History of Napton

Napton on the Hill  Today

Napton-on –the- Hill in Warwickshire is an idyllic hillside village, watched over by its majestic Windmill and historic St. Lawrence’s Church. The Grand Union and Oxford Canal form a moat like quality at the foot of the hill, a set of 8 locks where the two canals meet, challenge the numerous boaters that use the waterways each year.

Napton has an amazing ability to harmonise the old and new. Small stone and brick cottages nestle into the hillside alongside spacious modern homes. Napton –on –the- Hill offers a surprisingly large number of amenities for a small village, these include 3 public houses, a social club, sports facilities, fishing pools, campsites, a village store including post office, general store and coffee shop, plus canal side shops and marina.

Napton -on-the- Hill is located 3 miles (4.8km) East of Southam in Warwickshire on the crossroads of the A425, Tomlow and Butt Hill Roads.  Napton is surrounded by a number of other small Villages such as Stockton, Shuckburgh and Priors Marston.  It is in easy travelling distance of Leamington Spa, Banbury, Coventry, Rugby and Daventry.

A Brief History of Napton on the Hill

IMG_0010From archaeological findings and documentation, it is evident that Napton-on-the Hill has a long and interesting history. Finds have dated back as far as the Neolithic and the Bronze Age periods. Napton is derived from the Old English cnaepp meaning ‘hilltop’ and tun meaning ‘settlement’. In the Domesday book of 1086 the village was recorded as Neptone.  For many  years  Napton–on-the-Hill  has been referred to locally by its shortened name of  Napton, although people of my Grand Father’s generation often shortened it further to Nap’en.

Napton –on-the Hill has an abundance of listed and interesting buildings. The Church of St Lawrence dates back to the 12th Century. Local folk law suggests that the Church should have been built at the bottom of the hill but on three occasions the stones were moved overnight, hence its current position overlooking the village.IMG_0011

The Windmill also takes pride of place on the top of the hill and dates back to at least 1543, although the current structure is newer. The Mill ceased working by sail by 1900 and by steam 1909.  The unused Mill fell into disrepair by 1966 when it was being rented by the Gill family as a small holding, it was subsequently sold. In 1972 the Mill had restoration of windows, doors, cap and new sails, however in 1976 a great storm snapped off two of its sweeps. These were replaced and to this day, the Mill remains a private dwelling, but now in an excellent sate of repair and an aesthetically pleasing addition to the already picturesque village.

To the back of the Windmill, the hill proudly bears the scars of its industrial past. The brick works were started in 1885 by Nelson, Watson and Co. producing traditional bricks and tiles. The brick works appeared on an ordinance survey map dated as 1886 so was operational by this time. The brickyard employed 110 people in its hay day and had its own wharf on the Canal. The Brickyard finally closed in 1973.

The Canal has also played an important part in shaping Napton’s  history. The Oxford Canal reached Napton in 1774 and brought with it the benefits of being a transportation route for coal and other goods. The Oxford Canal’s chief engineer, Samuel Simcock, routed  the Canal around three sides of Napton Hill to minimise the number of locks needed.  However  to climb from Napton Wharf to the summit pound at Marston Doles required eight locks around the hill. In 1800 the Warwick and Napton Canal was also completed and joined the Oxford Canal at Napton Junction. In 1928 the Grand Junction Canal took over the Warwick & Napton Canal and also the Warwick and Birmingham canals to form the Grand Union Canal. The Canal is still operational, as are the locks, but its primary use is now leisure.

For further transportation purposes, Napton shared a Railway Station with Stockton. The station was built of wood and opened on 1st August 1895. British Railways withdrew its passenger service on 15th September 1958 and freight services on 2nd December 1963. No trace of the station now remains, the cutting where it was located has been filled in. Some former railway workers cottages are still used as homes.

For education, Napton had separate schools for girls and boys until 1948 when they were merged to form Napton Church of England School and then more recently St. Lawrence Church of England Primary School. Although the old school building is still used for educational purposes, the primary school moved to its current premises in Dog Lane in 1997.

IMG_0009Any walk around the Napton will give you clues as to the Village’s past, with names such as Vicarage Road, Hackwell Steps, School Hill, Brickyard Lane, Muddy Lane and Pillory green.  Some are less obvious in their origin, Howcome Lane, Dog Lane, The Butts and Hollow Way.  A walk over the Hill was often referred to in the 1960’s as “Up ‘Oller and down Grove” a corruption of the word Hollow.

Other locations appear to be named after people, Cox’s Lane, Godson’s Lane and Thornton’s Lane. I was surprised to find that Dan’ls Hill, (the road that continues on from Butt Hill towards Priors Marston) is not named on any map I have found.  From a small child, I have heard the story of Daniel who returned from war and took shelter in a temporary dwelling on the hill, hence the name Dan’ls Hill. A more recent addition is Jackson’s Lane, named after the much loved Vicar Peter Jackson. With plans to build more homes in Napton and perhaps the future development of the former brickyard site, the beautiful village will continue to evolve and add to its long history.

By Hayley Wincott ~ Villager

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