Norton Court

We begin this article with a short piece on the early history of the village and of how the Manor of Norton was originally formed.

In the beginning there was only one Manor of Norton and this appears to have belonged to Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of Edward the Confessor.  Stigand held the Manor at Norton until Easter 1072 when William the Conqueror granted it to the Archbishop of York and in 1086 Archbishop Thomas held the Manor at Norton.  The following is an extract from a translation of the entry that appears in the Domesday Book for Norton, or Nortune (North Town), as it was then known due to its location to the north of Gloucester :-

‘Stigand held Nortune.  There were five hides and a half.  In demean were two plow tillage’s and fifteen villeins with fifteen plow-tillages and four servi and a mill of 22nd.  It was then and is now worth £4.  Thomas, Archbishop (of York), now holds these manors.  Walchelin, the nephew of the Bishop of Winton holds Nortune of him’.

A hide at that time is thought to have been 200 acres or so, therefore the area of Norton was about 1100 acres.  The Manors referred to were those of Churchdown, Hucclecote and Norton.  Although the date has not been identified, by 1272 Norton had been divided into two Manors held under the Barony of Churchdown.  Bishops Norton got its name through being held by the Archbishop of York and Priors Norton through its attachment to St Oswalds Priory in Gloucester.  The Manor of Norton appears to have remained with the Archbishops of York for 200+ years.

It is possible that the site of the first, perhaps Saxon, manor house in Bishops Norton was near Court Farm where there can still be found the remains of a moat.  Later a new house was built to replace the original manor house and it is believed that this was the building that is now known as Court Farm.

Along with King Henry VIII came the dissolution of the Monasteries and the Priory at St Oswalds went the way of most and was forced to sell off its possessions.  Its possessions at Norton went to several purchasers but the following reference records the sale of the Manor house and all that went with it :-

“1544  - 25 March 35 Henry VIII.  Request by John Broxholme to purchase (inter alia) the Manor of Norton late parcel of the possessions of St Oswalds Monastry viz Rents of customary tenants there; £4 6s 8d  New rent or farm of a chapel called St Johns Chapel demised to Richard Smythe, Edmund his son, John Butt, Edmund his son, and Edmund Robyns, by copy of Court Roll 14 Sept 34 Henry VIII for term of their lives; 2s  Farm of the Manor there with all houses now built and hereafter to be built with multure and toll and a meadow called Milhay and two parcels or closes in the meadow called Welsege with all arable land to the said Mill belonging with all the tythes and altarages thereto from old time belonging or demised to Robert Morton and Joan his wife by indenture (23 Apr 19 Henry VIII) for 70 years; 36s 3d  Takings of pigs in common years; 12d  Fines, herriots etc in common years; 2s 4d  Total; £11 14s 10d”

Along with Richard Pate, Thomas Chamberlayne was a commissioner to King Henry VIII and King Edward VI for taking a survey of all religious foundations in Gloucester, Bristol etc then being suppressed and between them they acquired many of these lands from Edward VI and this is what happened at Norton.  The Barony of Churchdown, which included the Manor of Norton, was held by the Archbishop of York from approximately 1070 till 1545 when Archbishop Holgate made a general exchange of the temporalities of the See of York with the Crown for other properties.  The Manors comprising the Barony were granted to Sir Thomas Chamberlayne in 1552.

The Lane family were prominent in this area at this time and it is known that they held a seat and estate in Norton until their lands were seized in 1589.  Could this have been Norton Court ?

In 1608 a Richard Anderson was recorded as Lord of the Manor of Norton.  As I have not discovered any other mention of him it is likely that he was Lord and landlord in absentia.  It is recorded that Sir Richard Anderson, who was living at Pendley, Hertfordshire, was Lord of The Manor in 1680.  It is known that Thomas Chamberlayne’s heirs alienated the Manor of Norton to the Whitmore family who appear to have held the title from approximately 1700.  Perhaps Richard Anderson was one of these heirs.

In the 1600s the Brownes were the most prominent family in Norton and as such would probably have been in residence at Norton Court.  The Browne family also held a Manor at The Leigh at one time.  The Browne and Lane families came together in the mid-1600s with the marriage of William Lane of Apperley to Anne Browne, daughter of Richard Browne of Bishops Norton.  It is believed that it is their memorial that can be found just inside the tower at St Mary’s, Norton, displaying the coat of arms of each family along with their initials. We are fortunate to have a portrait of John Browne of Norton Court, the brother of Anne Browne referred to above, from 1682.   [See the Browne & Lane families article for further details].

It was in approximately 1713 that the Browne’s left and the Norton Estate took on a new tenant, Daniel Lysons of Hempsted.  William Whitmore Esq was still ‘Lord of the Manor of Bishops Norton in Norton and Kings Barton’ in 1746 and still in 1761. 

In his “The History of Gloucestershire”, published in 1803 by Rev Thomas Rudge BD rector of St Michael’s, Gloucester, he wrote; “… Norton House belongs to Mrs Arabella Webb. … It passed from John le Brun, 1301, and continued in the same family (afterwards called Brown) to the beginning of the last century when it was purchased by Daniel Lysons Esq of Hempstead and sold again some years after to William Singleton Esq from whom it passed to John Webb Esq”.  This extract confirms much of what is recorded here although the reference to John le Brun in 1301 takes things back a few hundred years earlier.

It was 1726 when Daniel Lysons sold the Norton estates to Luke Singleton, a London stationer, who was descended from a Gloucester family.  From at least the early 1720s through to the 1750s Luke was also landlord of tenements in Pheasant Cock Yard, Bishopsgate, London, amongst other properties and it is believed that he actually lived in the City.  In possibly 1744, the family estates, which included a substantial house at Norton Court, passed from father to sons, Luke and William.  [See the Singleton family of Norton Court for further details].

As stated by Rev Rudge, above, a gentleman by the name of William Singleton became the next owner.  In a Chancery case of Singleton against Mitchell and others from 27th June 1786 we find a particular of the estate late of William Singleton, deceased.  The estate was to be sold in three lots with Lot 1 being the mansion house of Norton Court.  The property was described as follows;

“The capital Mansion House, Offices, Gardens and Orchards belonging thereto, called Norton Court, situate at Norton in the County of Gloucester, within about 4 miles of the City of Gloucester, and 6 of Tewkesbury and Cheltenham, and near the Turnpike road between those places.  The whole containing about 5 acres, having 2 fish ponds, one of which is in the Court near the House, and the other reserved in a Ground let to the Tenant as some little distance from the House.  There are in the gardens and Courts adjoining to the House, Nurseries of about 1000 Ashes, about 8 years growth; about 860 fine Fir trees, about 10 years growth; and about 1000 Crab and Pear stocks, some of them grafted with good fruit, and all of them now fit for replanting.  The House, which has a regular front was enlarged, most of the Offices new built, and the Gardens laid out at a considerable Expense (at least 4000l) by Mr Singleton, a few years before he died, who occupied the same till his death; but the House, Gardens and Offices have for some time been, and now are unoccupied.  There is a chief rent of £3.3s.6d. payable out of this Estate, out of which 4s. is allowed for Land Tax”.

The particulars of the estate as laid out in the Chancery case state that William Singleton was still living at Norton until a few years prior to his death and had paid out large expenses on the house and gardens there; at least £4000 is recorded (c£750,000 in today’s money).  By 1786 it was said that the house had been unoccupied for a number of years.

On 26th October 1787, John Webb bought Norton Court from the estate of the deceased William Singleton for £5250.  [See The Webb family of Norton Court referenced article for further details].  John was Lord of the Manor by 1788 and probably some years earlier.

It has been suggested that it was John Webb who had the property redesigned but the auction notice recorded above suggests that it was William Singleton that was responsible.  It appears that the work took place in 1762 at which time John Webb was living at Cote House near Bristol.  The new generation of the Manor House was built on land adjacent to the old court and named Norton House.  The house was described as being of two storeys and five bays and was almost certainly designed by a Bristol mason-architect, since it had the typical Baroque survivals of Bristol mason-craft; windows with eared architraves and stepped keystones, and a Gibbs surround to the front door.  The most striking feature of the house, however, was the half octagonal two-storey entrance porch.  This gave access to a corridor leading to a staircase hall at the back of the house which had a library to one side.  At the front of the house there were originally just dining and drawing rooms.

The auction notice tells that the gardens had just been laid out and the map produced at the time of the Inclosure act of 1806, reproduced below, appears to show a garden design to the front of the Court.  There was no sweeping drive passing Green Farm at this time either but a straight driveway leading off Wainlode Lane, that can also be seen on the map. 

In 1791 the Estate was owned by John Webb but the ‘Great House’ was let to Rev M Commalin.  This would appear to have been Rev Samuel Commeline, the son of James Commeline, and Rachel Gythens who married in London in 1761.  Father James was vicar at Haresfield from 1737 until 1758 when he was instituted rector at Draycot Foliat, Wilts, where he remained until his death in September 1779.  There is a memorial inside the church at Haresfield stating that he was vicar there for 40 years suggesting that he held both positions at the same time.  Samuel was born in 1763 at Haresfield which suggests that his parents were there at that time.  Samuel achieved his BA at Pembroke College, Oxford, and was ordained on 1 July 1786 taking on the perpetual curacy at Upton St Leonards.  After a brief spell at Oddingley, Worcs, he was licensed as curate at The Leigh on 23 September 1792 with his patron being James Evans; his predecessor.  Samuel left The Leigh for Hemsptead in February 1793 and remained in post here until his death in 1826.  Berrow’s Worcester Journal newspaper of 28 July 1825 reported the death of ‘Mary, wife of Rev Samuel Commeline, Rector of Hempstead, Gloucestershire, eldest daughter of the late Abraham Saunders, Esq, of Gloucester – Aged 53’.  In 1825 Samuel was appointed domestic chaplain to James Caulfield Browne, 2nd Baron Kilmaine and also vicar at Haresfield.  Jackson’s Oxford Journal newspaper of 26 August 1826 reported the new appointment of rector at Hempstead, ‘vacant by the death of the Rev Samuel Commeline’.

Rev Commaline was tenant of the Great House, mount garden and the area in front of the house, a pleasure garden, Andrews Croft, the gravel walk, barnyards, garden, orchard and Priest Croft, a total of 12 acres, 3 rods, 29 perches.  The 'gravel walk' must have been the entrance to the court that can be seen on the earlier map.  The entrance from Wainlode Lane can still be seen in 2023 but it now leads to two new houses, 'Norton House' and 'The Firs' before you would get to Norton Court.

[Entrance to the 'gravel walk', 2023]

John Webb died in London in February 1795 and the ownership passed to his widow, Arabella, as stated by Rev Rudge in 1803, although he must not have been aware that Arabella had died in 1801.  Upon the death of Arabella it is then likely that the ownership of Norton House passed to her son Edward.  Edward Webb is the recorded owner at the time of the Inclosure Awards at Norton in 1807 when the property was described as ‘a mansion house’.  He is also recorded as the owner of what is now Court Farm, that being described as a homestead.  In 1807 the tenant of Norton Court was William Read King who held a 1 year lease.  William King also lived at Winchcomb for a time and by 1843 was recorded as a gentleman of Serjeants Inn, Fleet Street, London. 

In 1813, at age 21, Joseph Drinkwater was hired at the Tewkesbury Mop Fair for a years employment at £10 plus live-in residency, to work for Thomas Cooke, farmer and carter, of Norton's Court, Norton.

In July 1816 Norton Court was being offered “to be Let at a moderate rent and entered upon immediately”, by Messrs Griffith, Philpotts, and Whitcombe, solicitors of Gloucester;

“A capital Mansion House, called ‘Norton Court’, situate within five miles of the City of Gloucester, and at a like distance from Cheltenham, calculated for the residence of a genteel family; with double coach house and appropriate stabling, and other useful and convenient attached and detached offices; an excellent walled garden, well clothed with choice fruit trees; and four closes of pasture ground, partly orcharding; the whole containing nearly 18 acres”.

The wording of the above, "entered upon immediately" suggests that the property was unoccupied at this date.

In 1832 Richard Hurd Lucas was holding an auction at Norton House (Court) to clear his belongings on account of him leaving.  Due to the large amount of Lots being put up for sale the auction was due to take place over four days; March 20, 22, 23 and 26 with the contents of different rooms on each.  The catalogue listed; “all the elegant and well manufactured household furniture, splendid pier and chimney glasses, handsome Worcester china in table, dessert, tea and breakfast services, curious antique oriental china, richly cut glass, excellent fine-tuned piano forte, large barrel organ, valuable library, capital paintings and engravings, choice old wines, neat and fashionable gig, stout hackney mare very temperate in harness, carriage, gig and tandem harness, saddles, bridles, horse clothing, a staunch pointer and a couple and a half of fine spaniels, double and singled barrelled guns, two excellent milch cows of the improved short-horned breed, two stacks of hay, narrow-wheeled cart, gearing, dairy and brewing utensils, casks and other effects”.  The daily breakdown of the auction also gives a brief idea of how the property was constituted at this time; hall, staircase, dining parlour, two chambers, housekeepers room, kitchen, drawing room, study, four bed chambers, servants hall, butler’s pantry, cellar, and a mans bedroom.

Richard Hurd Lucas was born at Ripple, Worcs, in 1789.  The family seem to have been associated with Sinton Court, Grimley, Worcs.  In 1814 he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts from Brasenose College, Oxford.  In 1818 Richard was living in Gloucester and he married Martha Elizabeth Ann Small at Clifton Reynes, Bucks, in 1819, having three children; Robert, Ellen Hurd and Susan.  After leaving Norton they briefly lived at Prestbury whilst also having a property in Cheltenham.  He seems to have been a ‘colourful’ character becoming involved in libellous activities, assault cases both by him and against him.  The libel claim was found against him for letters – ‘disgracefully offensive communications’ -  he wrote that were published in the Satirist newspaper of Cheltenham in 1835, ‘vilifying and calumniating, in the grossest and most disgusting language, the private character of the resident gentry of Cheltenham’.  Repercussions were still causing street disturbances in 1838.  Richard was heavily involved in country pursuits, owning and racing horses, in 1836 he was Master of the Cheltenham Harriers, and for a number of years was also a Steward at Cheltenham Racecourse.  Wife Martha died in 1838 whilst they were living at North Parade, Cheltenham, and Richard in 1848 at Sinton Court.

Norton Court was back on the letting market just a few years later when the Cheltenham Chronicle newspaper of 11 September 1834 included the following;

“Desirable Residence in the vicinity of Gloucester and Cheltenham, to be Let and entered upon at Michaelmas.  A capital Mansion House, called ‘Norton Court’, situate within five miles of the City of Gloucester, and at a like distance from Cheltenham, calculated for the residence of a genteel family; with double coach house and appropriate stabling, and other useful and convenient attached and detached offices; an excellent walled garden, well clothed with choice fruit trees; together with a cottage and garden, and four closes of pasture ground, partly orcharding; the whole containing 21 acres or thereabouts”.

Administration of Col Edward Webb’s Will dated 1811 was granted to his daughter in December 1839 and stated “…I give and bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth Frances Webb my estate known by the name of Norton situated and being in the Parish of Norton … with all the farms, lands and hereditaments belonging thereto…”.  

On 25 April 1835 Edward Webb leased the estate to Daniel Jennings for 7 years.  The lease included; "Norton Court, it's outhouses, fields, etc, Jeynes Cottage, the site of another cottage nearby and a garden".

The tenant in 1838 was still Daniel Jennings but it was likely him that was leaving just the following year when in March 1839 John Crosse, auctioneers, gave advance notice of a sale as the proprietor was leaving Norton Court in April and wished to dispose of; "His choice collection of paintings, by celebrated masters, a splendid and full series of proof prints after Wilkie, framed and plate glass, superior wines, cider and perry, the whole of the modern household furniture, carriages and harness, setter and spaniel dogs. &c, &c". 

On 3 June 1839 Edward Webb reached an agreement with William Stephens Merryweather to lease; "Norton Court with Jeynes Cottage, cottage site and garden adjoining".  The lease was confirmed on July 1839.

At the time of the Census in 1841, there were no Webbs in residence at Norton at all.  Norton Court was occupied, as a tenant, by William Merryweather, his wife Mary and two daughters.  They were living off ‘independent means and employed five household servants.  [See The Merryweather/Turner Family of Norton Court referenced article for further details]  It appears that later in 84 William Merryweather wished to sublet the house furnished but this wasn't agreeable and he accepted Miss Webbs offer of terms for his departure. 

On 6 April 1843 it appears that a Mr Evans was at Norton House and employed a John Hobbs as his footman paying him £10 for one year plus his livery.  John Hobbs remained in service for the full year, sleeping at the house throughout. John's sister Esther, wife of Thomas Organ, cellarman of Longford, was also employed here at the same time.  Henry Evans was actually the Webb f's amilyagent so is unlikely to have been in residence simply signing documents on their behalf.

Throughout the 1842-1844 period the property is often appearing as available to let in local newspapers; "To be let and entered upon immediately - a capital mansion house called Norton Court, situate within five miles of the city of Gloucester and at the same distance from Cheltenham; adapted in every respect for the residence of a genteel family; with double coach house and appropriate stabling and other useful and convenient attached and detached offices, an excellent walled garden with choice fruit trees, together with a cottage and garden, and four closes of rich pasture ground, partly orcharding, the whole containing twenty-one acres or thereabouts". 

On 10 February 1845 Miss Webb reached an agreement with Messrs William Henry Matthews and Frederick Herbert to become tenants of Norton Court on a year to year rent of £105 per annum.

The mid-1800s are a difficult period to identify exactly who was living at the Manor House.  The parish was still divided into two parts with a Lord of the Manor of the Eastern Part (Priors Norton) and the Lord of the Manor of the Western Part (Bishops Norton).  This meant that there were two Norton Courts, Norton Court Farm, Norton House, Norton Farm, Court Farm, Norton House Farm etc.  Not only this but some of the properties seemed to be identified differently in different documents from the same period and it was not always the owner who was the resident all adding to the confusion. 

It appears, however, that in spite of the property being left to Elizabeth Frances Webb, ownership of the property passed to another Edward Webb, a cousin of the late Colonel Webb and second cousin to Elizabeth Frances.  At the time Edward was a partner in Dent & Co and he lived in China overseeing the business. Norton Court and the Opium Trade 

In 1971, Canon Evans Prosser, for long time vicar of both Norton and The Leigh was persuaded to write a booklet recording his memories of his time in our villages which was sold in aid of funds for building the ‘new’ village hall at Norton.  Entitled ‘How It All Happened’, the booklet includes the note that he would finish writing about the Wesleyan Chapel by “… mentioning the tradition current in the village that when the chapel was first built [1841], Miss Webb who had succeeded her father Colonel Edward Webb MP at Norton Court, was unwilling ever to pass the chapel on her way to church.  To avoid having to do this she had a new drive made across the meadows so that she could go direct from court to church”.  This may or may not have been a fact but it does seem a little strange seeing as it was her who gave the land for the construction of the chapel in the first place.  Whether connected to the presence of the chapel, or not, in 1847 it was decided that a new carriage road was required to link Norton Court with the main Gloucester to Tewkesbury Road.  The requirement was for a new road of 62 chains, or 1364 yards, filling up 50 feet of road ground at the Cold Elm.  10 hedges to be taken up, ten culverts to be made of brick 5 yards in length and one foot in diameter, except one which is to be a foot and a half in diameter.  Eighteen trees to be cut down.

Mr Thomas Brown gave an estimate for excavating, making ten culverts, 1478 solid yards of stone, hauling stone, breaking stone, laying stone, gravel 3 inches (500 cartloads), laying the gravel and laying turf each side, £196 2s. 

William Rees, a surveyor, made his assessment of this road on 5 June 1847 and addressed it to H Evans, Miss Webb's agent again; “The cost of the new carriage road leading to Norton House from the entrance at the Tewkesbury Road to the drive in front of the house being in length 1376 yards, in width 13 feet, in thickness at the centre 9ins, and at the sides 7ins.  The drains to be made with broken stones and draining pipes.  Culverts to be made at the several ditches being 11 in number where the road crosses (the Contractor to have the privilege of raising the stones from the quarries on the Estate) will cost the sum of £384.2.  This sum does not include the gravel on the surface of the road”.

Transverse section of the proposed new road.

A particular of the Norton Court Estate from 1856 states that the “family mansion called Norton Court is approached from the Turnpike Road by a Carriage Drive through the grounds”.  There is a plan of the Estate that accompanies this particular which clearly shows the route of the carriage drive across the fields from the mansion house to Cold Elm where it meets the Turnpike Road at the junction with Wainlode Lane.  The drive can be seen passing through field nos 61, 95, 101, 107 and 109, confirming that it was constructed.  

This Carriage Drive does not appear on any other later maps or Estate plans and must have been very short lived.

Further development of Norton House also occurred in 1847 when the house was extended asymmetrically to provide a morning room and extra service accommodation.  It was also probably at this time that the low tower, that can still be seen at the rear of the property, was first added.  The following are copies of the room layout from the time of the 1847 alterations.

Ground Floor

First Floor

In 1971, Canon Evans Prosser, long time vicar of both Norton and The Leigh was persuaded to write a booklet recording his memories of his time in our villages which was sold in aid of funds for building the ‘new’ village hall at Norton.  Entitled ‘How It All Happened’, the booklet includes the note that he would finish writing about the Wesleyan Chapel by “… mentioning the tradition current in the village that when the chapel was first built, Miss Webb who had succeeded her father Colonel Edward Webb MP at Norton Court, was unwilling ever to pass the chapel on her way to church.  To avoid having to do this she had a new drive made across the meadows so that she could go direct from court to church”.  This may or may not have been a fact but it does seem a little strange seeing as it was her who gave the land for the construction of the chapel in the first place.  To further support this possibility, however, there does seem to have been discussion about a new carriage road to link Norton Court with the main Gloucester to Tewkesbury Road.  One William Rees, a surveyor, made his assessment of this road on 5 June 1847; “The cost of the new carriage road leading to Norton House from the entrance at the Tewkesbury Road to the drive in front of the house being in length 1376 yards, in width 13 feet, in thickness at the centre 9ins, and at the sides 7ins.  The drains to be made with broken stones and draining pipes.  Culverts to be made at the several ditches being 11 in number where the road crosses (the Contractor to have the privilege of raising the stones from the quarries on the Estate) will cost the sum of £384.2.  This sum does not include the gravel on the surface of the road”.  Perhaps it was never constructed as it doesnt seem to appear on any Ordnance Survey maps ?

At the Census of 1851 there were again no Webbs in the village and Norton Court was occupied by William Butt, a single man from Standish, who was farming 339 acres, employing 10 labourers, two farm servants, a butler, a parlourmaid, a housemaid and two gardeners.

The Manor of Bishops Norton remained the property of Edward Webb until approximately 1860.  A Miss Webb, probably Elizabeth Frances again, was recorded as Lady of the Manor in 1856 and 1859.  It would appear that she was living at the new house with William Butt farming the Norton House Farm; or Court Farm as it became.  It is also possible that Miss Webb was absent from the property altogether and a tenant was in residence.  The following shines more light on what was happening around this time.

On 20 August 1856, Norton Court; "expansive dairy farms, two public houses, and several cottages" totaling some 800 acres, was put in the hands of Mr Henry Bruton who was "honoured with instructions to offer for sale by auction".  The property was described as ; "The exceedingly valuable and very important freehold estates, with the family mansion, which has recently undergone extensive repairs; excellent coach housing and stabling, lawn and pleasure grounds, green and hot houses, and large productive walled kitchen gardens, to which is attached the Manor, or reputed Manor, of Norton.  The estates comprise nearly eight hundred acres of which a large portion consists of rich meadow land, adjoining the River Severn, and the remainder of fine orcharding and productive arable land, ornamental woodland and coppices, admirably adapted for the preservation of game.  The property is tithe-free, largely exonerated of land tax, lies very compact, is finely timbered, and the famed Norton Hill (a favourite fox cover), presents at once to the eye a complete and highly interesting panorama of the surrounding country.  The fertile vale of the river Severn, in its irregular course, varying and beautifying the landscape, forms a pleasing and conspicuous feature.  The ancient city of Gloucester and the town of Cheltenham, the Bredon, Leckhampton and the Cotswold hills, the extended chin of the Malverns, the Forest of Dean, and the Welsh mountains in the distance, comprehend altogether a scene of unrivalled magnificence and beauty.  The farms are let to highly respectable tenants, and the farm buildings, public houses and cottages, are convenient and substantially built.  The estates are situate within four miles of the City of Gloucester, adjoining the turnpike road leading to Tewkesbury, and within 7 miles of the town of Cheltenham, and the neighbourhood is hunted by two packs of fox hounds and a pack of stag hounds".

It is not known if the property sold at this auction but just the following year the property was advertised to be let, furnished, for one year from 25 March.  "That convenient family residence known as Norton Court comprising on the ground floor - entrance hall, dining and drawing rooms, each ?? foot square, breakfast room, butlers pantry, bathroom, servants hall, 2 larders, kitchen, and 2 sculleries.  On the first floor - spacious landing, 4 best bed chambers, 2 dressing rooms, and water closet, also servant's apartments, excellent cellaring and out offices.  Capital coach houses and extensive stabling, with sleeping rooms over, orchard, yard, gardener's cottage, piggeries, lawn and pleasure grounds, green and forcing houses, and most productive gardens, one of which is entirely walled round, stocked with the rarest fruits.  The mansion is pleasantly and healthily situated, is approached by a carriage drive, standing in its own grounds, immediately contiguous to the famed Norton Hill, about 4 miles from the city of Gloucester, and 2 from the fashionable town of Cheltenham, on the Turnpike Road leading to Tewkesbury".

Another schedule of the Norton Court Estate, undated but appearing to be from this time, gives us the name of a tenant, J P Goodrich Esq, who may have taken on the court as a result of the 1857 letting.  J P Goodrich's name crops up again in 1862 when the Gloucester Journal newspaper of 18 October 1862 included a sale advertisement for "the property of J P Goodrich, Esq, a very valuable and well-bred bay gelding, seven years old and up to great weight".  The gentleman was James Goodrich, of Maisemore.  

On the night of the Census in 1861 the property was standing empty with the exception of a resident housekeeper/caretaker.  An Indenture or Deed of Disposition dated 1 November 1862 between “…Elizabeth Frances Webb of Chesham Place in the County of Middlesex spinster of the one part and Henry Evans of Frampton in the County of Gloucester Esq and Francis Edward Guise of Westcomb Park in the County of Kent Esq of the other part…”.  The Deed constitutes the “barring of the entail” or stopping the hereditary succession right to the property referring back to a marriage settlement drawn up when Edward Webb was ‘contemplating’ marriage to Jane Mary Catherine Guise in July 1807; “…the said Edward Webb released and assured to the said Sir Berkeley William Guise and William Fendall and John Webb … all that Manor or Lordship or disputed Manor or Lordship otherwise … all that capital messuage or mansion house … late in the occupation of James Andrews as tenant thereof…”. 

The property was up for sale in July 1861; "For sale by private contract, important and highly valuable freehold and tithe-free estate known as Norton Court situate within three miles of Gloucester and seven of Cheltenham, comprising; a family mansion, coach houses, stabling, green and forcing houses, productive walled kitchen gardens, and rich meadow land and productive arable, pasture, prime orcharding, woodland and coppicing, divided into convenient farms, and let to highly respectable tenants". 

A Thomas Marling Norton Court and Marling School, Stroud bought the property at about this time and was in residence in 1863.  Perhaps the sale had been brought on by the death of Miss Webb which is suggested by an Indenture bearing the date 6 April 1863 between Henry Evans, Francis Edward Guise and Thomas Marling of No 10 Pittville Parade, Cheltenham “…to purchase the fixtures of the said Manor and premises and everything then belonging to the said Elizabeth Frances Webb in and about the said Estate for the price of thirty nine thousand five hundred pounds … on the twenty fifth day of March one thousand eight hundred and sixty three at which time the said purchase was to be completed”.  The property next changed hands in mid-1864 with Thomas Marling selling back to Edward Webb.  Dent & Co were to go bankrupt in 1865 and perhaps advance notification of this prompted his move but Edward had returned to this country from China and had been living for a short time at 40 Sackville Street, Piccadilly, London.  The following entry appeared in the Gloucester Citizen of 2 July 1864 :-

“We understand that this valuable estate has just changed ownership.  The severe domestic bereavement recently sustained by Thomas Marling Esq supplied a motive for parting with the property and a most eligible purchaser has been found in the person of Edward Webb Esq, who was a partner in the eminent firm of Dent & Co, well known in the China trade.  Mr Webb (cousin of the late Col Webb, many years representing this City in Parliament) returned to this country in June last from China, where he had been remarkably successful in his mercantile operations and was no doubt well pleased of the opportunity of becoming possessor of the old family property”.

An Indenture dated 21 December 1864 records that Edward Webb, who at this time was living at Greys Court near Henley on Thames, paid £49150 for the property.

It is not clear if the Webbs actually lived here at this time but The Morning Post newspaper of London from 6 December 1865 contained the following announcement with a similar announcement also appearing in The Pall Mall Gazette of 5 December 1865;

“Births.  Mackenzie – On the 2nd inst. at Norton Court, Gloucester, the wife of W D Mackenzie Esq, of a daughter”.  

Edward Webb may well have been pleased with the opportunity to be able to purchase his old family seat again but his ownership was only to be short lived and was to mark the end of the Webb family’s long connection with Norton.  The following entry appeared in the Gloucester Citizen of 4 May 1867 :-

“Gloucestershire - A Choice Residential Freehold Property Known as the Norton Court Estate Situate in the parishes of Norton and Sandhurst, adjoining the turnpike road from Tewkesbury about 2 miles from that town and Cheltenham and four from the City of Gloucester, embracing an area of about 970 acres.  Messrs Beadel are instructed to sell by auction at the Mart, London, on Thursday May 16 at twelve for one o’clock the very desirable freehold residential property known as Norton Court Estate embracing an area of about 970 acres.  Divided into five moderate sized and productive farms with capital farmhouses and homesteads attached, an excellent family residence with pleasure grounds, gardens, hothouse and forcing pits, coach houses and stabling, gardeners and coachmans cottages, a parklike paddock of about 27 acres and 30 acres of ornamental woodland and plantations forming excellent coverts for the preservation of game.  Two commodious public houses known as the Red Lion and Kings Head Inns with land attached, a commodious dwelling house with about 9 acres of land and twenty six cottages many of them recently built and together forming the greater portion of the village of Norton.  The whole producing, independent of the family residence and grounds, the woodland and property in hand, an annual rental of about £2270.  Included in the sale is the Manor or reputed Manor of Norton with the royalties, rights, and privileges thereto belonging.  Particulars with plan and conditions of sale may be had of Messrs Symes, Sandilands and Humphrey, 33 Fenchurch Street; at the Mart; and of Messrs Beadel, 25 Gresham Street, EC”.

It is not known what happened at this sale.  There is a reference that “biddings reached £61000 but the property was withdrawn from competition and bought in” but it is not clear if this referred to Norton or not.  In a declaration concerning land tax due from the Norton Court Estate I April 1868 a John Watts was listed as paying £170, holding a two year lease for Norton Court and the shooting rights. John Watts of Norton Court  [Link to Watts]  The lease would have taken John Watts through to 1870 when the property finally changed ownership again and came into the hands of the Walker family.  The following entry appeared in the Gloucester Citizen in April 1870 :-

“We understand that the Norton Court Estate, near the City, consisting of a mansion and about a thousand acres of land, has been sold to Charles Walker Esq, by Messrs Bruton and Knowles”.

Another reference from time records a sale dated 17 May 1871 from “…Edward Webb of Roundwood near Bagshott in the County of Surrey to Charles Walker of Hillfield House in the County of Gloucester for forty thousand pounds…”.  [See Walker family for further details]

Charles Betteridge Walker did not immediately take up residence at Norton but appears to have continued to let the house to John Watts, however, there is no record of anyone being in residence on the night of the 1871 Census.  By 1872 a William Pegler [See Pegler family for further details] had moved in.  Whilst here William Pegler kept hounds and organised the Norton Court Harriers who hunted locally.

The Tewkesbury Register and Agricultural Gazette newspaper of 5 April 1873 reported; “Norton Court Harriers.  The last meet of the season of this merry little pack took place yesterday at Norton Mill”.  There follows a list of those gentlemen who took to the field with William Pegler Esq, of Norton Court, the owner of the hounds.  The article continued; “Most of the above gentlemen now adjourned to Mr Cook’s, Ivy Farm, and heartily discussed some lunch and prime cider, which was the more thoroughly enjoyed owing to Mr Cook being a true sportsman and a staunch preserver of hares.  Luncheon being disposed of, another short run with a similar termination took place, and after trying for some time in the neighbourhood of Norton Church, Mr Pegler, at a later period of the day, invited the company to Norton Court to dinner, of which kind invitation nearly the whole field availed themselves, and so spending the evening as only true lovers of the hunt know how – the toast, the song, and the glass going round at frequent intervals – the party separated towards midnight, with a firm conviction that Squire Pegler was the right man in the right place, with hopes that next season the weather would be more favourable, and not compel the hounds to be shut up for weeks at a time, as they have been the past winter owing to the frequent rains”.

William Pegler only appears to have been at Norton Court for a few years.  He was living at Cheltenham in 1871, had a daughter baptised at St Mary’s, Norton, in February 1872 and by 1876 the family were at Slimbridge.

On 17 September 1878 it is recorded that John Watts was holding a four year lease on Norton Court and land that was due to expire at Michaelmas 1879.  On the night of the 1881 Census the house is again empty ‘whilst undergoing repairs’.  Alterations were carried out on the property by F S Waller & Son including a change to the short tower that had been erected in 1847.  It was also F S Waller & Son who worked on the church, the vicarage and built the school at Norton in 1876.  In 1885 Norton Court, still owned by Charles Walker, was the residence of William George Prichard.  In 1889 the house was described as the residence of Mrs E D Prichard and it is assumed that her husband had died at around this time.  It was perhaps this death that caused the house to be put back on the market again and in 1889 the following advertisement was released :-

“18 Bed and Dressing, Bath Room, 4 Reception, Stabling.  38 acres.  To be let, unfurnished, with early possession, a well-known country mansion, in a good hunting and social centre, 4 ½ miles from Gloucester, 7 miles from Tewkesbury, and 8 miles from Cheltenham, picturesquely situated in the midst of charming pleasure grounds, with park-like surroundings, at the foot of Wainloads Hill.  The mansion faces south and west, is approached by a long carriage drive, and contains porch, vestibule, hall, 21ft 9in x 16ft, with fireplace, dining room, 26ft x 18ft 6in, drawing room, 30ft 6in x 22ft, exclusive of large bay, billiard or smoke room, 24ft 6in x 21ft 6in, morning room 17ft 6in x 16ft 6in, study, housekeeper’s room, servants hall, and ample offices; on the first floor are 7 bed rooms, bath room (h and c), housmaid’s closet, heated linen cupboard, 3 dressing rooms, and nursery; and above are 6 bed rooms, work room, and box room.  The house is lighted by gasoline.  Water by gravitation.  The owner would consider putting in petrol gas, and a second bathroom.  The pleasure grounds are most attractive (4 men are employed at present), and include spacious lawns, a fine avenue of old Scotch firs, two large walled gardens, with range of glass-houses, orchard and park, 38 acres in all.  Stabling for 7, double coach-house, double garage with pit, 2 cottages, small farmery, and several outbuildings.  Rent, £250.  1000 acres of shooting (90 acres woodland), with keeper’s cottage, garden, kennels, hatching shed, &c, large fowls-house, and open air aviary, could be rented at £75 a year.  Bruton, Knowles & Co, Estate and House Agents, Albion Chambers, Gloucester”.

The house was then taken on by a George Arbuthnot [See arbuthnot family for further details] as tenant when he reached the following agreement with Charles Walker :-

“Agreement made the thirty first day of December one thousand eight hundred and eighty nine between Charles Betteridge Walker of the City of Gloucester Esq of the one part and George Arbuthnot of No 5 Belgrave Place, London, a retired colonel in Her Majesty’s Army, on the other part….. All that capital messuage or Mansion House and tenement situate in the parish of Norton in the County of Gloucester called Norton Court…from the 29th day of September one thousand eight hundred and eighty nine for the term of fourteen years…yielding and paying in respect of the premises firstly hereinbefore described unto the said Charles Betteridge Walker the yearly rent of two hundred pounds.  And also yielding and paying in respect of the rights and privileges secondly hereinbefore mentioned the yearly rent of fifty pounds…”

Charles Walker died in 1893 and the ownership of the property had transferred to his son, George Norton Walker of Wotton House, Gloucester.  Norton Court was still the residence of Col Arbuthnot.  The first edition of the Ordnance Survey may for Norton dated 1885 did not show the entrance drive to the Court that still passes besides Green Farm but this had been added before the time of the second edition in 1903.  Col Arbuthnot’s period of tenancy was due to expire in 1903 but must have been extended as Col Arbuthnot was still in residence in 1910 and finally left due to illness in 1912 dying in December of that year.

The Norton Court Estate was a major employer of the villagers in Norton for many years and a great many of the village families also lived in houses tied to their jobs and the Estate.

The 1901 Census gives us an idea of how many people were employed directly by the Court at that time.  Col George Arbuthnot RA Ret’d was tenant, renting from Charles Betteridge Walker.  He was living at Norton Court along with his wife, Caroline, and daughters Maud and Dorothy.  There were also six servants in residence; a lady’s maid, a footman, a cook and three housemaids.  In the nearby houses we find John Leat head gardener, William Stephens gamekeeper, William King coachman and Albert Stephens groom.  This is before we take into account the tied cottages around the village.

The Estate staff in approximately 1910

The gardeners, pre First World War

The next identified reference to the house is in 1914 by which time the property was again unoccupied.  The next tenant appears to have been Walter Leopold Buller.  He is still recorded as tenant in 1919, however, this entry must have been noted in advance as he died in 1918. [See Buller family for further details] During his time at Norton Court, Walter Buller was responsible for responsible for the construction of a new entrance Lodge to the court. 

Throughout this time George Walker remained the owner of the property and by 1923 the house is recorded as the property ‘and residence’ of Captain George Norton Walker Esq and he remained at the house until the early 1950s. 

I include the memories of Mrs Jean Gray (nee Sparrow) whose father was employed as the chauffeur to Captain Walker of Norton Court and she grew up in the village in the 1920/30s along with her younger brother Roy.  She begins be reminding readers that “this is as accurate as I remember but it is, after all, over seventy years ago !!”.  Firstly her memories of the Court itself;

"One of the great pleasures was, when ambling home down Norton Lane after school, to reach Green Corners, the home of Mrs Fanny Mullens, where we had the treat of lemonade and a biscuit.  But, topping that, was when there was a note from mum who occasionally had a lift to Cheltenham when dad took Mrs Walker there, so mum could visit my grandma’s.  This note told me to go home and change my school clothes and go to the kitchen at the Court.  So I rushed home, past the front drive to the Court, round Bradley Corner, up the back drive to our house (did we ever lock doors in those days ?) and then down to the back door of the Court.

The layout of the servants quarters were thus :- a short passage on the right leading to a cloakroom and a bench or table where the houseboy cleaned shoes, boots and also knives.  The servants hall was next on the right, and after, a room full of shelves holding jars of preserves, jam, etc and big stone jars.  Next came the butler’s pantry with sink, bowls and snowy white cloths.  Then came the door to the front of the house.  On the other side of the passage was a narrow room with glass covered shelves containing many glasses and silver entre dishes.  At the end of the room was what was called the ‘pophole’ where food was passed through from the kitchen.  The chinaware containing the food was placed into the silver serving dishes, then brought the door opposite the dining room.  The sound of the gong reverberating brought the diners to the table.

After that came the kitchen and I was always greeted by lovely cooking smells.  The kitchen was a big room with a huge white wooden table, scrubbed every day.  There was a huge solid fuel aga from where the enticing smells came.  The ‘pophole’ was next and the door to the scullery where the vegetables were prepared by the kitchen maid, washing-up was done and a large boiler which the houseboy kept stoked up and which supplied hot water to all taps and radiators in the house.  Next was a smaller white table where Mrs Gibbons, a dear soul to me, sat in her large white apron and wrote her menus and orders.  Two windows, then a dresser on the corner of which sat the coffee grinder, which was my job.  I remember so well the coffee beans bobbing about as I turned the handle, and the little drawer gradually filling up with fragrant coffee (I have loved coffee ever since).  Then came the door to the two larders, one had the icebox on top of which sat two shallow pans of milk, from which cook skimmed off the cream.  My dad used to go to Macfishers to collect great slabs of ice wrapped in blankets to be placed into the icebox.  Lovely, lovely times – I used to be quite fed up when my parents returned and I had to go home.

As far as I remember the house was run by a staff consisting of the butler, parlour maid, house maid, tweeny maid, cook, kitchen maid and houseboy, they were all lovely people – so kind to a small bespectacled girl.

Now to the front of the house.  Sometime during the year Captain and Mrs Walker went on their summer holidays.  The house was shut and the staff went on their holidays.  During this time one of my dads duties was to go round the house twice a day to pull down or up the blinds and to see that all was well – I tagged along and remember well the scent of beeswax, wood smoke and age.  Since then I have visited many grand houses open to the public and I have occasionally smelt that special smell.

As far as I remember the library was on the right, then a passage down to the garden room, then the lovely drawing room.  On the left was the wide curving staircase with a great Chinese vase standing on the wide side.  Next came the dining room, then the billiard room leading to the big front door.  I cannot remember the upstairs so well, maybe I do remember one beautiful room with two windows and beautiful lavender curtains and the Marigold Room reputed to be haunted.  I also remember a long passage leading down to the old schoolroom".

Jean Gray's memories of the gardens at Norton Court; “When I was 5½ years old and had my first pair of spectacles I was able to see the lovely green countryside around me.  So soon I began to explore the gardens.  From the front drive up through the park, bordered by iron railings, one came to the Court.  The front was lovely with a large magnolia to the left of the front door and a magnificent wisteria to the right.  The former having large glossy dark green leaves and waxy handsome blooms (I think I remember these were sometimes picked and single blooms floated in finger bowls on the dining room table, set for meals).  The wisteria was a grand sight with hundreds of beautiful sprays of flowers.  In front of that was a great gravel sweep where the cars crunched to a halt at the door.  Beyond that, a semi-circular lawn bordered by a lavender hedge, then the ha-ha down to the park.  Then came the lawns with wide dark and light stripes.  Between the lawns was an avenue with tall trees on either side.  I was told that this was once the front drive and that the trees were planted long ago by two ladies living at the Court in silent support for the fugitive King Charles.  On either side of the lawns ran a path, the right hand path was bordered by shrubs but the left hand path led to the rock garden.  I have an old snapshot of my brothers and I sitting on the rockery steps with old Joe, the rather bad tempered terrier, though he was never bad tempered with us children and followed us about.  Under one of the avenue trees, whose branches came down to the ground, was my secret place – my tree house – where I spent many hours reading, well hidden.  Occasionally during the summer there was a garden party or a tennis party.  Then chauffeur driven cars would park on the forecourt of the garages, many of them being well known to dad.  I would peer over the wall and glimpse ladies in floating, flowery, gowns with lovely hats strolling around accompanied by elegantly dressed gentlemen.  I would also hear the tennis being played.  Of course there was the annual school treat.  I remember us doing the Mad Hatters Tea Party with me (being the tallest) being Mad Hatter, with Boss Perrett watching with apprehension as I swung his gold pocket watch over a half full cup of tea.  Past the side of the house was a doorway in the wall which led out to the back drive and directly opposite a similar doorway led to the flower and vegetable gardens.  The first garden was walled all around.  I remember catmint by the doorway, the right hand path led to the generator shed, also I remember a long row of pots with huge chrysanthemums in bronze and gold and a gardener tapping the pots to see if they needed watering.  Then came three greenhouses, one growing green grapes and the others black grapes.  Between the two was the hot greenhouse, very hot and steamy, the gardener stood on a step ladder with tiny scissors thinning out the beautiful bunches of grapes.  Behind these greenhouses was the potting shed with a black stove supplying heat to the greenhouses, a long bench where the seed sowing and potting on was done, and a lovely smell of tarred string.  Across the path, the melon house with big fat melons hanging with nets to take their weight.  Through another doorway was the vegetable and fruit garden.  To the left, a gate into the orchard, where the beehives were.  This huge garden was full of rows and rows of vegetables and fruit bushes and at the far end big clay pots forcing rhubarb.  To the right was the head gardeners cottage and a little further on another greenhouse.  At the end of the cottage was a room which I called the ‘bee room’ where Captain Walker took the honey.  I remember watching the golden honey slowly draining through a funnel – I loved his honey.  I remember the straw being laid between the rows of strawberry plants and keeping an eye for the fat red fruit to ripen.  On our side of one of the walls bordering the flower garden was a peach tree trained up the wall.  The tree was netted to keep the birds and wasps away, so lovely to see those fruits ripening with bloom on their delicate skins.  The back gate was the way in for everyone, to us, we were home.  Through the gates on the left were great tree trunks sawn into planks with wooden pegs separating them and left to season.  There were many of these great trees, a wonderful place to play hide and seek.  On summer afternoons we children would sit on the trees and watch the crowds trudging down to Wainlode, but we were waiting for the ‘Stop Me and Buy One’ man to cycle past.  To the left was a wide path leading to a gate into the orchard.  Here a Wade Saw sliced huge branches into logs.  To the right, a small copse and walled enclosure where there were several outbuildings.  One, I remember, we called the paraffin shed, with large cans of paraffin, large balls of wood shavings and sacks of sawdust which was burnt in the black stoves in the garages to keep the cars from freezing.  In the copse was a petrol pump.  In the centre of the yard was always a huge compost heap; I remember the gardeners turning it over with garden forks and steam rising.  A long stone wall stretched from the road right down to the back of Norton Court, the only break being the entrance to the front gardens and lawns.  At the end of the copse the long paved forecourt began with the old stables, the ‘bothay’, the saddle room and the garages.  The gardeners sat in the stables for their morning breaks, eating bread and cheese and drinking bottles of cold tea.  The ‘bothay’ was a large open fronted yard with a drain in the centre.  A gate into the orchard and then a doorway leading into the fowl room where Mr Bill Piff had large containers of food for the fowls.  Then the saddle room containing a work bench and many tools.   At the end of the saddle room were the garages holding four cars; the estate van, Mrs Walker’s large limousine, Capt Walker’s lovely green Rover (years later bought by my brother, Roy), and finally, Major Walker’s car.  On days of very bad weather Major Charles Walker would give me a lift on the mile long way to school and my duty was always to wind up the clock in his car.  My dad kept the cars in pristine condition; no car was ever put to bed dirty or muddy.  On winter evenings he would come in with hands frozen from the cold water.  Sometimes when Mrs Walker went to Cheltenham, Mum, Roy (who was then a baby) and myself would be invited to go with her to visit my grandparents.  This I always viewed with horror as, being a bad traveller, I knew the smell of the leather upholstery and the swaying of the well-sprung limousine would make me feel poorly.  No doubt my parents also hoped that I would not disgrace myself.  At the left side of this long building was the tin dump, a large bottle rack and yet another door into the paddock where my Mum used to hang out the family washing.  At the other side of the building was a large rain water tank and then stairs up to the loft, the door of which was always kept locked.  Then came the back door to our house and a gate to the garden.  Opposite was the woodshed, a large brick building with a path going out into the drive.  Tons of logs were stacked here to dry out.  On wet days, a couple of estate workers would be splitting the huge logs into smaller chunks; it always smelt a lovely scent.  Our side of the wood shed was covered in ivy and for several years our tame robin came back to nest.  It was always around and would hover around Dad as he dug the garden.  Our garden shed was there and was where one mower and tools were kept and where we also put our bicycles away each night.  On the right was the Corden Peach tree and a gate to the orchard by the beehives.  The orchard was lovely with old fruit trees and rosy apples and I can remember the warm fresh eggs and the strutting cockerels and the bees buzzing busily about the hives.  Back on the drive leading to the Court were the green double gates leading to Court Farm with the small door with brass knob handles through which we climbed to collect our can of milk twice a day.  To the right was the doorway to the flower garden and to Dad’s engine shed.  At the corner of the Court was the back kitchen door and a wooden safe with a zinc front where game hung; hares, rabbits, pheasant, etc.  Opposite the kitchen door lay a small copse and here there were small gravestones marking the graves of long dead pets".

During their time at Norton Court the Walkers opened the gardens to visits, staged drama productions, village fetes, school parties, etc, the list is endless.  On 12th July 1933 we find the following in The Times newspaper;  “Gardens Open to the Public.  Queens Institute of District Nursing.  The following gardens will be open to the public in aid of the Queens Institute of District Nursing :- Gloucestershire. Norton Court, Gloucester, (2-7) Captain G Norton Walker”.  A similar entry can be found in July 1937, July and August 1938 as well.

It is believed that this photograph records a production by the WI of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', taking place in the gardens at Norton Court.

There was a severe fire at Norton Court in 1941 and the Gloucester Journal newspaper carried the following report; “Norton Court, near Gloucester, the residence of Capt G N Walker, was damaged by fire on Saturday afternoon.  Shortly after one o’clock one of the maids noticed that the attics were on fire and raised the alarm.  The chauffeur and other members of the staff set to work to deal with the situation by the use of fire-fighting appliances, and by removing furniture and other contents from the building.  Capt Walker was out at the time and returned with a friend to find flames shooting through the roof.  No time had been lost in calling the City Fire Brigade, and when they arrived, in charge of Supt Windebank, they found the roof and attics well alight.  There was a plentiful supply of water from a pond and with two lines of hose in use the Brigade soon had the fire under control.  The attics and contents were severely damaged by fire, and other parts of the Court also suffered damage by water.  The damage caused amounted to several hundreds of pounds”.

In 1952 George Norton Walker moved to live at Charlton Kings and, as his son Major Charles Norton Walker, did not wish to live at Norton, the house was boarded up and once again put up for auction. 

George Norton Walker died shortly afterwards on 24 December 1956 and his second wife, Meta Baird, died on 11 December 1971.  Both are buried at Norton.

The Gloucester Citizen of 27th December 1956 carried the following report; “One of Gloucestershire’s best known landowners and business directors, Captain George Norton Walker, died at his home, Courtfield, Charlton Kings, on Christmas Eve, aged 85.  Captain Walker, who moved to Charlton Kings from Norton Court, near Gloucester, four years ago, was a director of Price Walker and Company, the well-known firm of timber importers of Gloucester, for 60 years.  He was chairman of directors for about 50 years and when he retired from that office a few years ago he remained on the board.  Another important county undertaking with which Captain Walker was associated was the Gloucester and Sharpness Dock Company of which he was a director until it was nationalized.  As a young man Capt Walker became an officer in the 1st Gloucestershire Royal Engineer Volunteers and in the First World War he served with the 4th/5th Gloucesters and then in Bermuda with the East Yorkshire Regiment.  Captain Walker inherited from his father the extensive Norton Court estate which had been bought by his grandfather nearly 100 years ago and he largely devoted himself to the pursuits and affairs of the countryside.  He was very keen on shooting and fishing and took a great interest in forestry maintaining the woodlands at Norton. 

He was churchwarden at Norton for about 30 years and for many years served on the Diocesan Board of Finance.  Since moving to Charlton Kings he was a regular churchgoer there, last attending service only a fortnight ago.  Captain Walker’s first wife died in 1906 and he is survived by his second wife.  The only son by the first marriage is Major C S Norton Walker”.

Messrs Bruton, Knowles & Co conducted the auction of the Estate on 17 June 1952 at the Bell Hotel, Gloucester.  Most of the Estate sold at auction but the House itself did not until slightly later.  The following entry appeared in the Wilts & Glos Standard on 22 November 1952:

“Norton Court Sold.  Norton Court, Norton, near Gloucester, which was offered for sale by public auction in June and withdrawn at £8500 has been sold by private treaty by Messrs Bruton, Knowles & Co.  The Court which was acquired by a private buyer will in future be used as a house for old people.  The property includes a Manor house, lodge, gardeners cottage and chauffeur’s cottage, and ground of about 40 acres.  The Lordship of the Manor of Bishops Norton as well as Norton village green and pool is included in the sale”.

The property was purchased by Harold Melville Spiers of Green Farm, Bishops Norton,and so moved into a new existence with many alterations enabling the ground floor to be used as old peoples accommodation and the upper floor as the Norton Country Club.

The Country Club became a venue and hosted jazz sessions in 1958 one of whom was Bill Nile and the Delta men who were popular in the area at that time.  In August 1957 the entertainer Tommy Steele gave a week of performances at the Regal in Kings Square, Gloucester, at the end of which he held a party at Norton Court.   A selection of advertisements that appeared in local newspapers throughout 1958.  I have found no references to the club either prior to, or after, 1958.

In February 1958 there were 24 resident at Norton Court; Alice R Allen, Stuart & Hilda Brocklebank, John R Clements, Mary F Davies, Alice Davis, Harriet H Farmer, Florence L Gay, George & Jean Gill, Reginald & Ida Glover, Edith M Jenkins, Florence K Jones, Margaret E Keene, Norah A Lewis, Hilda G Lodge, James & Mavis E Sludden, Annie Snow, Beatrice H Southwood, Emma M Watkins, Edith M Ward, and finally Susannah Williams.  These were presumably residents/guests of what was also known as 'Norton Court Private Hotel'.

The following 2 images are taken from Historic England’s Harold Wingham collection and were photographed on 14 June 1958.  The photos should be viewed in high resolution on the Historic England website using the links provided.

https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/archive/collections/aerial-photos/record/haw_9436_51

https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/archive/collections/aerial-photos/record/haw_9436_53

The end of the old house came in the early hours of Sunday 19 April 1959 with a devastating fire which, although not as bad as may have been the case, was sufficient to cause the destruction of much of the house.  Ironically the outcome would have been much worse without the aid of the water which was readily to hand in the moat of its ancient predecessor.  

The following entry appeared in the Gloucester Citizen of 20 April 1959 :-

“Five Brigades Fight Big Blaze at Norton Court  Old People Taken To Safety.  Gloucester firemen, policemen and neighbours fought desperately to check a fierce blaze until reinforcements arrived at Norton Court in the early hours of yesterday morning.  With the whole of the roof and the attic ablaze the well-known house, now a country club and private residence for old people, was threatened with complete destruction.  The worst part of the damage, however, was confined to this area.  Downstairs was mainly affected by heat and water.  Two elderly people in residence were hurried to safety and the housekeeper ran to raise the alarm.  But aleady a neighbouring farmer, Mr Harry Cook of Court Farm, had seen the blaze and phoned the Fire Service.  The crucial period was the time between the arrival of the first firemen from Gloucester and their reinforcements from Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, Winchcombe and Painswick.  Police Help.  With but a handful of firemen on the scene flames were blazing high in the sky.  They could be seen by the Tewkesbury Brigade as it began its seven mile dash to assist.  Policemen who had come from Gloucester, under Insp Hudson, turned firemen and helped run out hoses and play the water jets on the fire.  Neighbouring residents, awakened by noises like gunfire, hurried from the surrounding houses and also worked assisting the firemen and salvaging property and furniture from the blazing building.  Despite the fierceness of the blaze it is estimated some eighty percent of the furnishings were saved.  But though the situation looked critical in the early stages, with the arrival of the additional brigades, bringing the total up to six appliances and 35 men under the command of Divisional Officer R J Jennings of the County Fire Service, the position was quickly changed.  Under Control.  An ample supply of water was available from a moat 300 yards away – but for this the alternative source would have been the Severn nearly three quarters of a mile away – and the fire was brought under control within an hour and a quarter.  When the fire was discovered at about 4am by Mrs Hilda Lodge, the housekeeper, it already had a firm hold.  The crash which awakened her was the staircase collapsing just on the other side of the door of the room in which she was sleeping.  Her first thoughts were for the two other people in the house.  Fortunately they were all sleeping on the ground floor.  Mrs Lodge rushed into their rooms, waking them, and hurrying them to safety.  Ran 400 Yards.  Then finding herself cut off from the telephone – it was upstairs – she ran 400 yards to a neighbouring house to dial 999 and raise the alarm.  “I was awoken by a terrific bump at about 4am” Mrs Lodge told the Citizen today, “I got up and found that the central staircase was burning furiously.  Mrs Lodge said that she and two old people with her – Mr J Clements and Mr T Price – usually slept on the ground floor at the back.  This part of the building escaped serious damage.  One resident, Mrs Creese, however, usually slept at the front.  “If she had been sleeping in her usual place that night she would have burnt to death” said Mrs Lodge.  Fortunately she was sleeping elsewhere.  Damage to the club premises upstairs was extensive.  The front and central part of the building were gutted.  Plaster was scorched from the walls, furniture was destroyed and piles of debris lay strewn all over the floors.  The roof and staircase of the building were completely burnt out.  All that remained of the roof were several blackened rafters.  What furniture could be salvaged was hastily thrown out into the front lawn.  Mattresses, tables and picture frames littered the drive.  Owner Away.  The owner of the Norton Country Club, Mr M Spiers, was at Harrogate, Yorks, when the fire started.  It is understood that he is returning today.  Although he was not on hand his wife and two children helped salvage what they could from the blackened remains.  “I decided not to send my husband a telegram” said Mrs Spiers, “because I didn’t want to spoil his weekend.  I shall tell him immediately on his return”.

In the early 1960s a gardening company named Franklandia operated out of what was left of Norton Court. At this time Norton House was owned by Cecil F and Lorna White who were still here in 1966.  At a Valuation Court in Gloucester in April 1963 Cecil White was granted a reduction in his rates for Norton House from £85 gross, £82 net rateable value, to £68 and £66 respectively.

Keith and Teresa Savery were at Norton Court by 1985.  Keith was an architect and died in May 2000.  When Teresa 'Terry' died in November 2012 the house was sold. 

[2002]

[2019]

More recently the owner have been the Gardiners who have made a good job of restoring the house to approaching its former glory.


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