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Norton, King's (St. Nicholas)

NORTON, KING'S (St. Nicholas), a parish, and the head of a union, in the Upper division of the hundred of Halfshire, E. division of the county of Worcester, 5 miles (S. S. W.) from Birmingham; containing, with the chapelries of Moseley and Wythall, 5550 inhabitants. This place was formerly a town of some importance, and in the reign of James I. had the grant of a weekly market. In the parliamentary war, Hawkesley, in the parish, the seat of the Middlemore family, was attacked and burnt by a party of royalists, on the 14th of May 1645. The parish comprises 11,502a. 3r. 37p., of which about 4500 acres are arable, and the remainder meadow and pasture, with the exception of 49 acres of woodland and plantations, 19 in beds of osier, and 31 covered by the reservoirs of the Worcester and Birmingham canal. The surface, especially around the church, is undulated, presenting a pleasing variety of hill and dale; the scenery is enriched with numerous hedge-rows of well-grown timber, and the small river Rea flows through the lower grounds. The soil near the village is of a strong stiff nature, well adapted for the growth of wheat and beans; the grass-land, also, in that part of the parish, is luxuriantly rich, and, from its vicinity to Birmingham, lets at a high rent, chiefly for pasturing milch-cows. In the north-eastern portion, which extends to within a mile of Birmingham, and in which is the chapel of Moseley, the soil is of a lighter quality, with a substratum of gravel, and produces excellent crops of potatoes and turnips. In the southeastern district, at Wythall, it is dark coloured, and peaty, resting on clay, and is less fertile than in any other part of the parish.

A considerable number of the inhabitants are employed in the manufacture of nails; there is also a manufactory for swords and gun-barrels, which is in a very flourishing state, and one for the making of fire-irons. The market has been long discontinued; but fairs are still held on the 25th of April and the 5th of September. The Birmingham and Worcester canal, and the Birmingham and Gloucester railway, pass through the parish; the former makes a junction with the Stratford canal, and is conveyed through a tunnel into the parish of Alvechurch. The living was till lately annexed to the vicarage of Bromsgrove; it is now a distinct perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester. The great tithes have been commuted for £630, and the small for £175; the impropriate glebe consists of 300 acres, and the vicarial of 65. The church is an ancient structure, chiefly in the decorated English style, with some insertions of later date, and a tower of elegant design surmounted by a lofty and well-proportioned spire, and contains 800 sittings. At Moseley and Wythall are separate incumbencies. The free grammar school was founded by Edward VI., and endowed with a payment of £15 per annum; it has a library of several hundred volumes, bequeathed by the Rev. Thomas Hall, a former curate. Fifteen boys are instructed on the foundation in reading, writing, and arithmetic. The master has the privilege of taking private pupils; the present master was nominated by James Taylor, Esq., who, as lord of the manor (purchased from the crown by his father), claims to be the sole trustee. There are two schoolrooms, which are also used by the boys and girls of some Sunday schools. The poor-law union consists of five parishes or places, of which three are in the county of Worcester, and one each in the counties of Stafford and Warwick, together containing a population of 21,674.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.