street, now incorporated into a neighbouring house) was built.
· 1804 Enclosure Award. The first large scale map of Marton showing all the properties and fields and who owned them after the open fields had been enclosed together with a full explanatory text. What does the map tell us about Marton at the time? How did this revolution in the life of the villagers affect their previous activities? What were the old open fields like? Where were their boundaries? What were they called? How were they farmed? There are some clues in the surveys of the land owned by the vicars of Marton dating from the 1600s. Also the ridge and furrow of the old strip farming can still be seen in Marton fields that have been pasture since the enclosure. Look in the field opposite the eastern end of North Street.
· The census from 1801to 1911 would be a great project for someone. From 1841 details of individual household make it an even more valuable source. We can learn so much about demographic trends family size, patterns of internal migration, occupational trends. But even settlement patterns are possible if some detective can work out the route taken by each enumerator. If anyone is interested in this please contact the webmaster for translations up to the1911 census.
· Inevitably so much other information can flow from the census to put flesh on the bones of village businesses especially shops. The Kelly’s trade guides are useful in this respect but much else is still available in the photographic archives and the memories of older residents (now we are down to a post office and a garage!)
· The architectural history of the village can be conducted by a survey of the village buildings and with the goodwill of the residents, the evidence from house deeds can be very illuminating. Deeds in the County Record Office and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust exist from the sixteenth century up to the last century as well as records of ownership from the medieval period in government archives.
· Marton in the courts could reveal some interesting insights such as in 1406 when Thomas Palmer of Frankton killed William Hemery the younger in Marton as well as less problematic crimes such as hare coursing in 1675.
· The promotion of a photographic archive can help to bring alive many of the projects mentioned. Already from a small exhibition carried out as past of the parish plan project many useful pictures have come to light.
· An oral history project is a must as soon as possible for obvious reasons, but careful planning is needed to ensure the media used is suitable for storage and ethical issue are carefully thought through.
· The has been a windmill for centuries in Marton before it was demolished in 1910, but its location changed on a couple of occasions, the last was when it moved few yards to accommodate the course of the new railway line. What is its history and why was there not a watermill? All important questions for study.
· Education in Marton from the opening of the first school (possibly as early as the eighteenth century) to the closing of the state primary in 1972. Sadly there is not a complete run of log books though the administrators minutes are complete, but what is there should provide a useful chapter in the history of the village.
· Pubs in Marton also have an under researched history. The Black Horse has recorded publicans back to at least 1794 but the Hare and Hounds we know even less about.
· The Railway Station opened in 1851 And closed in 1961 was popular not just for villagers from Marton but for all villages as far as Southam and north towards Coventry it was their local station. The story of its activities is sketched out in a number of specialist railway publications but needs interpreting in terms of its contribution to village life, especially from those who can still remember when the trains still ran along the line!
· The Main Road could be a project in itself though linked to the old bridge it would be even better. The bridge existed as a wooden structure in the 1200s but only was made of stone in 1414. Before there would have been a ford. The road was turnpiked and a tollhouse existed opposite Barn Lane, north of the village, until the Second World War. One of John Speed’s seventeenth century maps shows the village so even beyond the normal sources there should be some useful additional information.
· The 1914 survey of Marton. This will entail a visit to the National Archives in Kew, but it is well worth the trip. This little known historical source was a survey of all buildings and land in the country. For Marton there is a map with a list of every house stating who owns it, who lives there what rent is paid and how much it was sold for when last purchased. But more importantly it describes the buildings and with the larger ones the functions of the rooms and outhouses. A real snapshot in time. If combined with the 1910 census when available it should provide a terrific insight into Edwardian Marton just before the changes that were brought about by the First World War.
· Marton in the First World War. Provides a number of areas of research from the biographies of those who died to the various memorial committees and the outcome of their efforts (e.g. the Village Hall – what was the original one like? Apparently an old Army hut)
· Marton in the Second World War – activities of the Home Guard. There are still those alive who can give us an idea of how the village coped with the first modern war that really affected the non combatant population.
· Old Building Plans. Since planning consent laws were introduced at the end of the nineteenth century there is a great archive of original plans and their locations in Marton. Often very attractively coloured they give a lot of useful information abut the residents and businesses that applied for permission to build and the pace of development as well as telling us about buildings subsequently demolished or significantly altered (e.g changes to the Black Horse, the first Marton Garage, the Village Hall)
· The Parish Council. Since its origins in 1895 legislation a complete set of minutes of meetings is available for analysis providing a great insight to the changes in the twentieth century. It is as instructive for what was not achieved after being campaigned for (church clock 1897, a reduction in traffic speed 1937, Playing Fields 1926, motor bikes in field 1936 etc) as what was achieved.
About Marton History