Ancient and Modern

moat 5
Remains of Norbury Manor, 700 years old.

One of the things I have been determined to do while cruising is to visit places near to the cut, but of interest in other contexts.  Yesterday, I set off to see what remains of the ancient Norbury Manor, marked on modern Ordnance Survey (OS) maps as “moat”, and similarly marked on the OS map surveyed in 1880.  I also found something still more ancient, and something futuristic.

Norbury Manor

Norbury Manor 1880 1889
Norbury, Staffordshire. Ordnance Survey. Surveyed 1880ublished 1889. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The site appears not especially remarkable in itself, though it would make a nice picnic spot – if you were allowed in.  It is simply a more or less square platform surrounded by a moat.  What I find remarkable is that the remaining in situ stonework is about 700 years old.

Here is what the lectern tells us.

moat lectern
Norbury Manor lectern. The dappled sunlight does not help with reading; see transcription at end of post.
moat 4
Remains of medieval manor, current manor just visible through trees, towards left.

Essentially, the story is that the first manor house was built in the early 1300s.  In 1521 it was sold to Thomas Skrymsher and his wife. The view is from Robert Plot’s ‘Natural History of Staffordshire’, 1686, and shows upper-level additions which probably date from the 16th century.  In the late 1700s George Anson of Shugborough became the owner, but the place was dilapidated.  It was demolished in the 1800s and the stone used to build the current Norbury Manor.

Norbury Manor 2018
Norbury Manor 2018. The three storey building (left) was built with stone from the medieval manor house.

The Roundabout

The modern OS map shows a tumulus to the north east of Norbury, just west of the canal.  It is named The Roundabout.  The old OS map shows The Roundabout as a wooded area.  As far as I can tell there is no public access to the site, but it can be seen from the canal bridge at Norbury.

SU N of Norbury 2
Shropshire Union Canal north from Norbury Junction (bridge 38). The Roundabout is the higher ground on the horizon – parched grass and a few oak trees.

This is some of what Historic England has to say:

The monument includes a bowl barrow with an encircling ditch and outer bank located 425m north-east of Norbury church on a hilltop known as The Roundabout. The oval earthen mound is up to 1.5m high with maximum dimensions of 27m by 24m. The mound is surrounded by a ditch measuring 2.5m wide and 0.3m deep. Flanking the ditch is a low outer bank measuring 2.5m wide and up to 0.1m high. At the barrow’s centre is a shallow hollow 6.5m in diameter and 0.2m deep.

A bowl barrow is a burial monument dating from about 2400 to 1500 BC.

And the future?

Our ancestors who inhabited these sites in the Stone and Bronze Ages, and in medieval times, could not have had any conception that their descendants would find it wise to investigate the impact of climate change on the trees that some revered or even worshipped.  Even my boatmen ancestors could not have had any sense that the human race would have such far-reaching effects on the environment.  Carbon dioxide would not have been in their vocabulary.

Near to the modern manor is another lectern that explains the metal structures sprouting from nearby woodland.

FACE research establishment.

Lectern and transcription:-

BIFoR FACE lectern
BIFoR FACE lectern

The scientific facility you see here is the Free-Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) facility of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR). This unique facility is designed to investigate how woodlands respond to the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. Although we already know that plants take up CO2 in sunlight to make sugars (the process of photosynthesis), we do not yet know where this carbon ends up, especially how much is stored away for a long time, thereby helping to reduce the effects of burning fossil fuels.

Treatment – three patches are provided with air that contains and extra 150 units of CO2 over and above whatever is already in the air (usually about 400 units). The total amount of CO2 in the air in a treatment patch is till much less than would be present in a ‘stuffy’ room.

Control – these patches are provided with air without any additional CO2. We do this to make sure that we can identify any (small) effects due to the experimental infrastructure rather than the CO2. Another three patches have no infrastructure at all and can act as completely undisturbed ‘controls’.

Tall mast – this mast allows scientists to measure what is coming out of the woodland. CO2 is coming out. of course, because we are adding it to the FACE treatment patches. Nitrogen and phosphorus and other elements are coming into the woodland as the air carries dust and grasses across from big cities, busy roads, fallow fields, and even the Sahara desert.


Transcription of Norbury Manor lectern


This is the site of a great manor house, Norbury, which once stood on the moated platform in front of you. Built in stone by Ralph le Botiller in the early 1300s, the house changed hands several times. In 1521, it was sold to Thomas Skrymsher and his wife. The view is an illustration from Robert Plot’s ‘Natural History of Staffordshire’, published in 1686, and shows upper-level additions which probably date from the 16th century.

In the late 1700s, the Skrymshers sold the house to George Anson of Shugborough, by which time it was becoming run down and dilapidated. It was demolished in the 1800s, and the stone was used in building the present Norbury Manr farm house to the south. Today. only the visible moat walls survive, together with the old fishponds to the west, built to provide fish for the manor kitchens.

The Norbury Manor Moated site and surrounding archaeology are an important part of local heritage and are valued and protected as a Scheduled Monument through Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, the surrounding farmland is managed in an environmentally sensitive way. This includes uncultivated margins, well managed hedgerows, fallow plots and wildbird seed mixes, all crucial for providing feeding and nesting areas for declining farmland birds such as lapwing, tree sparrow and yellow wagtail.

This cup is contemporary with the view of Norbury Manor. Whilst it is not known to have been used here, it is typical of the late 17th or early 18th century. It is in the collection of the Potteries Museum nad Art Gallery at Hanley.

At nearby Norbury Junction, the 66-mile Shropshire Union Canal passes en route from Ellesmere Port to Wolverhampton. It is an astonishing feat of engineering, with long embankments, deep cuttings and grandiose bridges keeping the same course across valley and through hills.

This is a Scheduled Monument and the use of meta; detectors on this site is illegal. Please keep dogs under control when livestock are present along this route.

Natural England

Detail of crest:-

To the right Worhsip[ful]
His Maj[esty’s] high SHERRIFF
This 19 Table
Shewing the E.N.E. Prospect of
and of SHEBDEN POOLE, where
the Pewets annually breed, in
Testimony of his Munificence
is thankfully dedicated
by R.P.L.L.D.

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