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Stoke-on-Trent Districts: Church Lawton


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Church Lawton, Cheshire, (close to Stoke-on-Trent)

Background to the Church Lawton area

William the Conqueror's Domesday Survey refers to the area as "Lautune" and says that it belonged to Hugo de Mara, one of the kings fellow Normans. The whole of the County of Cheshire had been given over to the King's brother in law, Hugh Lupus (Hugh the Wolf), a character notorious for his riotous living who, on his deathbed, vowed to establish a church at Lawton, "If the Lord would only spare him."

The church lands were passed over to the Abbot of St. Werburgh's at Chester, a place of worship was erected and the Abbot appointed one Edward as the first Rector of Lawton in the year 1180. The architectural remain of this earliest church is the Norman Arch doorway over the south door.

Between 1180 and the 15th century the village of Lawton was in two halves, one half being the church lands, or the "Glebe" on which is now built the Lawton Gate Estate, and the remainder which was owned by the squire of Lawton. The legend of the Lawton family dates back to around the year 1200 when King John was separated from his companions while hunting in the area. The story is that his horse reared and threw him when it was confronted by a great wolf, whereupon a nearby keeper came to the rescue and killed the wolf.

The man gave his name as keeper Adam de Lauton and, for saving his life, the King granted him all the land he could walk over in a week, taking the bleeding wolf as his starting point. The King told him, "The head of the wolf shall be thy crest; thy deed will go down in history."

The Lawton Family can thus trace their family tree to the time of this exploit, and their family crest is to be found several times in and around the parish church.

The Lawton Coat of Arms, which is linked with the Davenport family, consists of the three crosses of Calvary and the Tudor Rose underneath a wolf licking it's left shoulder. The motto "Spes Infrecta" means "Hope Unbroken".



Arms - "Argent, on a fesse between three crosses crosslet fitche sable, as many cinquefoils of the field."
Crest - "A demi wolf salient regardant argent, vulned in the breast gules."

In the C17 the inhabitants of Lawton were mainly employed in agricultural pursuits and there is also mention of some salt mining at one time in the parish. The woodlands which also encouraged the opening of an iron making furnace.

A John Turner of Stafford obtained a 21-year lease in the year 1658 for the conversion of a corn-mill into a furnace; this must have been a substantial enterprise as he invested 3000 in the making of the furnace and forge. Subsequent records show that the iron making business was the later leased to the Foley family who were great iron-masters in the 17th century. During the period 1696 to 1704 the annual output of pig-iron rose from 700 tons to 900 tons, and up to 30 men would have been employed in the heyday of this former Lawton industry.

The next development which had a great effect upon Lawton was the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed in 1777. This was one of the many such engineered by the famous James Brindley, and this 93-mile waterway formed part of the busy network of horse-drawn water transport. The feature of the length through Church Lawton is the number of locks known as the Red Bull Flight and the Lawton Flight.

The church registers provide evidence of the many who were employed as Overseers, Lock-keepers and Boatmen, and the carrying of coal, salt and minerals used in the nearby pottery industry kept the canal very busy until the coming of the steam railway. Now, after years of being virtually unused, the canal is again busy as a popular section on the waterways holiday route. Many Lawton men were employed as colliers in the many coal mines in the area, and at one time there was a coal-pit at the Red Bull end of the parish.


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