A Brief History of Napton on the Hill
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.
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.
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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