The Norton Estate

Graves Park is part of the historic Norton Estate, which was in the Manor of Alfreton. The estate and its hall (Norton Hall) has a long history which can be traced to 1002 and a reference to the land in the Last Will and Testament of Wulfric Spott, a great Mercian lord. Spott is most famed for establishing a Benedictine Abbey at Burton-Up-On-Trent and as a result the towns Beer brewing which continues today.

In 1086 Norton (or Nortun as it was then) was surveyed by royal commissioners for William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book. The book shows the land, which was held under Godiva and Bada during the reign of Edward the Confessor, was held for Roger de Busli by Ingleram. The estate stayed with Inglerams descendents passing to Robert FitzRanulph, the Lord of Alfreton and Norton.

Around 1170 FitzRanulph funded the building of an abbey on land he owned in the north corner of Derbyshire, the French based brothers of the Premonstratensian order called the area Beauchief (Bee-chief), meaning beautiful headland. The officially recorded opening of Beauchief Abbey was 21st December 1183 and by that time Robert Fitz-Ranulf had gifted most his wealth and lands to the abbey, renounced the temptations of the world and joined the order as a priest.

In 1269, FitzRanulph’s descendants failed to produce a son and the female heir, Alicia de Alfreton, married Sir William Chaworth who became the new ruler at Norton. But the Chaworth line also failed to produce a male heir and the name disappeared when Joan Charworth married John Ormond in 1458. One of their daughters, also Joan, married Thomas Denham, the other, Elizabeth, married Sir Anthony Babington and the estate was split between the Denhams and the Babingtons.

The Denham’s share of the estate passed by sale, successively, to the Bullocks, the Eyres, and finally Blythes who in 1587 also purchased the other portion of the estate the Blythes then sold the estate, in its entirety, to a landowner, John Bullock.

Old Norton Hall and St. James' Church 1770 (Artist: Thomas Malton, Source: pcituresheffield.com)

Old Norton Hall and St. James' Church 1770 (Artist: Thomas Malton, Source: pcituresheffield.com)

The Bullocks fell into financial difficulties, following Johns death in 1666 they sold Norton to Cornelius Clarket. Clarke had no children and so passed Norton onto his nephew Robert Offley. The Norton Estate remained with several generations of Offleys, until the heir, Urith, married Samuel Shore in 1759. At this time the house was described as “an ancient stone mansion, its principal front having a projection at each end and a recess in the centre” – presumably an Elizabethan E shape like so many manor houses of the time.

Urith and Samuel’s son, on inheriting, remodelled the house, though the noted sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey, remarked that “it looked like a packing box with windows in”. Other features included “four entrance columns, private chapel, gamekeeper’s house, two hundred acres of park and woodlands, sheets of water and a walled garden”.

The Norton Estate remained with the Shores until the financial crash of 1843, when the then Lord of the Manor, Offley Shore, was forced to dispose of the Estate. The next resident at Norton Hall was James Yates who came, as a tenant. The Shores Estate was eventually sold to Charles Cammell, one of the founders of Cammell and Laird shipbuilder. The Cammells were followed by John Sudbury who sold the Estate to W.F. Goodliffe and in turn it was sold to Bernard Alexander Firth in 1902.