David Simcock writes a history of our Church

1085 – the Domesday Book.

Milton did not yet exist! Norton-le-Moors had previously belonged to Anglo-Saxons named Godric and Ulviet, but after the Norman Conquest it was given to Robert de Stafford. This is what the Domesday Book assessors found in 1085:
* l
and enough for 4 plough-teams of 8 oxen each,
but only 3 teams actually working
a large dense woodland, 9 miles by 6miles.

This information suggests that the Anglo-Saxons had tended to occupy the river-valleys while leaving the forested uplands alone. The area had potential for further development. Incidentally, the assessors valued Norton at 40 shillings!

1219 – the foundation of Hulton Abbey

In this year Henry of Audley gave land and money for the foundation of a Cistercian monastery – Hulton Abbey.

Why? Well the usual explanation for donations of this kind is ‘he was buying his place in heaven’! But do we need to be so cynical? Perhaps Henry also had an eye to the employment an abbey would bring to the area, and the fact it would benefit the people as a place of education and health-care.

And why would Cistercian monks in particular want to come here? Well, the Cistercians were a very austere order. They only set up houses in remote and undeveloped areas, preferably where they had to begin by clearing a site with axes and saws. So Hulton – this place of wild woods – suited them just fine. And how they transformed the area! From the start they owned the Grange Farm at Bagnall. The Monks’ Path can be walked from Woodhead Road to Bagnall Grange to this day. They also owned farms at Normacot and Bradnop. At the peak of the Abbey’s prosperity they owned 3000 sheep – and sheep meant wealth. They were into industry too, with iron smelting at Horton and coal mines and mills throughout the area.

All this activity came to an end with the Dissolution of the smaller monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538. On September 23rd of that year Abbott Wilkins and the eight choir monks signed papers of surrender to the King. The roof was immediately taken off – 16 tons of lead – and the stonework plundered as a quarry. Many farm houses were built from Hulton Abbey stone – and there’s even a rumour that the stones of our chancel come from the Abbey!

1848 – our Chancel is built as a Chapel of Ease of Norton Parish

In the mid 19thcentury three developments opened up the sleepy hamlet of Milton.

First – the Caldon Canal in 1778 brought traffic and trade to the area, then the Turnpike Road, known to us as the A53 Leek New Road.

And finally, by 1840, there were plans for a railway from Stoke through Milton and Endon to Leek.

The population began to grow. And one man realised the need for a church in Milton to cater for the spiritual needs of people who found a walk to Norton Church just too far. That man was Charles Bowyer Adderley – later to become Baron Norton of Norton-le-Moors. His achievements in the political field would in themselves earn him a place in the history books. An active politician for half a century, his greatest achievements were in creating the constitutions of the newly independent colonies of Canada and New Zealand. He also championed free education for all, and the abolition of payment by results for teachers!

But today it is not so much Lord Norton the politician as Lord Norton the founder and benefactor of Milton Church whom we celebrate. And we have good reason to be thankful to his memory.

On 13thAugust 1848 a Chapel of Ease was dedicated – our present chancel – on a site given by Lord Norton and at a cost to him of £426.

By 28thApril 1865 a nave had been added to the chapel, and the resulting church was dedicated to SS Philip and James. Lord Norton gave both the Nave and the Burial Ground.

Later the same year – on 9th September – we became a parish in our own right.  Our first Patron was, of course, Lord Norton.

In subsequent years Lord Norton gave more land and substantial funds for building the Vicarage (1869) and a School and School House (on the site now occupied by Long Range Systems) in 1871. Our present Organ was installed in 1894 and thanks to regular care and attention it is still in good heart today. A North aisle was added to the nave in 1902, three years before Lord Norton’s death.

1965 – the next wave of building

The next major building work was the addition of a West Extension to the nave and Choir and Clergy vestries in 1965. Up to then a wooden screen at the West side of the North aisle had served as a robing room. By the early 1970s the old School Room had fallen into disrepair, and in any case the increased volume of traffic on Baddeley Green Lane made it impractical for use as a Sunday School. The site was sold, and plans approved for a new Parish Centre adjacent to the Church on the North side. The Centre has been a major asset to the church since its opening in 1975.

A great deal of the finishing and furnishing was done by volunteers from our congregation, including skilled electricians and other tradesmen. This ‘can do’ outlook has resulted in recent times in the planning and execution of disabled toilet facilities in both the Centre and the Vestry area, and a spacious, fully-equipped kitchen in the Vestry area. The prime mover in these recent works has been churchwarden Ron Peake. It was a standing joke between him and Bishop Gordon of Stafford that every time the Bishop came to Milton, Ron asked him to officially open and bless some new improvement to the church!



Domesday Book for Staffordshire. Local History Source Book no. 10.  R.A Lewis. Staffordshire County Council. 1985

The History of the Church and Parish of Norton-le-Moors. James Jack. Printed by E. Robinson, Smallthorne.

Hulton Abbey. History and Archeology. City Museum and Art Gallery. Undated